Analyzing Today's Car Buyers and How To Connect With Them

Gone are the days when buying a car meant a straightforward visit to a dealership, a test drive, and a handshake deal. Today’s car-buying landscape is as digital as it is diverse, reflecting broader shifts in consumer behavior and expectations. 

Our dive into today’s car buyers aims to shed light on their preferences, motivations, and behaviors, hoping to bridge the gap between what customers want and what the automotive industry (currently) offers.

The Profile of the Modern Car Buyer


Here are some common characteristics of next-gen car shoppers and key factors impacting their buying decisions. 


  • Age groups and their preferences: Millennials and Gen Z are emerging as the dominant car-buying groups. They tend to favor eco-friendly vehicles and value technology integration over brand prestige.
  • Geographical trends in car buying: City buyers show a leaning toward compact, efficient cars, while suburban and rural buyers prioritize space and durability.


  • Impact of the economy on car buying decisions: Economic fluctuations greatly influence buying power. A robust economy boosts luxury and new car sales, whereas a weaker economy sees a spike in used car sales. The same goes for loans and interest rates, too. 
  • The role of financing and purchasing power: With the rise of various financing options, buyers are now more empowered to acquire models previously considered out of their reach. 

Changing Priorities

  • Environmental consciousness: There's a significant shift towards electric and hybrid vehicles driven by a desire to reduce carbon footprints and gasoline dependency.
  • Technology and connectivity demands: Cars are now expected to be extensions of our digital lives, equipped with smart interfaces, connectivity, and entertainment options.
  • Comfort and luxury vs. utility: Gone is the either/or mindset; today’s buyers want it all — efficiency, comfort, and luxury bundled into one.

Related Reading: Maximizing Dealership Performance: 3 Tips for Attracting Buyers Based on Today's Car Shopping Habits

The Online Car Shopping Experience


Here’s how the online car buying experience is changing and what that means for dealerships. 

The Rise of Digital Research

  • Popular platforms for car reviews and listings: Websites like AutoTrader, CarGurus, and manufacturer sites have become vital research tools.
  • The influence of social media and influencer marketing: Car buyers frequently turn to platforms like Instagram and YouTube for reviews and visual walkthroughs.

Virtual Showrooms and Online Purchasing

  • Transition from physical dealerships to online sales: The convenience of exploring options and configuring cars online has surged in popularity.
  • Virtual test drives and digital walkarounds: High-quality video content and VR experiences are bridging the gap between online and in-person interactions.

Customer Service in the Digital Age

  • Online consultations and negotiations: The negotiation table is now digital, with consultations and pricing discussions happening via emails, DMs, and video calls.
  • After-sales support and digital tools for service booking: The digital journey continues post-purchase with apps and platforms for service appointments and support.

Related Reading: How Inventory Merchandising Drives Customer Satisfaction in the Auto Industry 

Financing and Value-Seeking Behaviors


Here’s how financial changes are affecting the ways people shop for cars.

Financing Options and Flexibility

  • Comparing loans, leases, and subscription models: Buyers now have a buffet of financing options catering to different needs and preferences.
  • Impact of interest rates and loan terms: Savvy buyers are more attuned to how interest rates and terms affect their overall investment.

The Search for Deals and Incentives

  • Seasonal promotions and manufacturer rebates: Timing purchases to align with promotions can lead to significant savings.
  • Negotiation tactics for the best deals: The informed buyer enters negotiations armed with market data and comparative deals.

Long-term Value Considerations

  • Resale value and depreciation: Smart buyers consider the car's value over its lifetime, not just the purchase price.
  • Warranty, maintenance, and running costs: Total cost of ownership is a deciding factor for many, with attention given to efficiency, warranty, and upkeep costs.

Sustainability and Technological Expectations


Automakers are pivoting to meet emerging customer needs and wants. Here’s what that means for dealerships. 

Eco-Friendly Choices

  • Hybrid, electric, and alternative fuel vehicles: The demand for eco-conscious vehicles is growing, alongside the infrastructure to support them.
  • Autonomous driving and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS): The fascination and demand for self-driving features and ADAS technologies are on the rise.

Brand Perceptions and Innovations

  • Legacy brands vs. new market entrants: Traditional carmakers face stiff competition from tech-forward startups challenging the status quo.
  • Impact of technology on brand loyalty: The introduction of cutting-edge technologies has seen a shift in brand loyalty, with buyers more open to newer brands.

Related Reading: EV Adoption and Sourcing: How Automotive Dealerships Can Succeed in the Electric Vehicle Market

Personalization and Customer Experience


Shoppers want to control their own experience rather than being sold to. Here’s how to use that to your advantage. 

Customization Options

  • Vehicle configuration and personalized features: Buyers revel in the ability to tailor their cars to their exact specifications and tastes.
  • Online tools for bespoke designs: The digital car buying journey is enriched with tools allowing for virtual customization and previewing.

Seamless Purchasing Processes

  • Reducing friction in the buying process: Streamlining the buying journey, from research to delivery, improves customer satisfaction.
  • Importance of transparent pricing and information: Buyers expect and appreciate upfront information, devoid of hidden costs and fine print.

Building Relationships Beyond Sales

  • Customer engagement and retention strategies: A sale is the beginning of the relationship. Follow-up, community events, and loyalty programs keep buyers connected.
  • Community building and loyalty programs: Engaging buyers through communities and rewarding loyalty enrich the brand experience.

Putting It All Together

Understanding how people who buy cars online shop and what they prioritize is the formula for connecting and engaging with them effectively.

Connecting with today's car buyers means meeting them where they are — online, informed, and expecting a buying experience that's as modern as the vehicles they're purchasing. 

Attract and Retain Today’s Car Shoppers With Modern Merchandising

As the automotive industry continues to evolve, Dealer Specialties remains dedicated to providing cutting-edge inventory merchandising solutions that meet the ever-changing needs of consumers and dealerships alike.

From leveraging AI-powered tools like StoryBuilder for writing vehicle descriptions to embracing emerging technologies like augmented reality for immersive digital showroom experiences, we’re committed to innovation in the automotive sales industry.

Check out our merchandising services to see how we can elevate your dealership’s online presence.


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