How the Pandemic Will Change Car Buying Forever
August 17, 2021
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As automotive OEMs and car dealers continue to bounce back after COVID-19 sales lows in the first months of 2020, it’s clear that just like many aspects of our lives, the way people buy cars will be permanently impacted by the months we avoided public transportation and stayed at home on lockdown. Here are some of the changes we expect to see moving forward after the pandemic has ended.

Consumers will expect a digital car buying experience as the norm

Pre-pandemic data suggests people would have eventually preferred to do their car shopping digitally at some point, and it seems the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Reports McKinsey, “less than a third of younger consumers prefer conducting car sales & aftersales in person at a dealership.”

In “Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Changed Car Buying Forever?” by U.S. News, Jordan van Rijn, a senior economist at the Credit Union National Association, said:

“The pandemic has significantly increased online shopping for vehicles, and I expect that transition to last. People generally do not like shopping at a dealership and many would prefer to know exactly what they’re getting and for how much, which online shopping can help facilitate.”

More consumers will do their car-buying homework online

As consumers shift to car shopping online, they’ll be doing a lot more research online as well. This means dealerships’ internet sales departments will likely become more vital than ever as consumers expect detailed responses to their email queries with zero telephone or in-person contact.

But most of consumers’ research will likely be done online independent of dealerships. According to Google, “92% of car buyers research online before they buy.” They also report that creator-produced videos, as opposed to paid media spots, received 93% of monthly views for all U.S. auto content on YouTube, making this type of content vital as more and more consumers want to learn about the cars they’re interested in outside of the dealership. Consumers are also likely to spend a lot more time on consumer research sites such as J.D. Power, Kelley Blue Book, and Consumer Affairs and reading customer reviews.

Car dealerships may change physically

Dealerships have already implemented a lot of physical changes due to COVID-19, and more changes seem inevitable. With most consumers preferring a digital car shopping experience and at-home test-driving, dealers will likely see less value in investing in showrooms and large lots to display their inventory. Taking their cues from Tesla, they may perhaps set up shop in shopping malls with new car inventory stored off-site.

The millennial car-buying market will expand

While at the beginning of the pandemic car sales plummeted due to widespread job losses, particularly among people at lower income levels, U.S. news reports a positive trend for automakers: with public transportation no longer an option for them, buyers who hadn’t considered buying a car suddenly found themselves in the market for one, and they’re growing accustomed to private vehicles.

According to Ernst & Young Global Limited Future of Mobility Leader John Simlett, “Millennials leading the increase in global car ownership would have been unthinkable a year ago, particularly in terms of buying non-electric cars.” However, it looks like they might just be at the forefront of the post-pandemic sales boom.


While the future looks a bit different for the automotive industry, many OEMs and dealerships are already ahead of the game with expanded digital shopping capabilities. If you haven’t yet taken the plunge, it’s a great time to explore an online retailing experience for your own customers.