Real Proof That The Internet Is The Most Important Source For Car Buyers

Car buyers are spending less time online shopping for a car than they did 2 years ago according to a study conducted by and Polk.

The original study was conducted in 2011 and stated that new car shoppers were spending 19 hours shopping for a car vs 13.75 hours this year.

So what does this mean?

Is the Internet not all it’s cracked up to be?  The answer is quite the opposite.


I’m going to highlight some of my findings from the study that confirm a lot of the things I’ve been talking about to dealers across Canada (this study is based on U.S. data but I can’t imagine Canadians shop any different).

Quotes and Charts in this post have been pulled directly from the 2013 Automotive Buyer Influence Study.

Less is More

new buyers vs used buyers shopping time_study
 “According to the 2013 Study, New Buyers spend 10 out of 13.75 hours (73%) shopping online, and Used Car Buyers spend 11.75 hours online out of 15.25 hours (77%). (decrease from 2011)

So why are we spending less time online during the car shopping process?

My guess is that websites have become more efficient over the last 2 years, which has made it easier for car buyers to find the information they are looking for.

Consumers are spending 10-12 hours online scouring through:

  • 3rd Party Sites such as Kijiji and Trader
  • Review sites like DealerRater and Yelp
  • OEM Sites (Ford, GM, Honda)
  • Individual Dealership Websites

Don’t forget Mobile.  All of those Ipads, Iphones, and Androids that we are so addicted to have made it extremely easy to get online and consume all of the above content.  This would play apart in the decrease on time spent online.

In summary….

The Internet is huge and it’s basically the sole resource for buying a new or used car in 2013. 

Internet is THEE Place to Be (just in case you were still skeptical)

internet most used_study“In this 2013 update, internet usage increased significantly, with three-quarters of buyers indicating they used the Internet in their car-shopping process – up from 71% in 2011.”

Okay this is getting serious now! It’s official the Internet is not a fad.

It amazes me that not all car dealers are aligning their online advertising spend according to what is actually happening out there in the real world.

most influencial source leading to dealer _study

With stats and data like this, how can dealers spend MORE on traditional media (print, radio, T.V.) than the Internet?

When I’m killing 20 minutes on my subway commute I’ll often pick up a battered copy of the Toronto Sun to check the Hockey standings.  Where is this going right?

Well….. I am still seeing the same Greater Toronto Area dealers week after week with full page ads in the paper.  Is it really worth it? Maybe they know something that I don’t.

My thoughts are to let your OEM take care of the big Print ad presence for the brand,  and that dealers should point their sniper rifles directly at the Internet.  Is it now time to stop throwing grenades in the newspapers and using Spray and Pray tactics? (Let me know in the comments I’m curious)

Oh wait there’s more…..

Used Car Buyers Are Spending More Time on 3rd Party Sites

“While both New and Used Car Buyers shop online in a variety of places, Used Car Buyers spend 43% of their online shopping time on third-party sites.”

used car buyers are spending their time_study

This makes sense right?

Even though it would be nice to live in a world where shoppers only visited dealership websites, we have to just accept the fact that 3rd Party Sites like Kijiji and Trader are where car shoppers are hanging out.

Dealers need to make sure if they play on these sites they… PLAY HARD.  

To stand out from the crowd it is extremely important to write custom headlines , unique vehicle descriptions, and get creative when closing internet leads.

Your on-line inventory display is now more important than how it looks on your lot!  Spend the time tweaking those ads vs moving the lot again just to kill a sleepy Saturday.

Watch this 1 hour recorded webinar to get the basics on Advanced Online Techniques.


Fish where the fish are.. had to say it!

Fish where the fish are.. had to say it!


Social Networking Sites Get No Love

“Social networking sites have little influence on New and Used Car Buyers’ actual purchase decision. An overwhelming 98% said that their most recent car purchases were not influenced by social networking sites.”

social media influence_study

While having a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter is a great way to enhance your online reputation and start the conversation, it’s just not a factor when it comes to shopping for specific inventory.

That’s what I take from this segment.

How Are They Contacting The Dealerships?

“Approximately 2 out of 3 of all car buyers do not contact the dealership prior to their first visit, with 62% of Used Car Buyers and 67% of New Car Buyers citing “walked in” as the most common method of establishing initial contact. Phone calls remain the second most-popular form of contact for 26% of Used Car Buyers and 21% of New Car Buyers.”

When I presented at both the EVO Summit and Autoremarketing Conference this year on “3 Struggles of Classified Advertising“, I referenced the original 2011 study regarding this problem.

Salespeople want to sell cars.

Salespeople will not interrogate a customer on where they saw the ad or how many different sites they visited.

The “Walk In” you see in the CRM is not the sames as the “Walk In” on the LOG SHEET in 1995.

Phone calls still play a big part in the sales process so it’s important that dealerships review their sales calls and consider phone training from companies such as Jerry Thibeau’s Phone Ninjas.

It is also interesting to note that car buyers born after 1980 (millennials) were more likely to contact the dealership than our “Walk In” happy parents (Or anyone born before 1981)

Thanks to for updating this study.  It’s always a great read and is important for re-thinking how we are advertising to the ever changing car buyer.

As some  grumbly old lot lizards would say “Damn Internet”.

Your Turn

Did you find this study useful? Any surprises? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.  My head is still spinning on the Social Media stats.

General Manager at Ernie Dean Chevrolet Buick GMC in Alliston, ON. Sharing with you everything I can about the car business.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

13 thoughts on “Real Proof That The Internet Is The Most Important Source For Car Buyers

  1. Ryan,
    Thanks for the article. Your data is very helpful, but I wonder if it raises more questions than it settles. For example, if traditional media are in the basement whereas internet resources are dominant, perhaps dealers are still looking for ways to tie the various media together. The old way of listing vehicles and prices in newspapers may no longer be relevant to the consumer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean print strategies cannot be updated to enhance the online experience.

  2. Great summary and review Ryan. It’s hard to believe a majority of dealers are still missing the mark and not placing a larger portion of their marketing budget into online mediums.

  3. It still boils down to the people that pay the bills at the dealership not being able to see/hear where their spend has gone. The decision makers in the industry are so used to traditional aka old fashioned, now quite useless, forms of advertising that one can actually see. And when I say ‘see’ they can be proud if the starburst-three-to-choose-blowout-Christmas-valentines day- back to schoolesque ‘specials’. Most, not all, but dealers are so focused on ‘seeing the ad’ that they don’t even measure the results, or lack thereof, that the print ads bring. I have challenged several sealer groups to completely cancel their print and see if they sell less cars. All that have done so are simply richer having not wasted their money on newspapers ads. Imagine if they they took that money and invested it online. Mind blowing!

  4. Ryan In todays world with all the different methods of communicating with the masses in order to create a call to action, I have to think that the Marketing with Domains concept is the greatest and most direct time saving way of searching the internet.
    With over 500 million websites on the internet today internet consumers are looking for a direct drive approach of searching the internet for their favorite manufactures automotive products. I have great news for both you and your followers. The system of Domain Marketing has come of age which dominates the internet today. Take the major Domain ( found on the front page of Google Canada Yahoo Canada it directs any internet consumer to over 1200 different franchise automotive dealerships websites for online purchasing. The internet along with the different social media outlets make it simple and stress free when searching for a vehicle on the internet. To see what I am talking about go to any of the above mentioned search engines type in ( and in less than .30 seconds you have over 1200 franchise automotive dealerships websites to choose from across Canada.

  5. Just to add to the info…the dealer have money from the OEM to put in the traditional vs the web! The REAL problem is there!

  6. Great read Ryan, and further testimony to a reality that most of us already consider common knowledge. With print media in an undeniable decline across the board, it still amazes me the proportion of marketing spend many dealers have for traditional advertising. I even ran into a gentleman last week that was still incorporating the “mystery key” mailer, circa 1985 🙂

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