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Britain Under the Bonnet finds that 98% of consumers still rely on car dealers when making a purchase

3 July 2018


Despite the internet becoming the most common source for researching a car, consumers still rely on car dealers when actually making a purchase, according to the second iteration of the Britain Under the Bonnet report produced by Close Brothers Motor Finance. 

The findings reveal that well over half (57%) of motorists used the internet to help inform their choice of car – a significant increase on last year’s study, of which 40% went online. This year sees the internet overtaking dealerships for the first time. However, despite the internet revolutionising the way we research vehicle purchases, almost four out of five (79%) consumers actually bought their last vehicle via a dealership, against just 2% who purchased online.

While consumers may have researched their purchase via the internet, the amount who actively visited a dealership to do first-hand research closely followed. Turning to friends and/or family and using auction websites also ranked highly. 

UK adults did the following research before purchasing their vehicle:
1.    Searched online - 57%
2.    Visited a dealership - 53%
3.    Discussed with friends and/or family - 34%
4.    Used an independent car website - 32%
5.    Searched on auction websites - 15%
6.    Read through motor magazines - 15%
7.    Read through the motor section of the newspaper - 13%
8.    Searched via social media - 10%

The report also found that all age groups, apart from those aged over 65, favour researching online (46%) as opposed to visiting a dealership (57%). In contrast, 18-21 year olds ranked visiting a dealership much lower as a research method, with 61% choosing the internet vs 33% who turn to dealers. 

According to the report, almost half (48%) of motorists purchased their last car from a new car dealership and just under a third (31%) went to a second-hand dealer. Just over one in ten (12%) turned to a private seller and one in twenty-five (4%) bought through family and friends. Just 2% turned to auction houses and the same number (2%) bought via the internet. 

Motorists stated that the key reasons behind their positive experience of purchasing through a car dealer was the sense of getting a good deal/price (67%), being given good advice within the available price range (36%), and helping to finalise the decision (35%).

Sean Kemple, Director of Sales, Close Brothers Motor Finance, commented: “As technology evolves, the way people research and purchase cars is changing. As a result, dealers are undoubtedly facing new challenges. As buyers carry out online research before entering a forecourt, the main challenge is encouraging them to take the next step and walk into a dealership. In order to do this effectively, dealers need to make sure their digital forecourt has as compelling an offering as their physical one. 

“With challenges, come opportunities – the internet is a way to get substantially more eyes on dealers’ stock than ever before, so having a strong digital presence will ensure they can take advantage of these shifting consumer behaviours. And let’s not forget that drivers still look to dealers for advice and support, even if they are spending more time researching online and less time in the showroom. So ensuring their staff are best equipped to deliver genuine insight and advice to prospective customers is going to be crucial in the months ahead.”

As technology continues to develop, Close Brothers Motor Finance has launched a new portal that gives motor dealers the opportunity to take the showroom directly to their customers. The Showroom Suite is designed to work in tandem with a dealer’s website, helping their customers to choose the perfect vehicle and finance option. Throughout the process, dealers can guide and advise the customer, providing the personal touch that can usually only be delivered in the showroom.

The Britain Under the Bonnet report looks at consumers’ attitudes and car buying behaviours – along with views from dealerships across the country – to give a comprehensive view of the UK’s automotive sphere.  

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