New studies released today indicate that a strong majority of all U.S. consumers gives high marks to the new car leasing or buying process. Gallup conducted a survey of consumers, dealers and the news media about their car buying experiences. Separately, Wirthlin Worldwide conducted a similar survey solely focused on the car buying experiences of minorities.

By 82 percent and 83 percent respectively, minorities and non-minorities surveyed said that they liked the experience of buying or leasing a new vehicle.

When asked specifically about how they liked their dealership, 94 percent of non-minority consumers overall were satisfied, of which 75 percent were very or extremely satisfied according to the Gallup research.

The Wirthlin research confirmed that 88 percent of minority consumers were satisfied (66 percent very or extremely satisfied) with their dealership.

The Wirthlin survey found that one in every five (19.6%) Americans has recently bought or purchased a new vehicle. More than eleven percent (11.2%) of the new car purchasers are minorities.

Additionally, minorities purchase a new vehicle more frequently than non-minorities, an average of every 23.1 months versus 45.6 months respectively.

Both surveys found that Internet use in the vehicle buying experience has increased dramatically since 1998. Gallup found that 43 percent of non-minorities who recently purchased a vehicle conducted research online to help guide their decision, compared to 27 percent who did so for their last vehicle purchase. Still, 90 percent (63 percent very or extremely useful) said the visit to the dealership was a useful source of information in the purchase experience.

Among minorities polled by Wirthlin, 36 percent reported that the Internet influenced their latest decision, up from 24 percent for their last purchase. Asian Americans used the Internet the most (62%), followed by Hispanic Americans (39%) and African Americans (27%).

According to Gallup, information most sought on the Internet by all consumers included price (88%), options and color (86%), and comparisons among different makes and models (68%). Only eight percent used the Internet to agree on vehicle price, three percent to fill out the necessary paperwork, and two percent to arrange pick-up or delivery.

In addition to the Internet, consumers of all ethnicities now use a variety of other information sources to influence their purchase decision, and there are only minor differences in preferences between minorities and non-minorities. Minorities are a bit more likely to rate word of mouth, consumer guides, and government safety ratings higher on their list. Non-minorities tend to give slightly more emphasis to visiting a dealership.

When asked to rate the various information sources on reliability, the same pattern holds true. Minority consumers tend to rate all sources slightly higher than non-minorities, except ‘visit to a dealership,’ which non-minorities rate slightly higher.

Other key findings from both studies included:

  • Women were somewhat more positive with the overall purchasing/leasing experience (3.43 mean for women vs. 3.30 for men). Overall satisfaction with their dealership was also higher for women (4.0 mean vs. 3.84 mean). (Gallup)
  • Members of the news media (54%) believe that consumers had negative experiences, in sharp contrast to what both minority and non-minority consumers reported. (Gallup)
  • There is little disagreement among minorities and non-minorities that the purchase process at dealerships across the country is getting better (39% and 36% respectively). (Wirthlin, Gallup)
  • 5.3 percent of all new vehicle buyers/leasers are African Americans; 9.9 percent of African Americans buy/lease new vehicles. (Wirthlin)
  • 3.8 percent of all new vehicle buyers/leasers are Hispanic Americans; 9.5 percent of Hispanic Americans buy/lease new vehicles. (Wirthlin)