Autotrader: Consumers want car buying process changes

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

A majority of consumers surveyed by Autotrader want significant changes to the car buying process, including test drives, how deals come together, paperwork and service.

The “Car Buyer of the Future” study released Monday by the car shopping website said just 17 of 4,002 car shoppers and buyers surveyed like the current car buying process. Autotrader said it hopes the study will help dealers and automakers meet the needs of future car buyers.

“While there is good work going on right now to adapt decades-old sales processes, consumers are telling us that we as an industry are not moving fast enough,” Jared Rowe, president of Autotrader, said in a statement. “By recognizing — and embracing — the need for change, we have a tremendous opportunity to surprise and delight our consumers.”

The study found:

■88 percent of consumers won’t buy a car without a test drive. But the majority doesn’t like test drives with a sales person. Instead, they want to be able to test drive multiple vehicles and brands in one place and take a product specialist along for the ride — instead of a sales person.

■Of buyers who like building a deal online, 56 percent want to start negotiation on their own terms, including preferably online; 45 percent want to remain anonymous until “they lock in the deal structure.”

■72 percent want to complete a credit application and financing paperwork online to save time at the dealership and feel less pressure completing paperwork.

■83 percent said they would like to be able to visit a network of local centers for service.

Autotrader said the study debunks some myths about thoughts on future car-buying, such as sales people being less important, consumers not wanting to negotiate a sales price and that the lowest price will win. Autotrader says 84 percent of those surveyed said they want to buy a car in person and 43 percent see a dealership “as a place to learn” about specials, warranty and service.

The survey found 56 percent of consumers want to negotiate a car deal; Millennials and women prefer negotiating to flat rate prices. The survey found 54 percent would buy from a dealership that gave them “preferred experience” over the lowest price, and 73 percent would drive farther for a great salesperson versus 65 percent who would drive to get the cheapest price.

Dealers and automakers who create a better shopping and buying experience may benefit, Autotrader says. The company said 72 percent of consumers surveyed said they would visit a dealership more often if the buying process improves; 66 percent would be “much more likely” to buy from a dealership that offers “their preferred experience;” and 53 percent would buy a vehicle more often if the buying process improved.

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