A new report* from Mintel highlights consumer scepticism over the UK car market, with 55% of consumers in Britain believing that they are being ripped off by the high price of cars.

New research from Mintel finds limited consumer interest in buying cars over the Internet despite high price awareness. However, highprices are pushing consumers to consider the option of buying from abroad, while others are just delaying purchase in the belief that prices will come down in later years.

No fooling the consumer

The predominant attitude of consumers is the fear they are being ripped off by high prices, with an average of 55% of adults feeling they are being overcharged when purchasing new cars.

Concern peaks among those aged 20-44, while those in Scotland show the least inclination (at 38%) to feeling they are being ripped off. By contrast, 60% of those living in Anglia/Midlands fear being overcharged.

In terms of used cars, a lesser 27% believe they are being ripped offwhen buying used cars. In the case of both new and used cars, women show the lesser propensity to feeling ripped off.

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Delayed sales with reduced price anticipation

Research reveals a significant number of people withholding themselves from the UK car market due to high prices. While 16% of consumers would consider going abroad to buy a brand new car, a further 15% were delaying buying a car as they expected prices to come down.

Those who would consider buying a new car outside the UK were generally men (20%) aged 20-24 (26%), of the AB socio-economic group, the loyal Scots and North West being least likely to take such measures. The numbers delaying buying a new car in anticipation of price cuts only rose to 17% of males and 21% of the AB socio-economic group.

“The allegations that car buyers are victims of ‘rip-off Britain’ contributed to an 11% decrease in new car sales to private buyers in January 2000 over the previous year” comments Richard Caines, Retail Consultant.

A third of those questioned stated that the change of two registrations a year made no difference to their car purchasing intentions, while 10% stated that the change to two car registrations a year made them less likely to purchase in August.

Internet implications

Internet car buying is still in its infancy in the UK, indeed, only 5% of those questioned would consider buying a new car over the Internet.

Interestingly, the same percentage of respondents would consider buying a used car over the Internet. However, car Internet sites are more popular for information gathering.

“Some consumers are wary of this form of transaction because they feel it does not allow for the traditional aspects of car purchase – eg the inspection, test drive, haggling and security of payment etc” comments – Richard Caines, Retail Consultant.

The confident consumer?

When it comes to cars, the traditional male/female divide is still prevalent. Predictably, men feel more confident than women about purchasing a car. For both new and used cars, men are twice as likely as women to have confidence in buying cars by themselves as women.

Women are almost twice as likely to need independent advice than men when buying a car. A third of the men questioned said they felt confident about buying a new car, while only a quarter felt confident about buying a used car.

Comfort outweighs style

The most important factors consumers take into consideration when purchasing a car are low running costs (51%), suitability to family needs (43%), reputation of make for reliability (42%) and latest safety and security features (42%). The style of the car is of less importance to drivers than these and other factors such as comfort, warranties, aftersales service and the cost of replacement parts.

It appears, only a minority of the population are car enthusiasts, with 21% enjoying watching motoring programmes and 7% buying motor magazines.


*’Car Retailing’ is available from Mintel. Price: £695.
Further details, tables and charts available from Amanda White in the press office.

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