A row of used cars are on a used car lot.

Do You Shop Like Other Car Buyers?

That might seem like kind of a weird question, but it’s actually quite worthwhile once you see how answering that question can help you out. Dealerships spend a lot of time and money on marketing and understanding how people shop for vehicles so that they can be as attractive and helpful to customers as possible. If you are looking at different used car lots to buy a vehicle from, then understanding what other people do when shopping can actually help you out.

Think of it this way: dealerships have access to information about trends and the way car-buyers shop for vehicles. So they naturally adapt to those trends and try to match what customers do, in order to make it as easy as possible for people to shop with them. If you’re not doing something that other people are doing while buying a car, then you could be missing out on a trick or habit that might make your life easier. And there could also be something you haven’t thought of yet that would make the process easier for you.

So let’s take a look at what other car buyers out there are doing and see how that might help you.

All About that Online Research

One of the main things that most car buyers out there do before ever hitting up a used car lot is research online. People spend nearly 60% of their online time when shopping for a car doing research, according to data from Autotrader. That’s actually a great thing to see, because the more you know and the more prepared you are when shopping for a car, the better your chances are of getting just what you need.

So if you’re worried that you might be over-thinking things or spending too much time look at details on vehicles, don’t be. And if you’re not planning on doing much research on your vehicle before going to a used car lot, then maybe you should rethink that. Look up different vehicles to see what would work well for you. Check out dealerships in your area online and look at their inventory to see what they have that might work, then check out those models. Seriously, you can never do too much research. So, what are people researching?

  1. Car prices
  2. Looking at car listings
  3. Comparing different models
  4. Checking the price of a car they own
  5. Looking at dealer information

Autotrader also found that nearly 80% of shoppers used third-party websites – those other than a dealer or manufacturer site – for their research. There are fantastic third-party sites out there (hey you’re on one!), but just be sure to read what you find there critically. Anyone can buy a domain and post whatever they want online, so it’s always a good idea to check out what you find and make sure what you’re reading is accurate.

Making the Most of Social Media

Hands are typing on a computer with social media "like" notifications hovering over them.

Social media is everywhere these days – for better or worse, it seems like you can’t sneeze without half your graduating class posting “gesundheit” on your profile page. So it only makes sense that a lot of people are utilizing social media before heading to a used car lot. In 2016, about 22% of car shoppers online used social media as a source, according to J.D. Power. Of the different social media sites out there, those that used them for research reported that YouTube was the most helpful.

This makes sense, actually, since you can find YouTube videos out there covering just about everything imaginable, including car reviews. Watching a video that shows a person driving a vehicle, so you can hear the roar of the engine and get a decent idea of how it drives can be very helpful. I still like text articles and sites for looking at specs, especially when comparing vehicles, since it’s easier to see the numbers there. But a good video review can be quite helpful and is something to consider before going to a used car lot.

Smartphones are Living up to Their Name

One interesting thing to note is that more than half of people using the internet for shopping and research used a mobile device. While most people used a laptop or desktop computer, that number has been on the decline, and smartphones and tablets are becoming more common, with 37% of people using a smartphone in 2016, according to J.D. Power. In fact, online car shoppers spent about one-third of their time using a mobile device for their research.

Why should you care about this? Well, auto manufacturers, dealers, and third-party sites are aware of this, which means they are designing their webpages to be increasingly mobile-friendly. So if you have avoided using your smartphone or tablet for research and car shopping, you might be making your life more difficult. If you’re going to spend dozens of hours looking at used car lot websites and researching specs on different vehicles, then you might as well do some of that research from the comfort of your own bed!

Shopping Habits: Millennials vs Boomers

First things first: no, this is not about to become an article about the conflicts between millennials and baby boomers, or which generation is better (we’re all great, it’s okay). Looking at how different generations shop is helpful, however, because it tells us what dealers probably expect and how you can improve your own shopping habits and practices. All of this is meant to help you at a used car lot near you, so keep that in mind.

A millennial couple is walking through a mall shopping after looking at used car lots.

On average, millennials tend to look at more vehicles overall than baby boomers, and they spend more time on shopping. Millennials spend an average of nearly 17 weeks shopping and deciding on a car, while baby boomers spend an average of just over 15 weeks doing their shopping, according to J.D. Power. This also extends to the dealership: millennials typically spend about four-and-a-half hours more in the actual car-buying process too.

Why is this? Personally, I think it’s because millennials were raised on the idea of shopping cautiously and with depictions of villainous car salesmen in movies and TV. So if you’re an older shopper, keep in mind that a car salesperson might expect you to make a quicker decision than a younger shopper because of this data. Remember to take your time and carefully consider your buying decision before you sign anything and drive away from your used car lot.

The Dealership Experience: Anxiety and Stress

This is an unfortunate statistic, but one that we should look at nevertheless. According to research (and prepare for a huge shock), most Americans dislike the car-buying experience. The majority of people feel they’re taken advantage of; in particular millennial women tend to feel they were pressured into buying something right away, and nearly half of them said they felt tricked into buying features they did not really need.

When shopping at used car lots, shoppers gave a 74% satisfaction rate with the overall experience and 80% satisfaction with the test driving process, according to Autotrader. The numbers fell slightly to 75% when it came to interacting with salespeople and then dropped dramatically for dealing with financing and for the overall length of the process. So, what does that mean for you?

Anything you can do to speed up the car-buying process and get ahead with financing is going to make your life easier as a shopper. Look for used car lots with websites that are easy to use and that have financing tools you can use to get started before you ever set foot on their lot. Be prepared for how long the process can be – take some deep breaths and settle in; it’s important that you don’t let yourself feel rushed.

Here’s one last stat from me to you: 100% of car-buyers have all the power. You’re the customer, which means you can always walk away if a deal is bad or you feel like someone is trying to pressure you into something. Don’t fall in love with a car the moment you see it and don’t forget that as the customer, you hold all the cards.