December Consumer Insights

We received some great insights from our monthly consumer survey for December 2016.  We like to speak to our visitors to help us stay better connected with their wants and needs so we can continue to improve results for our dealer customers as well.  We know December can be a slower sales month, so we wanted to know when consumers plan to purchase or lease a vehicle, what the age range is for folks in various stages of the shopping journey, and where they consider themselves in their current shopping journey.

What We Found

Nearly 8 out of 10 Cars.com consumers plan to purchase or lease a vehicle within the next 6 months.  That’s great!  Cars.com consumers are also 3 times more likely to be in-market compared to general consumers.  What stock type do they plan to buy, though?  Well, we found that 65% of visitors to Cars.com in December plan to purchase used inventory, 32% plan to purchase CPO inventory, and 19% plan to purchase new inventory.  If your dealership has a high volume of used inventory, consumers are looking for you [Figure1].

We dove deeper to better understand what else visitors may be considering with 38% saying they will consider more than one of these make options during their research.

Additionally, of those visitors that plan to purchase a vehicle, 53% indicated they plan to sell a vehicle beforehand – 12% indicated they’d already sold a vehicle.  In other words, potentially 1 in 3 consumers plan to buy a car without a trade-in.

Figure 1.  Cars.com In-Market Metrics Total Audience, December 2016

A Demographic Look

All of this is great information to understand where consumers are in their car shopping journey.  But, let’s break it down by a generational look.  Cars.com GenX shoppers are most likely to be in-market to buy or sell a vehicle, especially those between 35 and 44 years old.  We also found 18-24 year olds are slightly more likely to be in market to buy (84%), but 25-34 year olds bring Millenials down slightly with 78% saying they are in-market to purchase [Figure 2].

What’s Shopper Demographic Share?
  • Millennials make up 28% of this survey’s respondents and, of those, 80% are in-market to purchase.
  • GenXers make up 40% of respondents and, of those, 82% are in-market to purchase.
  • Baby Boomers make up 33% of respondents and, of those, 76% are in-market to purchase.

Figure 2.  Cars.com In-Market Metrics by Age, December 2016.

We also asked at what state in the car buying process respondents currently considered themselves to be in.  We found 71% of consumers are at the early stages of the car buying process and undecided on a make and model.  Of those who have decided on a make and model – 22% — but had not decided on a dealer yet and an additional 7% have decided on all three; make, model, and dealer.

The opportunity exists for dealers to speak to these consumers in ways that match what they’re looking for and at the right time in their car buying journey.

When we asked general consumers if they were in the early stages of the car buying process, 88% indicated they were and beginning their research [Figure 3].

Figure 3.  Current Stage of Car Buying Process, December 2016.

Based on the above graph, consumers who are seriously looking to purchase a vehicle make up the majority of visitors using Cars.com – a ready to buy, in-market shopper.  We also see that a good portion of respondents using Cars.com who are ready to buy have decided on a make and model, but are still looking for a dealer to buy from, which gives huge opportunity for dealers to differentiate themselves on Cars.com to influence shoppers.

We will continue to listen to our consumers to make sure we are delivering a car shopping experience that provides everything they’re looking for in a vehicle and dealership.  The more we can improve the consumer experience means the more we can deliver for our dealer customers.

Special thanks to our internal Insights Team for continuing to speak to Cars.com visitors and turning their input into actionable insights.

Source:  Cars.com Consumer Metrics, December 2016. 

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