PhotoFor a growing number of new car shoppers who compare prices and deals on the Internet, sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen at home is not where they're doing their homework.

A survey by J.D. Power and Associates shows 51% are using a mobile device.

What's significant about that? It suggests consumers are doing their shopping outside the home, with the logical venue being a car dealer.

Just as consumers use their phones at an appliance store to compare prices on a refrigerator, they're doing the same to look for the most competitive deal on a new car.

It shows just how powerful access to information can be, especially in the heat of negotiation.

"Outside of the home, the location where new-vehicle shoppers most frequently use their smartphone to conduct auto research prior to purchase is at a dealership," said Arianne Walker, senior director, automotive media & marketing at J.D. Power. "Nearly half of new-vehicle buyers that shop on a mobile device use their smartphone and 13 percent use a tablet for information gathering while at the dealership, primarily to access vehicle pricing as well as model information, inventory searches and special offers and incentives."

Powerful mobile tools

Since 2012, the use of tablets for automotive shopping has increased by 83% and smartphone automotive shopping has increased by 70%. More than half of new-vehicle shoppers use a mobile device to gather automotive information prior to purchase. In particular, 34% of new-vehicle shoppers use a smartphone for automotive research and 33% use a tablet.

Where are consumers turning for information? The survey found nine in ten visit at least one manufacturer brand website when shopping for a vehicle. Site visitors find manufacturer brand websites have the most information about the models they're considering.

Third party sites are also popular destinations, with Consumer Reports,, and Kelley Blue Book being the three most-visited.

Consumers shouldn't overlook's automotive section, which not only has reviews for particular car models, but in many cases has reviews of individual dealers. Compared with other automotive sites, the survey said consumers find third-party sites to be especially useful for vehicle comparisons and vehicle ratings/reviews.

J.D. Power's 2015 New Autoshopper Study is based on responses from more than 18,900 purchasers and lessees of new 2013 to 2015 model-year vehicles who used information gathered digitally during the shopping process.  

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