Higher New-Vehicle Prices Are Juicing Used-Car Market, Study Says

Date: April 18, 2019
Source: Automotive News
As new-vehicle prices rise, more consumers continue to shift to the used-vehicle market, according to a Cox Automotive study.
 
In another finding, the study said new- and used-vehicle customers who handle at least part of the process online are more satisfied with their overall dealership experience.
 
Last year, nearly two in three car buyers shopped primarily in the used-vehicle market amid inflating new-vehicle payments, according to Cox Automotive’s 2019 Car Buyer Journey study.
 
New-vehicle payments increased at twice the rate of used-vehicle payments last year. The average monthly payment on a new vehicle rose 4 percent from 2017 to $547.75, according to Cox. For used vehicles, the average monthly payment rose 2 percent to $411.04.
 
“It just goes to show you that consumers’ wallets are getting squeezed,” Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence for Cox Automotive, told Automotive News on April 17.
 
“The price of new vehicles continues to increase, and more and more consumers are saying that these new cars in particular are becoming less affordable.”
 
The continued shift to used vehicles is good news for independent and franchised dealers with large used-vehicle inventories, but it means “tougher times for the manufacturers,” she said.
 
Last year, 28 percent of respondents said they only considered a used vehicle, vs. 23 percent in 2016, but 36 percent said they shopped for used vehicles primarily but also considered some new vehicles, flat with 2016. Cox looked at two-year comparisons “to show a longer-term trend as opposed to showing a blip on the radar,” a company spokeswoman said.
 
The study included 3,086 car buyers who purchased their vehicles in the last 12 months and used the Internet during their shopping or buying process. The study’s customer survey was fielded in September.
 
Online Satisfaction
 
More than 60 percent of respondents said that their purchase experience was the same or worse than the last time they bought a vehicle. Their top frustrations were filling out paperwork, negotiating price and finding the best deal.
 
But those who negotiated and completed paperwork online were more satisfied with their dealership experience. About three-quarters of customers who handled their paperwork digitally were satisfied with their experience, vs. 65 percent that handled paperwork in person. Those who negotiated online were also slightly more satisfied with the dealership experience.
 
Auto retail companies have introduced various products to make the car-buying process more digital throughout the past decade, but within the past few years their efforts have ramped up. Still, Helms questioned whether the innovation is widespread enough to affect the consumer.
 
“Consumer expectations continue to increase year to year,” Helms said. “So even though we are making advances, perhaps they’re not moving fast enough.”
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