Almost 76% of all consumers using the internet when looking for a new car ended up buying from a traditional dealer, according to a survey by Autohit.

However, although the immaturity of the internet is currently restricting the growth of online car sales, 44% of consumers who had already used the internet said that they would probably buy their next car online.

The automotive e-business service company surveyed 7,000 car buyers who had used the internet either for research or with the intention to buy from an online supplier during the past three months. The respondents were taken from consumers using the Car Price Check service.

In a U.K. climate of falling prices, the majority (54%) still felt that traditional dealers would be able to offer the best deal, but finding the best price and location to buy were the prime motivators for internet use, the survey reported.

The increasing popularity of parallel importers and internet-based retailers was noted, yet 35% of the sample audience said that they decided to buy from a traditional dealer because it was easier than having to learn a new way to buy a car. A further 29% said they chose to buy from a dealer within the UK because of the risks associated with importing from Europe.

Some 27% of car buyers indicated that they would prefer to buy their next vehicle direct from a manufacturer's website, but only if there were no price advantage to be had elsewhere.

Only 10% of those surveyed expressed any negative concerns about the security issues associated with making a large capital purchase online.

"While there is a clear indication that consumer confidence in buying online is growing, the vast majority of car buyers are using the internet as a research tool and then go on to buy from a traditional dealer often associated with an internet supplier," commented Steve Evans, Autohit's CEO.

"Dealers may not be able to beat every import price, but the overall deal, complete with service and warranties, is still seen to be a better bet in the consumer's eyes."