Pandemic May Spur Car Shopping Spree

33% of those in the market plan to make a purchase over the Memorial Day holiday weekend
Unlocking a car door

While some industries, such as travel and hospitality, have suffered due to the pandemic, the automotive industry may ultimately see a boost, new research suggests.

In a survey conducted by online marketplace Cars.com, 85% of consumers who were in the market for a vehicle said the coronavirus has impacted their timeline for buying a car, with 62% saying they will make a purchase sooner than they had anticipated.

One in three in the market for a new car — 33% — expect to buy one during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Among that group of motivated shoppers:

  • 53% said they had a desire for something newer
  • 35% said current deals are too good to ignore
  • 21% said their vehicle must be replaced either because of an accident or it is in disrepair

Pandemic increases driving appeal

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, consumers have looked for ways to minimize human contact and lower their risk of contracting the disease. An earlier Cars.com survey found that the pandemic is creating a new segment of car shoppers as some consumers who don’t currently own a vehicle may choose to buy one in order to bypass public transportation and ridesharing.

In addition, some consumers may choose to drive long distances rather than risk coming in contact with more people by flying. Of the survey respondents who plan to travel over the Memorial Day weekend, 75% said they would do so by car.

Also, a recent survey confirmed that more than half of consumers planned to take a road trip this summer, with some choosing to do so to lower their risk of contracting COVID-19.

Consumers seeking financial, safety incentives when car shopping

Another survey by digital marketing firm Adtaxi suggests that car dealerships could entice more consumers to buy a vehicle by offering financial and safety incentives.

Despite fears that the pandemic could lead some consumers to put off car purchases, the Adtaxi survey found that 24% of respondents were already moving forward with plans to buy or lease a new vehicle while 29% were still pressing ahead in their plans to buy a used vehicle.

However, three-fourths of respondents — 72% — said they would be more likely to buy a vehicle if they were given the option to delay their payments.

Respondents also were looking for ways to move forward with the car-buying experience with minimal contact with others. Along those lines, 63% said they would be open to the idea of home test drives, and 60% said they would be more likely to buy a vehicle if the dealership offered home delivery services.

Shoppers are also doing much of their research online. When asked what they are using the Internet to do:

  • 90% said to compare makes and models
  • 87% said to compare prices and promotions
  • 83% said to compare dealerships

The shift to car shopping online may outlast the pandemic, as 28% of respondents said they will continue comparing car makes and models, as well as prices and promotions online after the pandemic ends.

Methodology: Cars.com surveyed 983 consumers between May 14-20.

Adtaxi surveyed 581 adults who self-identified as being in the market for a new or used vehicle on April 30.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.