Pandemic Changes Car Buying Plans, Or Has It?

Jason R. Sakurai
by Jason R. Sakurai

The pandemic has changed car buying plans for nearly three out of four shoppers who intended to buy in the next six months. New research from Comscore Automotive Data Mart, cited in a story today by Auto Remarketing, indicated the pandemic tops the concerns of four out of ten who had intended to buy.

Shoppers are being more careful with all of their spending. They expect to do more research before buying, with income being a big factor too. What’s surprising is that shoppers are considering buying new, instead of used or certified pre-owned vehicles.

Comscore wanted to know how COVID-19 affected those who had planned to buy or lease a new or used vehicle, and what caused a shift. Almost half said the pandemic negatively affected their income, an impact greater among those ages 18-34 and 34-54 than those 55 and older. One third expected the pandemic and their economic situation to delay their car buying esearch, and as a result their purchasing timeline.

Not everyone was affected, including 55 percent who expected no changes. 27 percent said it would not change their car buying plans at all. New deals and customer assistance for buyers caused 13 percent to shorten their search. Pandemic case level changes and public transportation issues caused a revival in shoppers and sales from their April 2020 lows.

Automakers’ incentives, and affluent customers who are still buying, have reduced the effects of the pandemic. Being able to take advantage of the offers gave these buyers a lot of flexibility. Dealers adopted safety protocols at their dealerships to make consumers more comfortable, and better accommodate their needs. Their experience had improved by shopping online. They can view inventories online, get quotes, obtain loans, and set up delivery from home.

48 percent of shoppers were interested in purchasing a car completely online, up 10 percent over 2019. Automakers who expanded their online presence in response to the pandemic drove traffic to their websites. Consumers ready to buy cars should encourage manufacturers to come up with new ways to meet their needs.

[Images: Comscore, TTAC, BMW]

Jason R. Sakurai
Jason R. Sakurai

With a father who owned a dealership, I literally grew up in the business. After college, I worked for GM, Nissan and Mazda, writing articles for automotive enthusiast magazines as a side gig. I discovered you could make a living selling ad space at Four Wheeler magazine, before I moved on to selling TV for the National Hot Rod Association. After that, I started Roadhouse, a marketing, advertising and PR firm dedicated to the automotive, outdoor/apparel, and entertainment industries. Through the years, I continued writing, shooting, and editing. It keep things interesting.

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  • IH_Fever IH_Fever on Apr 08, 2021

    Only people I know that are really buying right now are those with lots of disposable income looking for a halo car, or the unfortunate ones who have to replace a car. And even then the used market seems much hotter than new.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 08, 2021

    I would rather go to the dentist and have my teeth drilled and filled without Novocain than to buy a vehicle at a dealership.

  • Geozinger Put in the veggie garden (Western Michigan, we still can get frost this late in the year) finished the remainder of the landscaping updates and hand washed both my beater Pontiac and the Town and Country! Going to the beach today...
  • Rochester I wouldn't obsess over the rate of change, it's happening whether we want it or not.
  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.