Vehicle Purchase Satisfaction is On the Rise

Cox Automotive releases 2023 Car Buyer Journey study results…

Consumer satisfaction with the vehicle buying experience improved in 2023 after declining in both 2021 and 2022, according to the annual Car Buyer Journey (CBJ) study from Cox Automotive.

“There is an often-cited narrative that suggests going to a car dealer is worse than a root canal,” said Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence at Cox Automotive. “Our research suggests otherwise. In fact, 79% of new-vehicle buyers were highly satisfied with the experience from their local dealer.”

According to the study, car buying satisfaction increased, with 69% of consumers being highly satisfied. This is a notable rise from the 61% reported in 2022, officials stated.

The increase can be attributed to several factors such as improved inventory levels, the return of discounting and the proliferation of an omnichannel approach.

The percentage of buyers highly satisfied with the shopping experience increased to 73% for new-vehicle buyers and increased from 58% to 68% for used-vehicle buyers.

At 80%, new electric vehicle (EV) buyers report the highest satisfaction.

Satisfaction for new-vehicle buyers matched an all-time high, equal to 2020. Positive feedback extends to the test drive experience (82%), pickup and delivery process (79%) and interaction with the sales team (77%).

Meanwhile, 49% of buyers report paying more than expected, down from 54% in the 2022 study. Dissatisfaction with price was highest among used-vehicle buyers.

In the 2023 survey, 68% of buyers considered new or used vehicles, up from 64% in the previous report; 78% of used-vehicle buyers considered a new vehicle. 

On average, buyers typically considered two vehicles and visited two dealerships.

According to the latest survey, half of all car buyers completed the process entirely in-person, while 43% completed a mix of online and in-person steps at the dealership. Only 7% of car buyers in 2023 bought completely online. Used-vehicle buyers were more likely to cite in-person as the solution. 

When asked how they’d complete their next vehicle purchase, 71% of consumers indicated an omnichannel approach—21% of buyers answered entirely online, and only 8% said they would purchase entirely in-person.

In the study, 69% of EV buyers indicated they used an omnichannel approach, far higher than traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) buyers at 39%. Meanwhile, 16% of new EV buyers bought entirely online, and 15% in-person.

One reason the shopping experience improved in 2023 was that the time required was shortened by more than an hour. An omnichannel approach greatly reduces the time and improves overall satisfaction, officials stated.

“Year after year, consumers are not pursuing an entirely digital experience,” said Vanessa Ton, senior manager of market and customer research. “We believe car buyers want a seamless experience where they can start the process at home, shop, go to the dealership, test drive a car and complete the deal. Dealerships that fully embrace an omnichannel approach are the most successful.”

The study suggests that car buying in America continues to be driven by households with above-average incomes. The average household income (HHI) was $140,000 for an EV buyer, $115,000 for a new-vehicle buyer, and $96,000 for a used-vehicle buyer. EV buyers were notably younger than average.

Key triggers for a vehicle purchase continue to be the aging of an existing vehicle, which was true for both new- and used-vehicle buyers.

Recent studies from Cox Automotive suggest that consumers are putting a higher value on vehicle ownership. Before the pandemic, 43% of consumers suggested that transportation is necessary, but ownership is not. In more recent surveys, that number had dropped to 35%.

The 2023 Car Buyer Journey results were derived from surveys of nearly 3,000 consumers who bought a new or used vehicle in a 12-month period ending August 2023. The survey was conducted in August and September 2023.

For more information, see the 2023 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey Study Summary and find the infographic, here.

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