Consumers remain interested in online vehicle shopping, study shows

Consumers interested in buying or selling a vehicle online with some dealership support remained steady in 2023, according to CarGurus’ sixth annual U.S. Consumer Insights Report.

What’s more, a majority of younger consumers want to fully purchase a vehicle online, the report found.

Roughly 58 percent of respondents said they’d be open to a total digital experience versus 57 percent in 2022, the CarGurus report revealed. Eighty-two percent of consumers are willing to sell their vehicle entirely online, up 5 points from the year before.

The report also found 69 percent of respondents want to handle more of the buying process from home. That number remains unchanged year over year after rising from 60 percent in 2021, which CarGurus said indicates “a lasting shift” in consumer behavior.

“Although a fully online experience is still in its infancy for the majority of vehicle shoppers, [they] are indeed showing lasting interest in doing more of the process online from home,” Alison Ciummei, CarGurus’ director of product marketing, told Automotive News.

The report’s findings suggest more consumers want to embrace the idea of shopping for a vehicle completely online, Ciummei said.

CarGurus found 81 percent of consumers either went entirely online to research what vehicle to buy or both online and in-person. Seventy-seven percent did so to assess the value of a car to be sold, while 69 percent used one or both options to solicit offers to sell their vehicle.

The U.S. Consumer Insights Report is the latest study to confirm buyers’ growing use of online tools for vehicle shopping. In January, Cox Automotive’s Car Buyer Journey Study found 71 percent of consumers surveyed wanted to complete their next vehicle purchase using an omnichannel approach — the process of starting a purchase online and finishing it at the dealership.

Top public dealership groups including Lithia Motors Inc., AutoNation Inc. and Group 1 Automotive Inc. last year continued to embrace investment in technology that enables an omnichannel process.


Younger shoppers are driving increased overall comfort with online vehicle shopping, the CarGurus study found.

Seventy-four percent of Gen Z and millennial shoppers, for example, said they want to do more of the vehicle shopping process at home. Only 64 percent of Gen X shoppers felt that way.

Roughly 78 percent of first-time purchasers said they are open to the home option, as are affluent shoppers — those whose income reached $150,000 or higher. Seventy-five percent of young families also put their weight behind the home digital shopping options at least in part, according to the report.

Roughly 66 percent of millennial shoppers, 55 percent of Gen X and 55 percent of Gen Z said they were open to buying a vehicle 100 percent online, the report found. With older shoppers still buying mostly at dealerships, the emergence of larger numbers of Gen Z consumers who embrace entirely online shopping is worth watching, Ciummei said.

“Considering this cohort of drivers is growing into driving age … it will be interesting to see how this younger group of buyers will influence car buying and selling in the future,” she said.

CarGurus and market research firm GfK conducted the study in June and July. It included a survey of 3,185 customers who had purchased or sold new or used vehicles in the previous four months.


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