In the second annual Consumer Reports car buying survey, 64 percent of a nationally
representative sample of recent U.S. car buyers and leasers said they would use
the Internet either to make a car purchase or obtain a local dealer referral –
up from 41 percent in last year’s survey.

And although only 1.5 percent had bought their vehicles online, an additional
3.6 percent had tried to buy online.

Among web site users surveyed, 70 percent used the Internet to research prices;
60 percent researched car specifications; 43 percent looked up available models;
and 42 percent researched options/trim lines.

According to the survey, twice as many people tried unsuccessfully to buy online
as were able to complete the transaction. This suggests that web auto merchants
haven’t put all the pieces together so consumers can comfortably complete a
car purchase online.

Other online car-buying trends from the survey:

  • 27 percent of respondents said they would consider using the web to buy
    or lease a vehicle and have it delivered; 45 percent would use the Internet
    to get a referral to a dealer.
  • 29 percent said they would investigate buying and leasing options available
    through the Internet the next time they purchased a vehicle.
  • 43 percent of respondents consulted manufacturer web sites before selecting
    a vehicle, making automaker sites the third most frequently-consulted information
    source (prior experience with make and dealers/auto salespeople were the first
    and second most frequently consulted sources of information) – up from seventh
    place last year. 30 percent visited other online auto sites.
  • Last year, about three out of five respondents said they would not use
    the web either to buy or get a dealer referral. This year the figure was down
    below half (46 percent).
  • 8 percent found a dealer from recommendations by auto-related Internet
    sites.
  • Four out of five respondents currently have access to the web.
  • The main reasons respondents would not consider using the web to buy a vehicle
    and have it delivered are:
  • 68 percent prefer to test drive the car. More than 80 percent of the respondents
    test-drove the vehicle before selecting it.
  • 67 percent prefer to establish a relationship with the dealer that they
    are going to use for service.
  • 42 percent were concerned about online security and privacy of financial
    information.
  • 26 percent don’t think that Internet buying is the way to get the best deal.

The second annual survey, completed in January 2001, is based on 1,001 responses.