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Shopping Experience Still More Satisfying Than Pre-Pandemic, Study Finds

Despite inventory declines and price increases, consumer satisfaction with the new and used vehicle buying experience in 2021 remained fairly close to the record high recorded in 2020 and above the pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

That's according to the findings of Cox Automotive's 12th annual Vehicle Buyer Experience Study.

Overall, 66% of consumers said they were very satisfied with their shopping experience in 2021 compared to 72% in 2020 but only 60% in 2019. Three-quarters (75%) are also very satisfied with the dealership experience.

The simplified transactional process and new digital tools implemented since the pandemic continue to make a large number of people happy. On the used car buyer side, 74% are very satisfied with their experience with the dealer who facilitated their purchase.

Those who applied for credit online also show a higher level of satisfaction with the financing process, saving an average of nearly 30 minutes at the dealership.

By the way, used car shoppers spent an average of nearly 13 hours researching and shopping for a vehicle in 2021, almost an hour less than in 2020. This makes sense: with inventories often more limited, a consumer spends less time shopping and makes a decision more quickly, sometimes out of fear of losing a great deal.

"Despite external factors that dealerships cannot control, the vehicle buying experience remains incredibly positive," says Vanessa Ton, senior director of research and market data at Cox Automotive. Dealers have done a great job of adapting to what consumers wanted during the pandemic and have evolved the buying experience for good by personalizing it in a way that greatly satisfies customers, even as prices spike and inventories hit historic lows."

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