What do car buyers want in 2019?

  29 May 2019

To gain a better understanding of how consumers make their new car buying decisions, Carwow has a huge amount of data from its users to draw upon, but has also surveyed the car buying public. From these two sources of information, Carwow head of manufacturer partnerships Phil Davies draws some interesting points.

We don’t look like our customers

As a first point, he notes that while the average age of the new car buyer is 55, the average age of someone working in the dealership is 34. “It’s important to recognise that most of us aren’t the average car buyer, and we need to keep that in mind when we’re thinking about what consumers want.”

60% of new car buyers think rationally and are information led

It is tempting to believe that for the majority of consumers, buying a car is an emotional, ‘outer focused’ decision. But the research says the opposite. “A lot more people than we might have thought are entirely rational in the way they are processing information about the vehicle,” says Phil.

43% of buyers are not ‘in’ to cars at all

The proportion of people that we’d class as ‘petrol heads’ – for whom the car is almost part of their DNA – is only 5% in the UK. And for a significant proportion of customers, the car is simply a necessary mobility tool.

“This is an important consideration when we think about the language that we use,” says Phil. “Our automotive-heavy language doesn’t speak to a lot of consumers.”

Users configure an average of five cars across three brands

While there are a proportion of new car buyers who know exactly what they want, there are plenty more who are not quite sure and who are willing to migrate across brands.

“Customers don’t think in the way we have traditionally believed they do,” says Phil. “They don’t think ‘narrow basket’, of similar cars in similar price brackets. They don’t think in segments, they don’t think in terms of name plates, and they will readily cross-shop.”

All new car buyers want a great deal

Across all types of customers, from ‘petrol heads’ to people who really don’t care about cars at all, they all want to feel they’re getting a great deal. “Any sense of being ripped off is complete anathema to consumers,” says Phil. “People want price confidence.”

Conversion drops off with distance

“We are often told that, with the internet, geography is no longer important in the automotive industry,” Phil comments. “In the future that might become the case, but right now people still want to buy from a local dealership. We see conversion rates drop steadily for every five miles further from the customer that the dealership is.”

We are guilty of taking mental shortcuts

In thinking about how we approach winning over consumers, Phil notes that we often tend to make judgements based not on the broader experience, but instead on the single most recent event. “It’s called the ‘availability heuristic’ and it’s how we tend to make decisions as human beings,” says Phil. “We have to be aware that single events – perhaps one customer who has responded to one deal – don’t necessarily represent what all customers will want. It’s the way our minds work, but we mustn’t fall into that trap.”


  • Recognise the differences between your team and your customers

  • Put rational thinking before emotions

  • Ditch the enthusiasts’ language

  • Don’t get caught into assumed segments

  • Think local

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