Online car shopping gets better reviews than visiting a dealer

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Progressive has chopped up the results of a survey of 501 people who have bought cars in person from dealers and online and converted the results into a number of coherent findings and graphs. Based on the 251 people who completed a transaction entirely online or through a dealer website, and the 250 who did only personal business, there are two major takeaways. The first is that online shopping, still a small percentage of total car sales, is growing rapidly in adoption and actual transactions. And remember a few years ago, when there was an unsettling feeling that millennials preferred their phones over cars, and didn’t see the need to own a car when there were so many other options? Not anymore. The second takeaway is that millennials are a huge part of online sales growth.

Over the past two years, a lot of brick and mortar businesses have been forced online, including dealers. Some have taken a cannonball to the depths of the internet with everything from home test drives to digital paperwork. Some had a salesperson’s son create an ugly web page with outdated inventory that didn’t always contain photos. Overall, however, online shoppers were more happy with the process than shoppers on the showroom floor. Compared to 78% of buyers who were very satisfied with buying a car online, only 58% of in-person shoppers registered the same pleasure. That also went on to trade-in and financing. Eighty percent of online shoppers were very satisfied with the trade-in process, compared to 57% of dealer visitors; 70% of online shoppers gave the highest score to the financing process, as opposed to 53% of guests who were asked to “come to the office” and wait while the seller consulted with the finance manager.

Carvana earned the money from 21% of the respondents.

In terms of youth versus age, less than 27% of buyers under the age of 40 bought cars from a dealer. Over the age of 57, nearly 80% of buyers preferred to look someone in the face (and face mask) before putting down money. Between 40 and 57, Progressive said the split was close to 50/50. Dealer visitors cited the chance to test drive a car as the main reason to visit a store, while for the online shoppers, finding the exact car they wanted was the main reason for going digital.

Check out the full findings on the Progressive site. Another new fact was that online buyers tend to do a lot more research and haggle more. More than half of online shoppers visited three or more sites before making a purchase, compared to 24% of in-person shoppers, and 15% of those hardcore online shoppers were more likely to argue about price than those who looked at less than three sites.

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