How the Pandemic has Changed Car Buying

As a family, we have owned a fair few cars over the years, from my first little car to my now huge (getting smaller by the minute) MPV. We’ve bought from small local businesses, car dealerships and even family friends, so you could say we know how to purchase a car. However, we’ve since had a global pandemic, Russia invading Ukraine and let’s not forget Brexit. For over the last two years, nothing has been as expected. It’s been hard to adjust to this apparent “new normal” – I’m never going to like that saying! We must consider its effect across all industries; the automotive industry is also affected. So, how has the pandemic changed car buying?

Until 2021 we had a three-year car lease agreement. Unfortunately, due to covid-19 and the ongoing manufacturing issues, we have been unable to return our vehicle for replacement. We have had our lease extended until our new vehicle is built/shipped/processed (who knows). However, it was exhilarating walking back into car showrooms again (even with the mask-wearing – it was January). Looking at all the shining cars, our dealership even has its own Starbucks!

Photo Of Person Driving
Photo by Peter Fazekas

Car Buying Trends for 2022

Things are changing; car buyers are already looking for more environmentally friendly alternatives with the fading out of the sale of fuelled vehicles by 2040. This made me consider what other car buying trends there are for 2022.

Online car purchasing

According to Forbes, a recent study concluded that millennials and those under 40 were more likely to buy a new or used car online, with only 26% of millennials purchasing from dealerships. However, my recent car research shows that some dealerships allow you to build your car online and conclude with a telephone call.

Unfortunately, with the increase in prices and chip shortages, customers are looking elsewhere toward used vehicles. E-commerce websites like Cazoo, Carwow, and HeyCar all offer free delivery to a local collection point, seven days of approval and competitive prices for used cars, and a young generation of online shoppers is ready to pay a small deposit and await delivery; there is a lot to like, and I can’t blame them. Fewer cars are being made, including our own car, which was due for delivery end of May, is now by the end of the year! Some manufacturers aren’t taking orders anymore, and VW is even stating to allow up to 12 months.

Hybrid/Electric and more environmentally friendly alternatives

With the cost of fuel recently soring, it’s understandable that some of us would look towards alternatives such as hybrids, electric and alternative fuels to ease the burden. Still, these are long-term investments and not a quick fix to saving money on fuel. For example, if you purchased a £100k Tesla, it would take 300,000 miles to cover the cost compared to fuel (or so tick tok told me).

I’m all for alternatives and if you have the money, consider purchasing a hybrid or a fully electric vehicle. There are savings to be had in the long term, and if I could charge one, it could do 300 miles on a charge, and if I had more charging stations in my area, it is something I would consider when we upgrade our car in three years.

Female purchases

Did you know that 62% of new cars sold are to women, and 85% influence car purchase? I didn’t either! But women know what they want, and apart from juggling careers, families and social lives, we also shop for cars. Unlike the conventional search route on Autotrader, women look online, usually across social media networks, for recommendations. As we often don’t know what we want, we want a car that fits into our busy lives. However, we focus on practicality, comfort, reliability and safety.

Embracing Post-Pandemic Car Buying

Before you rush out and purchase a new car or put yourself on that all-important waiting list, you need to consider the best course of action. Do you want to buy new or used ones? If used, how old? Is mileage important? There can be much to factor in, especially with setting a budget. So I have included a few tips.

1. Research 

How you begin your research is up to you; perhaps you start on Parkers, you look at magazines, or you decide to watch YouTube car reviews. However, you begin there is no right or wrong way. Consider the things that matter to you and your lifestyle and any requirements you have to have, like parking sensors or a large boot.

Smiling Woman Bought a Brand New Car

2. Set a budget 

Once you know the vehicle type you want, you must consider your budget. Are you purchasing outright? Leasing or hire purchasing? Do you want to put a deposit down? These are all crucial factors that should be made before test driving any car.

Consider all contributing factors, such as your salary, fuel, insurance and additional vehicle costs. Perhaps comparing car costs for more than one vehicle type will help you with your affordability and running costs.

3. Check local cars in your area 

Thanks to the internet, you no longer have to drive around garages, buy car magazines or local newspapers to find cars for sale. The internet is at your fingertips, and you can even search what stock your local Audi dealership has and see the prices for different models. Does the colour make a difference? If you are friendly with some local garages, ask them if they have any offers etc.

How has car buying changed since the pandemic

Over the last two years, it’s understandable that due to stay-at-home requirements, working from home and generally not driving very far, buying a new car wasn’t top of many agendas. Many of us consider our lifestyle choices as well as the impact on the environment. So you can understand that most buyers have been waiting. However, the end of 2021 saw an increase in new car enquiries, and January 2022 saw a fair amount of car purchases hitting dealerships and online websites. With 80% of recent buyers looking for contactless buying.

Nissan car interior shot
Image by Dayron Villaverde from Pixabay

This isn’t the end of dealerships, though; as I mentioned above, they have to consider the services they offer, with some offering contactless test drives, home delivery and collection points. When we recently test drove our new car, they gave us the keys, and we had sixty minutes to have a drive and thoroughly get to know the vehicle. This was a very different experience from the quick twenty-minute test drive we had four years ago, with a salesman sitting beside us and no real time to get comfortable with it.

I want to mention that although online car sales seem to be hitting off in 2022, we should air on the side of caution, it sounds excellent paying £200 for a deposit and then just awaiting delivery, but I’ve known friends who recently bought cars that later developed issues or that were never delivered. You are given seven days after delivery to return it; in that time, I would suggest getting a mechanic or The AA to look over it and make sure you aren’t going to spend out thousands on repairs.

Buying a New Car in the Future

To sum up a few things, car buying was always going to change. When house-selling sites like Purple Bricks came on the scene, a young generation wanted to embrace this newfound option, and others have followed as the vital thing will always be CHOICE. We like to be given a choice, and being a millennial, I’d happily buy a car from a dealership or online, depending on my investigations.

Perhaps you are purchasing a new car soon. Are you happy that the pandemic has changed car buying? Please let me know in the comments below.

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