Dealers Remain Essential To A Digital Car Buying Process

Dealers Remain Essential To A Digital Car Buying Process

New Research from Capital One Finds Consumers Value In-Person Dealership Experience Combined with Digital Tools

PLANO, Texas, March 29, 2021 - While car buyers are increasingly using digital tools to shop for a car, data shows U.S. consumers say they still value the in-person experience at dealerships. That's according to Capital One's inaugural Car Buying Outlook, the first-ever survey of both consumer and dealer preferences, attitudes, and behaviors around auto financing. 77% of respondents reported they will research financing options and pre-qualification online more than before as a result of COVID-19. At the same time, in-person dealer experiences like test driving and negotiations are still important, with 82% of respondents saying they will visit more than one dealership.

"For most Americans, buying a car is one of the biggest purchases they'll ever make, so it's not surprising that they want to see, feel and experience this investment for themselves in person, alongside a trusted dealer advisor," said Sanjiv Yajnik, President of Financial Services, Capital One. "The future of car buying requires embracing a model that marries digital tools with physical experience, empowering customers to have the car buying journey they want."

Additional survey findings include:

Value of the In-Person Experience
Consumers value in-person elements of the car buying experience and visited the dealership even in the midst of COVID-19.

  • 94% of car buyers are most comfortable purchasing a vehicle from a dealership.
  • 92% of car buyers say the test drive is an important part of the buying process.
  • 82% of future car buyers say they plan to visit more than one dealership. 
  • 43% of future car buyers plan to have financing discussions at the dealership. 

Financing with Transparency
Dealers play an important role in how car buyers understand their financing options.

  • Two-thirds (68%) of deals fall through when finances enter the conversation, according to both dealers and car buyers.
  • 99% of dealers state less than half of their consumers have their financing figured out when they come in.
  • 54% of car buyers state they think about financing after settling on a car7, an increase from 43% in 2019.
  • 81% of car buyers say dealerships should provide more information up front about pricing and financing.

Dealers Digitize to Meet Customer Demands
Dealers are adopting digital tools to enhance customer engagement as more consumers turn online for shopping.

  • 69% of dealers say the role of technology and digitization in dealer operations will be more important post-COVID-19.10
  • 56% of dealers have permanently increased their use of digital tools to combat business challenges brought on by COVID-19.
  • 38% of dealers agree that the need to improve customers' experience with technology has been accelerated by COVID-19.


Capital One's Car Buying Outlook comprises findings from two surveys targeted to consumers and dealers.

The consumer survey of 1,000* U.S. adults ages 18+ was conducted on behalf of Capital One Auto Finance using Ipsos. *Of the 1,000, 348 have bought/leased a car in the last 6 months and 652 self-reported that they're planning to buy/lease a car within the next two years. The survey was fielded October 1-14, 2020, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

The dealer survey of 401* current car dealers was conducted on behalf of Capital One Auto Finance using Beresford. *Of the 401 respondents, 132 were self-reported as owners, 133 as general managers, 30 as F&I directors, 83 as sales managers and 23 as internet managers. The survey was fielded October 14-20, 2020, with the margin of error +/- 4.8%.


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