More vehicle buyers — new and used — said they were satisfied with the experience in 2023 than the previous two years, according to a new Cox Automotive study. Electric vehicle buyers were the happiest with 80% saying they were satisfied.
Customer satisfaction with the vehicle buying experience jumped significantly in 2023, according to the 2023 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey Study. Overall, 69% of consumers reported being “highly satisfied” with the process.
The new numbers are a big uptick from 61% of buyers feeling that way in 2022. Some of the reasons for buyers with bigger smiles are obvious, such as being able to find the vehicle they wanted since inventory levels are rising. Those higher levels played a role in lower new vehicle prices.
“This approach combines online and at-dealership activities, resulting in a more satisfying and efficient vehicle buying experience,” the study noted.
In addition to having more options from which to choose and those options costing a bit less, there were other reasons people were happier buying cars, trucks and utility vehicles last year. The use of technology allowed people to make their purchase with as much or as little face time with salespeople as they wanted.
Half of new vehicle buyers conducted the entire process at a dealership, but 43% used the internet in some way during their experience. Perhaps just as surprising is the fact that 7% of buyers completed their deal using only the internet. Overall, the process took an hour less than it did before.
When asked about using a dealer or a retail outlet, 74% of all vehicle buyers and 79% for new-vehicle buyers reported that they were highly satisfied. Satisfaction among new-vehicle buyers matched an all-time high, equal to the level reached in 2020, the peak of overall car buying satisfaction.
Other areas netting positive feedback included:
- test drive experience (82%)
- vehicle pickup and delivery process (79%), and
- interaction with the sales team (77%).
“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 and data, however, suggest that this is simply not the case. In fact, 79% of new-vehicle buyers were highly satisfied with the experience provided by their local automobile dealer.”
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New and used
Nearly half, 49%, of buyers said they paid more than they expected to, which is lower than the 54% in 2022.
Additionally, 68% of buyers considered both new and used vehicles, which is up from 64% last year. Among used-vehicle buyers, 78% considered a new vehicle during the shopping process. Buyers typically considered two vehicles and visited two dealerships.
Nearly 80% of shoppers visited a third-party website during their buying journey, such as Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book (both Cox Automotive companies), Edmunds.com, or CarGurus. New EV buyers were more likely to visit third-party sites, particularly first-time EV buyers.
The report also reveals that fewer shoppers visited automaker websites or used online retailers like Carvana or Vroom compared to 2021 and 2022. Carvana’s ongoing financial troubles likely played a major role in these numbers.