9 Ways Car Buying Trends Have Changed Since Covid

Jason Hilderbrand

16 May 2022 5 months ago


Since covid spread, buying trends have radically changed how car dealerships sell their vehicles. So, what do these growing trends mean for your used car dealership

From the moment Covid-19 arrived, it led to an increase in used car purchases as people had stopped using mass transportation. New car manufacturing units had to shut down, and car dealerships began digitizing their used car businesses. 

The recession caused an increase in online car purchases as more people who were sensitive to auto costs started buying used vehicles. It led to a boom in the used car dealerships. 

However, we already know that the uncertainty and the declining economy made car manufacturing units shut down; however, what did change to increase auto sales. Are there new trends in the market you need to adapt to as a used car dealership? Let’s gear up to know about them.

During the covid pandemic, the use of public transportation, from flying to riding, saw a considerable decline. Consumers wished to have their own mode of transportation after the solace of their home found more comfort in owning a car. 

Different studies have shown that the usage of private cars doubled while reliance on ride-hailing services and public transportation fell in the wake of the pandemic. Due to the cost-effectiveness of used vehicles, most consumers turned to purchasing them. This trend grew so much that till now, there are no signs of it declining any time. 

Here are nine car buying trends that covid gave rise to and which are still rampant nowadays:

Increasing trend of buying cars online

Owing to the decrease in income and the rising concern to maintain social distance, the demand for used cars in covid was at its peak. Showrooms shut down, and car dealerships found it fruitful to shift their bases online as most customers prioritized online purchases over physical ones. 

This trend is still growing as the global car buying statistics state that online car purchases will reach $722.79 billion by 2030. According to Autotrader, 2/3rd of the online users reported that they are 100% more likely to purchase vehicles online today than pre-covid. 

Before the pandemic, only 4.2% of car sales were completed online; however, after the covid, 30% of digital car sales were accomplished. This growth trend states that the number of online car buyers rose from 3% in 2017 to 27% in 2020 during the pandemic.

Nowadays, 38% of consumers are more likely to complete the entire car-buying process online.

This change was reflected in the car dealers as well, who agreed that they would like their customers to complete the whole car buying and financing process online.

If your car dealership adopts this trend, it will likely be a win-win situation for you and your customers. The whole online car buying process will allow you to communicate with them and answer their queries, leading to customer satisfaction.

Car shipping

Rising interest in electric vehicles

The rising gas prices and fuel shortage during the covid and post-pandemic phase pushed car buyers to buy electric vehicles. During 2020-2021 EV sales almost doubled by 85% in one year.

In addition, according to Autotrends, the electric vehicle market is projected to grow with a CAGR of 24.3% in 2028, valued at $1,318.22 billion in 2028. This cuts quite an impressive figure. 

While many car dealers are still relying on gas and diesel-powered vehicles, these growing trends suggest that now is the most fruitful time to include electric-powered cars in your inventory. As of 2020, the Pew Research Center has reported that since 2016 the number of electric vehicles registered in the US has more than tripled. Most of the cars registered were closer to public charging stations.

The Biden Administration’s proposed incentives and investment plans regarding EV vehicles also sparked consumers’ interest. A survey has shown that about 66% of people are likely to buy electric cars due to these incentives. Post-pandemic localized searches for EVs have doubled. This factor could be a groundbreaking deal for your car dealership as well if you choose to include EVs in your inventory.

Consumers are pre-ordering

During the pandemic, shortages of chips and new car supplies led to reduced inventories. Where the manufacturing units were closing down, car dealerships were thriving. 

Although it was challenging for car dealers to sell vehicles from their limited inventories still, their sales were increasing. The secret behind this considerable profit was their selling technique and made-to-order deals. They offered the choice of pre-ordering to consumers because it allows them to get custom cars without going through the search process.

According to a survey, 16% of the consumers pre-ordered their desired cars from their local car dealership. 98% of them stated that they would pre-order again. 

Another reason behind the made-to-order trend was due to the narrowing price gap between used and new cars. So the consumers thought to wait if they’ll be able to get a car with their desired trims and features for the same price as a used car.

No-interest financing deals

During covid, many car shoppers turned towards searching for a good deal more than comparing prices and models. The search interest for “is it a good time to buy a car?” increasingly became a trend. Consumers wished to know more than ever if it was an excellent time to get a good deal. All auto transport companies in the country have a valid insurance policy. Thus, your car will be covered under insurance when it is in transit.

Price is always a vital factor that impacts car purchasers. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that they were looking for financing deals during the pandemic. The car dealers’ response to covid was to offer cash discounts and financing deals at 0% annual interest.

Besides no-interest financing deals for 72 to 84 months, they also offered no-penalty payment deferments. Under the deferment, the financially impacted auto buyers could pay their installment after a certain period without accumulating any penalty. In addition, they were also offered a lease extension or a partial car payment option.

According to IHS MARKIT research, car lessees are more loyal to the brand than vehicle purchasers as they tend to return to the market. 

Your car dealership can adapt to this trend by providing financing deals to auto users. It will showcase that you care for your customers, increasing their loyalty to your brand.

At-home test drives and vehicle delivery

Before the pandemic, auto purchasers looked for virtual test drive videos on Youtube, but the importance of this trend grew during the pandemic. Let’s be honest; everyone loves the convenience of test driving a vehicle from their home before purchasing it. See if the company offers services like door-to-door pick-up and drop, amongst other services that set them apart. 

Moreover, the contactless delivery trend in the covid phase that many restaurants and grocery stores adopted grew on the car dealers as well. Several new and used auto dealers offered vehicle delivery services and various test drives. Some would deliver the car to the customer’s home and wait while they test it, while others suggested the convenience of having a vehicle to test drive for 24 hours and a 7-day money-back guarantee.

According to a Google survey, the car purchasers preferred an at-home test drive during covid. Furthermore, a CarGurus study revealed that 32% of consumers chose at-home test drives, 60% would like to process their next car purchase from home, and 30% wanted their car delivered to their doorstep.

Your used car dealer could do well with this growing trend. Besides physically providing your users with physical test drives, you can engage more potential buyers by offering review videos, virtual test drives, and a tour of your digital showroom.

Test driver

High demand for SUVs

While compact car sales have been slowing down in the US for the past years, covid shifted the consumer preferences towards sport utility vehicles like SUVs. This trend might have increased due to the SUVs providing more security, bigger space, higher comfort, and similar pricing to competing Sedans. 

According to IHS market analysis, the SUV market share climbed to the highest peak in the second quarter of 2021. This trend has also influenced brand loyalty. Due to inventory shortages, many car dealerships had to face the issue of customers leaving their brand to purchase their desired vehicle from some other dealership.

With the ongoing high SUV demand, you would have to search for localized buying trends to grow your inventory. This includes a data-driven approach to identify which models have sold faster in the past. You would also have to figure out which customers are likely to buy SUV models already present in your inventory. With the help of predictive marketing, you will be able to purchase in-demand or pre-owned vehicles that customers will be more likely interested in.

Consumers are choosing to repair their old vehicles

Before the pandemic, 61% of consumers were choosing to repair their old cars, but after covid, 70% of them wanted to do it. The reason was closed service workshops and inventory shortages, which led to increased rates. So the consumers opted to repair their existing cars in order to save money on purchasing a new one. 

This trend is still rampant, with more consumers wanting at-home services for fear of exposure to covid. Some even want the garage service to pick up their car for repair and drop it off afterward.

If your car dealership has a garage service, you can offer an at-home repair service. Or you could exceed customer expectations by picking up their car from home, repairing and then dropping it at their home.

Car shipping

Live-streaming car inventories

The trend of live streaming mega-events was on the rise during the pandemic. Notable car manufacturing companies postponed their lavish events and replaced them with live streams of their vehicle launches.

For instance, Hyundai launched its Elantra in early March 2021 via live stream so that people could watch the complete unveiling of the new features from the comfort of their homes. The initial trailer and walk-around video clip succeeded in grabbing 800,000 combined views. 

However, till now, this trend may not be widely adopted by car dealerships. But it’s a meaningful way of increasing viewership for your used car dealership. If you start to live to stream the notable features of your car inventory, the more views you’ll garner, the more chances are that you will be able to increase your business’s outreach.

Pandemic gave rise to unusual car features

Covid changed the lifestyle of people where many of them preferred to work from home instead of from their offices. Commuting for local errands and use of public transportation was out of the question. This gave rise to cars with unusual features as most people used their vehicle space to work or treated it as a tool for escapism. It was observed that people were spending more than 40 minutes in their cars just for relaxation purposes.

Automakers were forced to add features such as a multimedia app for relaxation and many other health and wellness features. In the future, many health monitoring and purifying components will become a part of vehicles’ entourage. 

So, this could be a deal-breaker for your car dealership if you grab one of those innovative cars for your inventory. People would want to monitor their own health conditions rather than wait for a doctor. Also, consumers who have asthma, diabetes, and parents wanting to protect their children’s well-being will likely want to buy smart cars with HWW (health, wellness, and well-being) features from you.

Conclusion

The pandemic has changed the models of businesses and shifted consumer behavior, and more likely, it will persist for a long time. Therefore, your used car dealership can only succeed if you understand consumer expectations and the new ways people wish to buy vehicles. You will have to take a few factors into account and take the help of an auto transport company to help you get a quote for the trip or to know the cost to ship a car.

You may or may not want to add electric cars to your inventory or adopt other trends. But as a used car dealership, you cannot put off the growing trend of providing at-home delivery and test drives if you want to stay ahead of the curve. 


Jason Hilderbrand