Car Buyers’ Census reveals how tech is changing customers’ buying habits

A new report into the UK’s car buying habits has been released, showing the impact that technological and generational changes are having on the country’s used car industry.

The 2016 Car Buyers’ Census, compiled from an online YouGov poll by the search engine Carsnip, revealed a growing ‘generation gap’ among drivers, with many younger people embracing new technologies and peer-reviews to make the task of purchasing a car easier than ever.

The news comes as Carsnip launches its Founder Dealer programme to get 500 dealers signed up to test drive its new analytics platform.

According to the survey, so-called ‘Millennial and ‘Generation Z’ drivers were twice as likely to use online car search when buying a car compared to over-55s.

Three quarters of all respondents said they now trusted experts, car forums or word of mouth over the big classified ad sites, while 18-24 year olds were less than half as likely as over-55s to visit a dealer in person when buying a car.

Alastair Campbell, CEO of Carsnip and co-author of the report, said: “It’s a privilege to launch this Buyers’ Census which includes the views of so many experts from the car industry. We commissioned the survey because we wanted to inform car dealers and help them understand how their customers are changing.

“Big data is one thing, but it needs to be combined with recommendations if it’s to be useful. We hope the Census does both, and provides an insight into car buying habits in 2016.”

The poll asked people a number of questions, including whether they had used traditional car sites like Autotrader or Motors the last time they bought a car. More than two in five (44%) over-55s said they hadn’t, compared to 22% of 18-45 year olds. Nationally, the figure was 30%.

When asked which source of advice they valued most, 39% of 18-24 year olds said ‘word of mouth’, compared to 25% of over-55s.

Ben Elliot, Group CRM and Marketing Manager, Knights BMW, said: “Customers have always looked to their social networks for advice when thinking of buying a car, the difference now though is that social media and the internet has made it easier than ever for people to seek out knowledge from a range of different places. We’re certainly seeing they have done their research, with our staff now sought out as experts.”

The survey found that a third of all used car sales among over-55s happen away from search websites, meaning that car dealers’ websites could be missing out on as many as £14bn of sales each year*.

Dan Freedman, director of motor development, Direct Line Group, said: “These results are the strongest indication yet that a generational change in buying habits is taking place among UK car buyers. Younger buyers trust recommendations and expert advice much more, a trend reflected across all consumer markets.

“The findings also show that there’s more than just one type of car buyer now, so new, personalised, peer-reviewed approaches to online car search are needed. People care about different things depending on what stage of life they’re at. An 18-year old might care more about insurance costs, a 35-year old might need a family car and a 55-year old might want the sports car they’ve always dreamed of.”


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All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,093 UK adults, lowered to 1,541 UK adults who had previously bought a car. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21-22nd March 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).