Online car shopping gets better reviews than visiting a dealer

Progressive chopped up the results of a survey of 501 people who have bought cars in person at dealerships and online, and rendered the results into a some coherent findings and graphs. Based on the 251 people who completed a transaction entirely online or through a dealer web site, and the 250 who did solely face-to-face business, there are two big takeaways. The first is that online shopping, still a small percentage of overall car sales, is growing rapidly in acceptance and actual transactions. And remember a few years ago when there was worrying sentiment that millennials preferred their phones to cars, and didn't see the need to own a vehicle when there were so many other options? No more. The second takeaway is that millennials are a major part of the online sales growth.

The last two years forced a ton of brick and mortar businesses online, including dealerships. Some did a canonball into the deep end of the Internet with everything from at-home test drives to digital paperwork. Some had a salesman's son make an ugly web page listing outdated inventory that didn't always have photos. Overall, though, online shoppers expressed more joy with the process than showroom floor shoppers. Compared to 78% of buyers highly satisfied with buying a car online, only 58% of in-person shoppers registered the same pleasure. That carried through to trade-ins and financing as well. Eight percent of online shoppers were highly satisfied with the trade-in process, versus 57% of dealership visitors; 70% of online shoppers gave the highest marks to the financing process as opposed to 53% of guests asked to "Step into the office" and wait while the salesperson conferred with the finance manager.

As far who got the majority of online business from survey respondents, Carvana earned the money of 21% of respondents.

As for youth versus age, less than 27% of buyers under the age of 40 bought cars from a dealership. Over the age of 57, almost 80% of buyers preferred to look someone in the face (and facemask) before putting money down. Between 40 and 57, Progressive said the split was nearly 50/50. Dealer visitors cited the chance to test drive a car as the top reason for visiting a storefront, whereas for the online shoppers, finding the exact car they wanted was the number one reason for going digital.

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

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