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Study reveals most people still prefer to visit a dealership to buy a car

Robert Forrester CEO

Most buyers prefer to purchase cars in person rather than online, according to an extensive study by leading automotive retailer Vertu Motors plc.

The survey of nearly *4,000customers has revealed:

  • More than four in five people want to visit a dealership to buy a car
  • 82 percent of those seeking part-exchange prefer face-to-face dealings
  • Half of car buyers said they only would use virtual viewings in the early stages of the buying process
  • In contrast nearly 40 percent of 18-34-year-olds want to see a blend of online and offline offerings when buying a car
  • Most car buyers said they favoured traditional methods over online because solely using virtual viewings neglected the most critical elements of buying a car such as trusting the salesperson, browsing the showroom, and experiencing the car first-hand before deciding which vehicle suited them best.

The preferred methods to view a car were:

  • Buy in person (83 percent)
  • Personalised video (Seven percent)
  • Live virtual tour (six percent)
  • Online only (two percent)

Nearly 60 percent of those interviewed said they felt more comfortable and had a better customer experience when visiting a dealership as they were able to ask more questions


This method also gave them more time to properly examine a car, browse its qualities, and choose another car if their initial choice did not live up to expectations.

Many regard online viewings as an introductory step to help narrow down their vehicle preferences before visiting a car showroom.

Younger people were more amenable to embracing the internet when it comes to car buying.

Nearly 40 percent of 18-34-year-olds were happy to embrace a combination of online and offline methods when purchasing or part-exchanging a car. They believe the convenience of using multiple platforms and the speed at which cars could be browsed all added to their buying experience.

The reasons people prefer to visit a dealership compared to viewing online include:

  • It’s easier to ask questions (59 percent)
  • I can look at my own pace (48 percent)
  • It’s easier to take in the options (41 percent)
  • It’s hard to visualise on screen (38 percent)

Robert Forrester, chief executive of Vertu Motors plc, said: “It is interesting to learn that hardly anyone wants car dealerships to go the way of other retail outlets where the focus is on online sales post-pandemic.

“Online options may have helped car buyers during Covid, but as life gets back to normal customers do not want this to become the norm.

“The desire to build a relationship with your salesperson, negotiate on price and get a feel for the vehicle are as important as ever and, in the minds of today’s customers, online methods simply are no replacement for doing that in person.

“As we progress past the pandemic, Vertu Motors will remain flexible to meet the range of customers’ needs and preferences.

“This has involved us taking many of the online elements that have benefited our car buyers during the last 12 months. However, in-person viewings will continue to be our core proposition in order to satisfy our customers in the long-term.”

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