Auto Sales Drive Consumers To The Web

The Internet is becoming a popular vehicle for car buying, according to some multinational traffic figures. Analysis from Canada, the U.S, Australia, and the UK supports the value of the Internet as a research tool for new and used car buying, as well as a method for contacting auto manufacturers.

According to a study by Ipsos-Reid, 63 percent of online Canadians are reporting that they have used the Internet to search online for vehicle prices, features or other information The survey results show that 38 percent of online Canadians purchased a new (16 percent) or used (22 percent) car in the past two years.

“The high level of use of the Internet in the vehicle purchase process is quite significant as online Canadians represent a very substantial portion of the car buying public,” says Rhys Gibb of Ipsos-Reid. “The Internet is a great way for sellers to influence a large group of potential customers.”

Advantages of Using the Internet as a
Vehicle Buying Resource/Tool
Advantages Percentage of those who have searched
for vehicle information online
Ability to shop and compare vehicle/prices 42%
Good source of information 31%
Don’t have to deal with sales people 28%
Saves time/easier 13%
Easy to do (accessibility) 10%
Convenient 6%
Shop any time 4%
Access to a lot of choices/models 4%
Other 6%
Nothing/don’t know 4%
Source: Ipsos-Reid

The study recognizes the limitations of online vehicle purchases, with one-third of respondents indicating that the inability to physically see and touch the car is a significant disadvantage. Another 9 percent say the biggest disadvantage is that they can’t take the vehicle for a test drive; 8 percent worry that the information online may not be current; and 7 percent cite the lack of communication with a salesperson.

Despite the lack of tactile gratification, 87 percent of the Canadians who researched vehicles online agree that the medium allowed them to look at more vehicles than they otherwise would have been able to look at; 82 percent say that the Internet met their expectations as an information resource for vehicles; and 81 percent say they would recommend the Internet as a vehicle-buying resource to others.

Where Do Canadians
Get Auto Info?
Third-Party Sites
AutoTrader 32% 16%
Carguide 14%
Manufacturer’s Sites
General Motors 35%
Ford 28%
Toyota 25%
Source: Ipsos-Reid

In the U.S., Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent) found that of the roughly 40 million used cars sold per year, about one-third are researched online, which could propel the online automotive classifieds market to $531 million in 2008.

Measurements from Hitwise indicate that eBay Motors captured the largest market share of U.S. automotive classified sites for July 2003 with more than one-third of the total visits.

U.S. Automotive Classified Market
Share, July 2003
eBay Motors 34.67% 17.22% 7.02%
Edmunds 5.90%
Yahoo Autos 5.58%
Trader Online 2.96% 2.57% 1.83%
Collector Car Trader 1.74% 1.38%
Source: Hitwise

Hitwise found that for the week ending August 9, 2003, visitors spent an average of 12 minutes, 15 seconds during their visits to the Automotive Classifieds category. The average visitor for the week was most likely a 35-to-44-year old (26 percent) male (56 percent) with a household income above $75,000 per year, who accessed the Internet from home (75 percent).

According to Jupiter, the Internet has influenced almost every facet of the car buying process. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents to a November 2002 survey indicated that they searched for make/model information online; 74 percent compared vehicles; 65 percent read vehicle reviews; 59 percent searched for brand information; 43 percent used a dealer locator; one-third configured their vehicle online; and 26 percent checked availability.

Online car research holds universal appeal as findings from RedSheriff indicate that nearly one-quarter (23.2 percent) of online Australians visited automotive-related sites during July 2003, with most of the users clicking on CarPoint.

Top Australian and International
Automotive Sites for July 2003
Site Publisher Unique
Reach Ninemsn 301,277 4.0% CarSales 245,000 3.2% F2 224,369 3.0% NRMA Ltd 218,000 2.9% Holden 201,000 2.6% Ford 166,000 2.2% News Interactive 155,061 2.0% NRMA 145,267 1.9% Web Publications Pty Ltd 142,315 1.9% Victorian Government 122,000 1.6%
Source: RedSheriff

The Internet has also been beneficial to UK car shoppers, helping 83 percent of users who have bought a car in the last 6 months or who will buy a car within one year, according to Cospirit Research. But despite this huge audience, only 41 percent of carmaker sites have a section allowing direct contact with a dealer.

The April 2003 Cospirit Research survey analyzed 143 websites of major carmaker brands and over 400 of the standard Web sites provided to their dealers, and the findings revealed that the auto sites could be providing more contact information to consumers.

Just over half (59 percent) of the evaluated car manufacturer sites provided a link to the dealer Web site; 59 percent provided a map to the dealership; 48 percent provided the dealer’s email address; and only 15 percent had a route planner to the nearest dealership.

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