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97% of new car buyers conduct online research before visiting dealerships

97% of new car buyers arrive at dealerships having conducted online research that informs their car buying intentions, according to a new survey released by automotive research, vehicle comparison and pricing website Despite this, over two thirds (69%) ask the dealer for advice and are prepared to deviate from their online research when choosing their final car or options.

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The survey, which asked 1,000 people about their online research and car buying habits, revealed that 39% of consumers spend over four months researching their new car purchase, with 59% spending more than 8 hours in total. Independent, professional reviews (63%), editorial reviews (50%) and branded content (37%) were listed as the content that most influences the buying decisions of consumers.

Despite the research finding that visiting dealerships was a vital part of the new car buying process, the overall pricing offer and deal provided by the dealer was listed as most appealing to buyers, although 63% would prefer to  visit a dealership within 50 miles of their house, if possible. The results also showed that research continues whilst consumers are in the dealership, with over a third of buyers (36%) using mobile phones to continue their search.

However, even after research has been completed, if the finance package isn’t attractive, 29% of people would be put off making the final purchase. The survey also found that 28% of people would change their mind if they saw another offer on a different manufacturer, and 19% said that lack of stock and delivery dates were factors that could make another model more appealing.

When it comes to purchasing cars, consumers are more likely to move quickly due to the research conducted, with 68% stating they would be happy to put an order in less than a month after they’d completed research.

Chris Smith, Head at said “The wealth of online information, in the form of video reviews, editorial content and peer advice, means that car buyers are arriving at dealerships much more informed about what their requirements are. Dealers are able to use this period of online research, which we know typically spans over four months, to begin a conversation with the customer, and widen their window of opportunity to sell. Digitally aware dealers who provide offers to customers whilst they are in the midst of research, and use online researching habits as part of their sell in-store will find that they can maintain excellent customer service whilst keeping sales conversions high.”

You can review the full survey report here.