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As forecourts open, dealer advice is critical to supporting buyers

26 June 2020


As car dealerships re-open following the UK lockdown, a swathe of pent-up demand for cars is being released. New research from the upcoming Britain Under the Bonnet report from Close Brothers Motor Finance reveals that would-be buyers spend an average of 24 hours doing research before making a purchase, so it’s more important than ever that dealers are adding value. 

Before the lockdown, seven in ten (70%) drivers turned to a dealership to purchase a vehicle. 80% of drivers said dealers provided expert knowledge and 85% felt dealers really understood their needs. 86% said dealers gave them a good price for their vehicle, and 72% were made aware of the finance options available. All this contributes to the 83% of people who said they felt confident going into a dealership. 

But now more than ever, dealerships are the final port of call rather than the first. People are doing more research ahead of time – 87% of buyers did their research before showing up to the showroom. Of the research, price comes out on top at 40%. Model (39%) and make were second (38%) and third, followed by engine size (37%) and fuel type (35%). Beyond the car itself, 31% investigated the tax required, and 29% the insurance.

Last year, more than half (53%) of drivers said they researched the car they wanted by visiting a dealership. When combined with looking at the dealer’s website, that rose to 66%. This year saw a significant increase, with 78% visiting a dealership or dealer website to research their car. In fact, the average time spent at a dealership was 3.2 hours, and 3.1 hours on a dealer’s website. 

Car buyers are also turning to social media with 30% - a jump from 10% last year - turning to social platforms to research their car prior to making a purchase. 

Other research channels included using internet search engines (3.8 hours on average) and independent car websites like AutoTrader (3.2 hours). Word of mouth remains vital, with 2.8 hours spent on average speaking to family and friends about buying a car.

When it’s time to progress from researching to buying, dealers are having to contend with the rise of online shopping – and even more so in a post-Covid world. Asked about their expectations for the industry following the pandemic, more than half of dealers (53%) expected to see increased demand from dealer websites, and 43% from non-dealership sites. 

Seán Kemple, Director of Sales at Close Brothers commented: “Dealer advice has always played an integral part in the car buying process, and as dealerships get up and running again, this expertise will be essential to ensuring cars are driving off the forecourts. 

“The pandemic has altered shopping habits, with consumers spending more time researching and buying online. While dealers are still the final port of call for motorists purchasing vehicles, there’s now a greater opportunity for them to be part of the entire buying journey. And that’s by embracing technology and having a good online footprint. There are far more eyes on a dealer’s digital forecourt than there ever will be on the physical one, especially now. With the rise of consumers turning to social channels to research cars, if dealers bolster their digital offering, they could reach more customers and ultimately, sell more cars.”

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