Buying cars online: A growing trend

Buying cars onlineDespite modest economic growth, consumers continued to purchase new and used cars last month. According to The Wall Street Journal, General Motors posted a 7 percent gain in April sales despite troubling safety recall issues, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a 14 percent increase in the same time period.

Overall, car manufacturers sold nearly 1.4 million vehicles last month, an 8 percent year-over-year increase, The WSJ added, citing market research firm Autodata statistics.

Online sales growing

The new-car market is primarily dominated by brick-and-mortar dealers, but the Internet has turned used-car and classic car buying into a completely different marketplace. The majority of previously owned vehicles are now being advertised online due to the vast audience that solicitors can potentially reach. According to automotive marketing firm CNW Research, the used-car market sold 4.1 million units in August 2013 – a 5.6 percent year-over-year growth from the same time in 2012. While franchised and independent dealers contributed to the statistics, private party sales – a majority of which are listed online – rose 7.8 percent in the same time period.

The used-vehicle market is undergoing a transformational shift in regards to how consumers not only purchase automobiles, but also the means in which they do their homework prior to transactions. People are utilizing the Internet more than ever before to research major purchases before they make a buying decision – especially one as big as a car. New digital capabilities have penetrated the marketplace and are providing the consumer with more tools to make an informed purchase, including audio and video reviews of used vehicles. Google’s recent “Digital Drives Auto Shopping” study found that auto video research is a growing trend in the marketplace, and consumers are using mobile devices to do their homework. In fact, the use of mobile to research cars increased 35 percent between 2012 and 2013.

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Customers are researching cars more now  thanks in part to the search capabilities provided via Web search and digital technologies. Google’s analysis found that on average, shoppers are engaging with 24 research “touchpoints” prior to making a buying decision. Factors such as video, consumer reviews, sites that allow the consumer to compare various models and previous ownership experiences were all found to have had an impact of some sort on the buyer. Convenience of location was another important factor for consumers, as 51 percent of respondents to Google’s study said that the whereabouts of the vehicle they wished to purchase played into consideration.

Auto enthusiasts know that car shipping companies offer a much-needed service to those who find the perfect car but aren’t properly juxtaposed to make the transaction in person. Private entities such as uShip provide services that fit a range of clientele, including the first-time car buyer to classic vehicle aficionados. The ability to research, purchase and even procure shipping online has transformed the marketplace for buying cars.