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50 Interesting Car Buying, Statistics, Trends, & Review

car buying statistics

Published Jan 1, 2020

There are many interesting car buying statistics to review as 2019 comes to close. Let’s take a look at the latest automotive sales trends and breakdown car buyer demographics for the past year.

Car Sales Statistics for 2019

In 2018 we saw the sale of passenger cars dropping, but in 2019 there’s been a comeback with many consumers considering 4-door sedans as their next vehicle. However, the top three selling vehicles for 2019 were all SUVs. Even though awareness is high for hybrid and electric vehicles, a majority of consumers still prefer a traditional gas/diesel vehicle. Vehicle connectivity is becoming a more prevalent feature but there is a privacy concern from most users.

  1. These were the best-selling vehicles in 2019 (GoodCarBadCar):2019 10 Best Selling Vehicles
  2. Overall vehicle sales have been on a decline over the past few years. 7.2 million in 2018, 16.8 million in 2019, and projected for 16.5 million in 2020. (Cox)
  3. Used vehicle sales were about the same over the past few years. 39.5 million 2018, 39.5 million in 2019, and projected for 39.2 million in 2020. (Cox)
  4. 54% of consumers would consider a 4-door sedan as their next vehicle. (ThinkNow)47% of car buyers find Internet connectivity beneficial
  5. 71% of Americans still prefer gas/diesel (ICE) for their next vehicle. (Deloitte)
  6. 47% of Americans think vehicle connectivity is beneficial. (Deloitte)

Car Buying Consumer Habits and Trends

Read: The impact of the Coronavirus on car buying and the auto industry

The overall shopping experience has slightly improved and become more efficient, but there still could be a lot of improvement in the final purchase process. Many car shoppers spent time considering and researching used cars this year as well. Baby Boomers are the least likely to purchase or lease a car within the next 12 months. Among the heavy demand for SUVs in 2019, midsize SUVs were the most popular.

  1. 30% of consumers plan to purchase or lease within the next 12 months. Of those who plan to purchase within the next 12 months, 35% were between 18-34. 39% of those who do not plan on purchasing in the near future were between 55-64. 30% of car buyers plan to purchase or lease within 12 months(ThinkNow)
  2. 79% of consumers in the market for a new vehicle plan on buying, while 12% plan to lease. (ThinkNow)
  3. Consumers are leaning more towards used vehicles for their next purchase; 64% would consider a used vehicle, while 35% would prefer a new vehicle. (Cox)
  4. Behind 4-door sedans, SUVs are the most popular choice for a consumer’s next vehicle. (ThinkNow)consumer preferences about type of SUV
  5. 22% plan on buying a pickup truck as their next vehicle and 14% plan on buying a minivan. (ThinkNow)
  6. Buyers spend on average 96 days in the market for a new vehicle, which has fallen significantly from 118 days in 2017. (Cox)
  7. The average time buyers spend on researching and shopping has dropped from 14:44 hours in 2017 to 13:55 hours in 2019. (Cox)
  8. 35% of consumers become aware of a new make from friends and family, 22% from the internet, and 13% from TV. (Cox)
  9. 61% of vehicle shopping is done online, while 20% is done at the dealership. (Cox)

Read: How I hacked the car buying process

Car Buyer Demographics and Preferences

The main features consumers are looking for in a new vehicle are still reliability and safety, but the demand for affordability has been increasing in 2019. A majority of shoppers pick a vehicle because of the feature list, but many continue to make their choice based on the brand. Consumers are starting to look towards used vehicles because the price of new vehicle purchases and leases have been steadily rising over the past few years.

  1. What customers are looking for in a new vehicle: Durability/reliability, safety, affordability, driving comfort, and driving performance. (Cox)
  2. These are some the reasons consumers use for selecting a particular vehicle (Cox):Top Reasons for selecting a new vehicle
  3. 64% of consumers rate affordability as an important factor; demand for affordability is increasing. (Cox)
  4. However, car prices are increasing. The share of vehicles priced between $20,000 – $29,999 has fallen from 47% in 2012 to 34% in 2019, while the share of vehicles priced over $50,000 has risen from 6% to 23%. (Cox)
  5. 60% of car shoppers are between 18 and 54, and more specifically, consumers between 35-54 prefer to buy an SUV (48%) over consumers between 18-34 (37%). (AdColony)
  6. 53% of buyers consider the total price of the vehicle as more important than monthly. 47% consider the monthly price equal to or more important than the total price of the vehicle. But average monthly payments have increased (Cox):average monthly car payments for 2019
  7. New buyers tend to place more value on the deal for the vehicle (26%) than on the brand itself (20%). (Cox)
  8. Consumers between 18-34, Millennials (41%), are more interested in autonomous vehicles than 55-64 , Baby Boomers (15%). (ThinkNow)

Online Car Buying Consumer Habits

Another reason car shopping has become a bit more efficient is because online engagement has increased. Many consumers consider a smartphone essential when they are at the dealership in order to compare prices. However, desktop usage is still the most popular option for consumers when online car shopping. A majority of consumers in 2019 turned to third-party car sites for unbiased information. Third-party car sites also drive brand awareness, while people turn to OEM sites for specific trim details and dealer sites to search for a specific vehicle.

Dealerships can increase the customer satisfaction level if they can convince customers to use an online/digital platform during the final 77% of car buyers use a desktop computer for car shoppingpurchase process.  Consumers are still heavily relying on the internet for their research in car prices and features. There is also a rising demand for informative car videos that would help customers make their final purchase decision.

  1. 77% of people still use a desktop as the primary platform for online car shopping. (Cox)
  2. There is a 52% increase from 2018 in multiple device/mobile usage to look up vehicle prices, photos, or details on specifications. (Cox)
  3. 80% of website visits from buyers are for third-party car sites, 46% for dealership sites, and 27% of visits are for the OEM site. (Cox)
  4. 80% of shoppers visit at least two websites during the shopping process; average number of sites visited is 4.2 (Cox)
  5. Among those visiting multiple sites, 65% start their search with a third-party site and 58% end with a third-party site; 32% end at the dealership site. (Cox)
  6. Some of the reasons consumers use digital or online platforms for vehicle shopping (Cox):top reasons consumers use a computer while car shopping
  7. 61% of consumers will consider a relevant auto advertisement when shopping for a car. 54% have clicked on an auto ad while shopping. (AdColony)
  8. 70% would have an interest in watching or engaging with a video on their mobile device to explore models and features. (AdColony)
  9. Consumers between 18-34 (18%) are more open to online car buying than consumers between 35-54 (9%). However, 81% still prefer to purchase or lease in-person. (ThinkNow)
  10. Customers can save time using an online or digital platform:

digital platforms save car buyers time in these categoriesDealership Experience and Trends

There is a small increase in loyalty towards a single dealership in 2019, with average number of visits to a dealership on a decline. A strong majority of consumers prefer to make their vehicle purchase in-person because they value the test drive experience and interaction with sales people. Customer satisfaction increases as the time spent in the dealership goes down, so dealerships need to focus on making the paperwork process a lot more efficient.

  1. The average number of visits to a dealership before making a purchase has fallen from 2.7 visits in 2017 to 2.3 visits in 2019. (Cox)
  2. However, people tend to visit one dealership now; 41% in 2019 from 30% in 2017. (Cox)
  3. The various forms of communication and contact for dealerships are (Cox):car buyers engage with dealerships using these channels
  4. Buyers do not want to spend time at the dealership; average time spent is 2:52 hours in 2019. Consumers who spend on average of 3:36 hours have a worse overall dealership experience. (Cox)
  5. Most customers are disappointed in the length of the purchase process, with 47% of the time spent negotiating and signing paperwork. Within the paperwork stage, 55% think waiting for the paperwork to process is the most frustrating part. (Cox)
  6. 74% of consumers were satisfied with the test driving experience and 66% were satisfied with the interactions with the sales people at the dealership. (Cox)

Ride-Sharing Service Trends

The awareness and occasional use of ride-sharing services has increased but overall usage has decreased over the past two years; Millennials make up most of its user-base. Even though ride-sharing services are still a popular option, many drivers don’t think it will impact their vehicle purchase plans for the near future.

  1. Overall ride-sharing usage has decreased in the past two years. 12% use it more than once per week in 2019 versus 23% in 2017. (Deloitte)
  2. The likelihood of using a ride-sharing service, like Uber and Lyft, are still high. 36% are very likely and 23% are somewhat likely to use service. (ThinkNow)
  3. Among ride-sharing service users, demographics that think they still need their own vehicle (Deloitte):Demographics of Ride Sharing users
  4. 35% of drivers that use a ride-sharing service think that it would have no impact on their future car ownership. (ThinkNow)
  5. 48% of ride-sharing service users are between 18-34 while 34% are between 35-54. (ThinkNow)

Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Trends

Awareness is very high for hybrid, electric, and plug-in vehicles but consumers are discouraged by the expensive prices, lack of knowledge about the engine type, and confusing EV tax incentives. In 2019, the awareness of alternative-fuel vehicles increases as customer income increases. 22% of consumers would consider a hybrid vehicle

  1. 22% prefer a hybrid option as their next vehicle choice, while only 4% would consider an all-electric (BEV). (Deloitte)
  2. Awareness for hybrid and electric options increase with income. There is a 38% level of awareness for people making over 80k a year. While there is a 17% awareness level for people making under 40k a year. (ThinkNow)
  3. Reasons why consumers do not consider alternative-fuel vehicles (ThinkNow): top reasons consumers forgo alternative fuel vehicles

Vehicle Connectivity Trends

Some of the features from vehicle connectivity in newer cars allows for drivers to unlock their doors, check fuel levels, start their vehicle, and adjust systems from their smartphone. It also has potential for future autonomous features that would connect cars to larger ecosystem. Sensors could allow for the vehicle to autonomously react to different road conditions and assist the driver. But in 2019, consumers don’t really want to pay extra for these features.

  1. 63% of consumers are somewhat or very concerned about bio-metric data being shared with external parties. 31% trust the OEM to manage the data generated from vehicles and 31% do not trust anyone to manage the data. (Deloitte)
  2. What drivers are looking for in vehicle connectivity (Deloitte): what drivers are looking for in vehicle connectivity
  3. 25% of consumers are willing to pay more than a little, 42% would pay only a little, while 33% would not pay any extra for connectivity features that will increase road safety and infrastructure. (Deloitte)

Overall Car Buying Trends and Analysis

Car consumers are continuing to use digital tools to aid their purchase decision, specifically utilizing third-party car sites. Consumers wanted a reliable and feature-full SUV in 2019, but we could potentially see a shift towards passenger vehicles in 2020. New car prices and leases are steadily increasing so many consumers are looking towards used cars. Consumers still prefer to head to the dealership to make the final purchase, but dealerships and customers could greatly benefit from improved online financial services and awareness.