Image result for Automobile Shopping Goes 21st Century, But Not as Much as You Might Think

Although the world was catapulted into the 21st century nearly two decades ago and everyone survived the Y2K bug, less people purchase a new vehicle online than you might think. This isn’t to say, however, that the internet has not caught up with vehicle shopping. It has, only in different ways according to research conducted by Autotrader and J.D. Power.

People Browse Online First

In a study of car buying habits in 2016, Autotrader determined that 59 percent of those looking to purchase an automobile research their potential purchases online. Of that 59 percent, 46 percent conduct their research using multiple devices. One of the reasons why people begin to research an automobile purchase online is because they don’t know what they want, and the internet gives them easy access to automobile manufacturer, dealer, and third-party websites they can browse.

In fact, Autotrader’s research showed that six out of 10 people online don’t know the type of vehicle they want. They haven’t decided conclusively on a new or used car, SUV, truck, or motorcycle. This may be one reason why most people – 78 percent – head to third-party websites, such as and others. These sites have a wider variety of new and used cars for sale. This being said, although people look for the car they want online, many head to the dealer to establish contact, see the vehicles in person, and begin purchase negotiations.

What People Research

Autotrader reports 71 percent of online car shoppers research prices. Those looking for actual cars for sale account for 68 percent of online research. Sixty-four percent of people compare different models online, and 63 percent check car values. Finally, only 46 percent of online car shoppers research dealer location and contact information, but this may be attributed to the fact that most people know where nearby automobile dealers are located. It could also be attributed to social media, which allows consumers to interact with automobile dealers.

Social Media and the Automobile Buyer

J.D. Power conducted a study in 2016 on the effect social media has had on the automobile industry. Although low in comparison to third-party website traffic, 22 percent of consumers research automobiles using social media platforms, a 6-percent jump from the previous year. It’s no surprise that video sharing giant YouTube accounts for 13 percent of the consumer research. People are visual and dealers tap into this with uploaded videos. DealerRater and Facebook fell behind YouTube with 7 percent and 5 percent of the internet traffic, respectively, but does social media influence buying habits?

J.D. Power’s study suggests not so much. Of those questioned, 13 percent confirmed, “that the information posted on social media sites influenced their purchase decision,” according to the research giant. A staggeringly low 2 percent confirmed social media was “most useful” during their online research. Only 34 percent of all new vehicle buyers used social media to share information about the new or used automobile they purchased. Although 88 percent of the 34 percent shared pictures of their new wheels on Facebook, only 21 percent shared photos on Instagram.

Why the Internet Can’t Catch Up

The data in both Autotrader and J.D. Power’s studies is a bit shocking when you take into account how much online and social media marketing and shopping has increased over the last decade. So much so, major retailers with established histories dating back centuries are closing their brick-and-mortar stores. So why hasn’t the automobile industry caught up, and can it at some point? The answer to this question is not as complex as you might think when you take into account the car-buying experience.

People may enjoy looking at cars online, but you cannot test drive a car online, and 81 percent of the car buyers polled in Autotrader’s study confirmed that they enjoy test driving so much, they rank it between eight and 10 on a scale of one to 10. Nothing beats heading to the dealer and test driving your dream car, and no website can duplicate that experience, even YouTube, even 3D technology, even virtual reality technology. People what to drive the vehicle, period.

This may be the primary reason why most people still head to the dealer. Sure, most shopping may have beamed itself onto the internet in the 21st century, but the automobile industry may always be a step behind. People jump on the information superhighway to research, but many wind up at the dealer to take that baby for a spin prior to purchasing it.