70 Interesting Car Buying, Statistics, & Trends
Steve Birkett is an electric vehicle advocate based in Greater Boston, Massachusetts. He is a content creator and marketing professional who contributes written and recorded pieces to a wide range of media outlets. His work has been featured in Find The Best Car Price and Torque News, among others. He has also had video content featured on Inside EVs. Birkett was an EV Guide for Plug in America events in Massachusetts (Drive Electric Cambridge and Drive Electric Lowell) and Ohio (Earth Day 2019 at Cleveland Zoo). He participates in quarterly advisory panel meetings for EVolve New York (a state-level charging initiative) and has contributed to focus groups for prominent U.S. charging networks.
Birkett is a father-of-two who loves nothing more than packing up the family and hitting the road in their latest electric car, which is currently a 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV. With a Chevy Volt and Tesla Model 3 LR in the extended family, plus various EV rentals when he ventures back home to his native United Kingdom, Birkett has more than 60,000 all-electric miles under his belt and is always ready to try out a new electric vehicle.
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The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every single industry in 2020. How does the reality of car buying in 2020 live up to the projected trajectory? This year, there are many interesting, informative statistics to review as we close out the year. Let’s dive into the latest automotive sales trends and how this unprecedented year impacted car buyer demographics.
Table of Contents
- Car Sales Statistics for 2020
- Car Buying Consumer Habits and Trends
- Car Buyer Demographics and Preferences
- Online Car Buying Consumer Habits
- Dealership Experience and Trends
- Ride-Sharing Service Trends
- Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Trends
- Overall Car Buying Trends and Analysis
- Best Car Deals by Category
- Frequently Asked Questions
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Car Sales Statistics for 2020
Unsurprisingly, we saw a decline in car sales in 2020 across the board. Toyota still proved to be a strong brand with a large market share. Consumers are beginning to turn to trucks and SUVs, with both grabbing a larger share of the market.
- 9 million new vehicles will be sold in 2020, down 28% from 2019. (CoxAuto)
- 2020 was marked by higher interest rates and record-high average transaction prices. (CoxAuto)
- 34.1 million used vehicles will be sold in 2020 compared to 40 million in 2019. (CoxAuto)
- 2 million certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles will be sold in 2020, compared to 2.8 million in 2019. (CoxAuto)
- 1.3 million fleet units will be sold, down from 3.2 million in 2019. (CoxAuto)
- In January 2020, the average transaction price for a light vehicle in the United States was $37,851, which represents a 3.5% increase for January 2019. (Kelley Blue Book)
- Trucks and SUVs picked up market shares with a year-over-year increase in average transaction prices at 1.5%. (Kelley Blue Book)
- Light trucks were the best-selling car type of January 2020, with the Ford F-Series the top model, followed by the Chevrolet Silverado. (MarkLines Data Center)
- The top-selling SUVs were the Toyota Rav-4, Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, and Nissan Rogue during January 2020. (MarkLines Data Center)
- Toyota had the largest YTD market share in 2020. (GoodCarBadCar)
Car Buying Consumer Habits and Trends
Car buyers in 2020 browse for new and used vehicles online, with the majority of auto purchase research beginning on the internet. Shoppers are very conscious of both quality and affordability, which is why many are turning to used cars and looking for deals. Buyer intent is still recovering from COVID-19 and its financial impact.
- Consumers tend to spend less time in market (89 days compared to 118 in 2017) because they are motivated by needs like expiring leases, damaged vehicle, or unreliability. (CoxAuto)
- Lease penetration will be 24% for 2020, which is slightly lower than in 2019. (CoxAuto)
- 92% of auto purchasers research online. (ThinkWithGoogle)
- Nearly half of US consumers (47%) are planning to keep their current vehicle longer than they originally expected. (Deloitte)
- When it comes to buying cars, purchase intent is still 14% below pre-COVID-19 levels. (McKinsey)
- Used vehicles may be assuming the role of the entry-level car, giving cash-strapped consumers an interesting option to consider. (Deloitte)
- New buyers are less satisfied with the overall shopping experience, with 62% satisfied with new car shopping and 60% satisfied with used car shopping. (CoxAuto)
- Used buyers are more focused on research and show prominent online engagement. (CoxAuto)
- Quality was the most important factor for brands in the auto industry, with 30% of the vote. Affordability (21%) was the next most important attribute. (Brandwatch)
- 1/3 of consumers without a car plan on buying one in the next 6 months, with 45% of those being millennials. (EY Global)
- 78% are more likely to use their car to travel in a post-Coronavirus world. (EY Global)
- Of those who plan to buy a car, 1 in 3 are moving with greater speed due to coronavirus. (Cars.com)
- Covid-19 has led to an increase in used car sales as people avoid mass transportation and are more sensitive to auto costs in the recession. (CNBC)
- Search volume for best car deals and truck deals has grown 70% globally from March 22, 2020, to March 28, 2020, versus March 15 to March 21 of the same year. (ThinkWithGoogle)
- 71% of people who don't own a car are looking to buy a gasoline or diesel vehicle, 6% plan on an EV, and 23% would consider a hybrid model. (EY Global)
- Most car shoppers are looking at new and used vehicles simultaneously. (CoxAuto)
- Toyota has the largest CPO share of 13.8%. (CoxAuto)
Car Buyer Demographics and Preferences
This year, more consumers are valuing access to a private vehicle, which has lead to many young city dwellers purchasing cars. Car shoppers are very focused on their monthly payments, leading more to turn to leasing. The majority of car buyers are in the suburbs, with the ages spread out fairly evenly across the adult generations.
- 1/3 of consumers value constant access to a private vehicle, more than before COVID-19, especially amongst younger consumers. (McKinsey)
- The percentage of buyers who use automakers’ financing and choose to lease has risen from 31% to 52% year over year, according to industry analyst J.D. Power. (MarketWatch)
- Car shoppers are most focused on monthly payments when it comes to the price of their car. (CoxAuto)
- Around 6% of households preferred to lease cars. (Cesus.gov)
- While car sales overall were down in the summer of 2020, they were up among 18-35-year-olds due to the fear of contracting the virus on public transportation or in rideshares. (TheAtlantic)
- Gen X makes up 38% of all car buyers, followed by Baby Boomers at 32% and Millennials at 23%. (CoxAuto)
- 61% of all car buyers live in suburban areas, with 63% of new buyers and 61% of used buyers being in suburban areas. (CoxAuto)
- 67% of new car buyers have an income above $75,000. (CoxAuto)
- People ages 25-54 purchase the most new vehicles, with SUV buyers tending to skew a bit older. (HedgesCompany)
- Public transportation use for work has fallen by 69% from pre-COVID levels. (EY Global)
Online Car Buying Consumer Habits
As of 2020, there are several ways to purchase a car partially or totally online, but not everyone is on board. Consumers are still wary of purchases that are completely online, but they do want some aspects of the process to move to the digital space. However, some consumers (likely from the younger generations) are very interested in online and contactless auto shopping. Regardless, the car-buying process is certainly embracing digital aspects and making the shift to more online availability.
- Most consumers are not looking to buy their next vehicle online, interest in a fully online purchase process is limited to one in four consumers or fewer in other markets around the world. (Deloitte)
- Car shoppers visit an average of 4.2 websites when car shopping, with 81% visiting at least 2 websites. (CoxAuto)
- The top reasons buyers prefer third-party sites are for researching vehicle pricing (64%), comparing vehicles/brand of interest (62%), and reading expert/consumer rating (62%). (CoxAuto)
- The purchase journey itself is happening online, but the purchase often still happens offline. (ThinkWithGoogle)
- Digital becomes more important along the entire purchase funnel. Less than ⅓ of younger consumers want to conduct car sales in-person at the dealership, and more respondents are interested in contactless service. (McKinsey)
- 18% of auto shoppers would buy a vehicle sooner if there was an online purchase option. (ThinkWithGoogle).
- Car shoppers express an increased desire to complete some of the car-shopping processes online, especially price negotiations and online financing. (Cars.com)
- 48% of consumers want to handle price negotiations online. (Cars.com)
- 42% say they want to handle financing online. (Cars.com)
Dealership Experience and Trends
Dealerships were not able to operate as normal this year. When they finally did open, the majority of car buyers still sought them out, but dealerships have been adapting to car buyers’ preferences and needs.
READ MORE: How to Negotiate the Best Price on a Car
- 61.4% of car buyers prefer to buy from a dealership (TheZebra).
- Dealerships are consumers’ largest source of financing for both new and used vehicles. (CoxAuto)
- Buyers spend almost half of their time at a dealer on negotiations and paperwork, and these are the top pain points. (CoxAuto)
- New buyers spent less time visiting dealers, and more time researching/shopping online, researching through print and talking to others. (CoxAuto)
- Dealerships are looking to respond to car shoppers’ needs. 77% offer online estimates for trade-ins, 72% offer online chat negotiations, 60% have some digital retailing and financing options, and 58% offer home delivery. (Cars.com)
- Both supply and demand are seeing an acceleration of dealers moving to digital. Dealers are now looking to buy and bid online. (CNBC)
- Many local dealers offering online sales do have virtual walkaround technology, test drives available at home, as well as delivery. (CNBC)
- Auto shoppers ranked the following activities by preference as good alternatives to a dealer visit: at-home test drive, review videos, digital showroom, online configurator, VR test drive, video conference. (ThinkWithGoogle)
Ride-Sharing Service Trends
Prior to COVID-19, ride-sharing services were quite popular, especially in large cities. The pandemic has certainly increased the fear and mistrust of ridesharing, propelling people to use their own vehicles.
- Due to COVID-19, 56% of people surveyed in the United States indicated they are planning to limit their use of public transit over the next three months, and consumers in many countries are questioning their use of ride-hailing services too.(Deloitte).
- 40% of respondents said they are using ride-sharing services less often since the COVID-19 outbreak in the US. Of those people, 93% said they are using personal cars more often (Cars.com).
- 28% of people said they distrust the cleanliness of other people’s cars (Cars.com).
- 77.3% of respondents think owning a car is necessary, despite the evolution of rideshare (TheZebra).
Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Trends
While consumers still prioritize quality and affordability over sustainability, there is a clear interest in EV and hybrid vehicles. COVID-19 impacted EV sales around the world, and the market is still recovering, but it is set up to continue growing. EV manufacturers are still working to address the most common pain points, but they are definitely closing the gap, suggesting that EV vehicles have a healthy future.
- While many think renewable energy will change the world in the next year, few of us are prioritizing sustainability when it comes to choosing auto brands. (Brandwatch)
- COVID-19 slowed the growth rate of EV sales across various regions. Even so, the course seems clear for growth over the next decade. (Deloitte)
- The recovery in EV sales is likely to be slower in the United States than in other major regions, as manufacturers delay the launch of new cars and consumers take advantage of low oil prices. (Deloitte)
- By 2030, BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicle) will account for 81% of all new EVs sold. (Deloitte)
- Tesla blew the other (gasoline) car brands out of the water in terms of their visibility across search and social and the growth of their following. This suggests that consumers are becoming more interested in sustainability even though they do not currently value it over affordability and quality. (Brandwatch)
- Based on US electric car sales statistics, with 19,000 estimated sales, the Tesla Model 3 was the most sought-after electric vehicle and the 11th overall best-selling car in the US in January 2020. (MarkLines Data Center)
- The global EV forecast is for a compound annual growth rate of 29% over the next 10 years. (Deloitte)
- The top three consumer priorities for EV adoption in the US as of 2020 are as follows: lack of electric charging infrastructure (29%), driving range (25%), cost/premium price (18%). (Deloitte)
- As EV sales continue to grow and consumers see more of them on the roads or travel in EVs owned by family or friends, we expect personal experiences to trump concerns. (Deloitte)
- Recent company announcements have made it clear that there will be substantially more EV models commercially available over the next decade than previously thought. (Deloitte)
- While governments around the world previously offered compelling financial incentives to make the electric switch, many have considered rolling back the incentives. This could have an immediate and dramatic effect on EV sales. (Deloitte)
- Even with more OEMs offering affordable EV models, consumers are still unwilling to pay a premium for an EV instead of its ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) equivalent. (Deloitte)
Overall Car Buying Trends and Analysis
COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted car-buying behavior in 2020. Consumers value the health and safety of having their own vehicle, which has led many younger city-livers to buy cars this year. While sales dipped earlier in the year, they are steadily returning to their norm, especially used cars. Sustainability through alternative-fuel vehicles is not a top priority for car buyers, but it is a technology they believe will be transformative. EV sales dropped this year, but the market shows great promise as manufacturers work to eliminate the top consumer pain points.
This year, car shoppers are very budget conscious, and are shifting to used cars. The online shopping experience continues to grow, even though most shoppers are not quite ready to make the jump to 100% digital car buying. The majority still turn to dealerships for their final purchases, and dealerships are also adjusting to add more digital processes to meet consumer demands.
https://www.marklines.com/portal_top_en.html https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/future-of-mobility/electric-vehicle-trends-2030.html https://www.cars.com/articles/ride-sharing-drops-online-car-shopping-increases-in-coronavirus-wake-419581/ https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/consumer-trends/auto-industry-impact-during-coronavirus/ https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/how-consumers-behavior-in-car-buying-and-mobility-changes-amid-covid-19# https://b2b.autotrader.com/app/uploads/2020-Car-Buyer-Journey-Study.pdf https://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2020-us-vehicle-sales-figures-by-brand/ https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/15/used-car-boom-is-one-of-hottest-coronavirus-markets-for-consumers.html https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/08/millennials-are-buying-covid-cars/615325/ https://hedgescompany.com/blog/2019/01/new-car-buyer-demographics-2019/ https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/consumer-trends-auto-industry-2020/ https://www.ey.com/en_gl/news/2020/11/millennials-to-lead-covid-induced-car-ownership-boom-ey-survey
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most popular vehicle type for 2020?
Trucks and SUVs picked up the largest market share in 2020. Light trucks were the best-selling vehicle type in January 2020, with the Ford F-150 being the most popular model.
What do customers value when searching for brands in the auto industry?
The top three factors consumers look for in an automotive brand are quality (30%), affordability (21%), and good customer service (10%).
How has COVID-19 affected car buying for consumers?
Due to the global pandemic, customers are more likely (78%) to use their own private vehicle than ride-sharing or public transportation. 1 out of 3 customers are speeding up their car buying process due to COVID-19, and many of those are looking at used cars.
How do customers research and shop online when buying a car?
64% use third-party sites to check vehicle pricing, 62% to compare vehicles and brands, and 62% use sites in order to get expert and consumer ratings. Many (48%) want to be able to handle negotiations online, and 42% want to be able to handle financing online.
How are car dealerships responding to the restrictions of COVID-19?
77% of dealerships are offering online estimates for trade-ins, 72% offer online chat negotiations, 60% have digital financing options, and 58% offer home delivery. Other ways include offering a virtual walkaround, test drives at home, review videos, and VR test drives.
Has COVID-19 affected ride-sharing services?
40% of people are using ride-sharing services less often because of the pandemic, and of those 93% are using their own private vehicle. A portion (28%) say that don’t trust the cleanliness of other people’s vehicles.
What are customers concerned about when considering an electric vehicle?
29% of consumers are concerned about the lack of charging stations, 25% are wary of the vehicle’s driving range, and 18% do not want to pay the high initial cost of owning an EV. Even though more affordable EV models are introduced, customers are still unwilling to pay the premium price compared to the ICE (internal combustion engine) equivalent.