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Buying a car isn't as much fun as it used to be

This is the second year in a row that overall satisfaction with buying a car has decreased

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Photo (c) FG Trade - Getty Images
Buying a car has proven to be difficult in the last few years, and consumers aren’t happy. 

According to the Cox Automotive 2022 Car Buyer Journey Study, last year marked the second consecutive year that consumers expressed frustration and general disappointment related to the car buying process. 

“...We think it is more important than ever to showcase the current state of vehicle buying in America,” said Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence at Cox Automotive. “While buying a vehicle is a complicated transaction, with financing required, trade-in valuations to consider, and plenty of research required, it does not have to be frustrating for the consumer. With the right digital tools and systems in place, car buying can be a highly satisfying activity, and as efficient and streamlined as consumers want it to be.” 

What went wrong? 

Overall, consumer satisfaction with the car buying process dropped from 66% in 2021 to 61% in 2022. Both years are a significant drop from the 72% consumer satisfaction rate in 2020. However, new car sales were likely to yield greater satisfaction from consumers than used car sales. 

So, what went wrong? Experts identified three primary factors that influenced how consumers felt about the car buying process: limited inventory, the time it took to make the purchase, and high prices. 

Because cars were so hard to come by, sticking to a beloved brand or dealership wasn’t possible for many consumers. Instead, car shoppers were forced to go wherever the inventory was. Nearly 40% of all new car shoppers bought from a brand they had never used before, which was up from just over 30% in 2021. 

The time commitment necessary to buy a car also went up by nearly 20% between 2021 and 2022. That included both research time and time spent in dealerships.

From start to finish, the process took about two full hours longer this past year than in the year before, while time at the dealership went up roughly 20 minutes, and research time went up more than an hour. 

Prices of cars also created frustration for shoppers. Overall price satisfaction was under 50% in 2022, while it was over 60% in 2021. Similarly, nearly 65% of car shoppers said that they spent more on cars than they intended this year. 

Were there any bright spots? 

The survey did uncover some positives. The greatest area of satisfaction came from car shoppers who ordered their vehicles online. 

Not only did online orders of cars increase between 2021 and 2022, but the process was easier and more streamlined than those who went into dealerships. These shoppers typically got their cars faster, were able to track their orders, and were able to be more specific with the type of car they purchased. 

This trend was not only more popular this year, but those who went through the process online said that they’d likely repeat it again in the future. 

To read Cox Automotive’s full report, click here

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