British car buying and the changing automotive market

Posted on 21 May 2019 by Tony Santos

Google’s ‘Car Purchasing Process UK’ report recently revealed that 70% of British people own their own vehicle and over half of these have purchased a car within the past two years. As a nation of tech lovers and upgraders, we’re always looking for the latest model, whether that means our phones, our clothing, or our vehicles. Many car owners opt to upgrade to a newer vehicle every two or three years to keep up with the latest advances in technology.

According to the same report, over half of all car owners in the UK planned to purchase a new vehicle within the next few years, with 20% planning on buying a new car within the next six months. Of these, almost half said that they planned to purchase a new car, with 37% saying that they would choose a used car. But which factors influence the British car buying process and how is the automotive market changing? Motorparks, who stock a range of used vehicles including the used Ford Focus Automatic, investigate…

How are the purchase decisions made?

According to Google’s Drive to Decide report, one of the main factors in deciding to purchase a new vehicle is a change of lifestyle. The report reveals 28% buy a new car because their financial situation had improved, 12% because they had a new job, 11% because of expanding their family, 7% because they moved into a new home and a further 5% because of health or age reasons.

That doesn’t mean that British car buying habits aren’t influenced by more practical reasons, however. In fact, the report also revealed that decisions have be heavily influenced by new offers, vehicle launches and desires. 41% choose to buy a new car because they ‘need one’, 35% because they just wanted a new vehicle, 24% due to wanting better fuel efficiency, 20% because they notice a good offer or promotion and a further 11% as a result of a brand-new vehicle launch.

It’s common for people to find themselves buying a new vehicle every couple of years. Google’s reports highlight that car owners who bought their new vehicle more than two years ago are the group most likely to purchase a replacement vehicle in the next six months (30%) or between seven and 11 months time, with the most likely factor to influence the decision being typical car warranties running out after three years.

The changing market

The car dealership market in the UK is thriving. From independent dealers, comparison website and private sellers, to franchise and manufacturer dealerships, the car supermarket is populated with a whole host of channels trying to get car buyers to buy their vehicle through them. And the market is evolving. The dealership still appears to be at the heart of British car buying habits, with the average auto buyer visiting the dealership 2.1 times, and having 1.3 test drives before making their purchase.

As the market continues to change, however, buying trends do too. Over a third (36%) of those looking to buy a car online in the coming years would choose an independent site. Manufacturer websites are only just falling behind, with 33% choosing main manufacturers.

The advent of newer, more advanced technology has influenced buying decisions too. Car buyers are increasingly starting their research for their new car on digital platforms – which could be one of the reasons why independent websites have now become more popular than official manufacturer websites. When beginning the car buying process, 51% of buyers now start their research online, with 32% using their smartphones to aid a ‘Which car is the best?’ moment. Digital has transformed the way buyers do their research before purchasing, and in some cases, has completely transformed how they buy a car – with 54% of buyers considering buying online either now or in the future. However, as it stands, the majority of purchasing (96%) still happens in-store.

How do British consumers pay for their cars?

There are a variety of different ways to pay for your car. The majority of vehicles are purchased using personal savings – the Google ‘Car Purchasing Process UK’ report revealed that of those looking to purchase a car in the next few years, 59% said they would use their savings! Part exchange took second place, with 37% saying their part exchange would help fund their new vehicle. For many people, using the capital in their existing vehicle provides a sizable deposit for their next vehicle, deducting an amount from the value of the new vehicle.

Hire Purchase and Contract Purchase agreements were the two most popular ways to finance a new car according to the report. 13% of buyers said they would think about HP and 10% said they would consider PCP. Lease Purchase and Contract Hire only account for 6% of the market each. So, what makes HP and PCP more attractive to car buyers?

There are numerous benefits to paying for your car in stages. Finance agreements often make buying a car more affordable, with fixed monthly payments across an agreed period of time also coming with the option for people to purchase the vehicle at the end of the term by paying the remaining balance on the vehicle. For some car buyers, monthly payments are more achievable and affordable than paying for the vehicle outright with a cash purchase. Whilst analysing the methods of buying a new car, the Google ‘Car Purchasing Process UK’ report reveals further figures that prove the interest in finance options for car purchasing. Owners of new cars purchased in the last two years, as well as those planning to buy new in the coming three years, show strong interest in the use of PCP, PCH and lease purchase. Around a fifth (21%) of those who have bought new in the last two years would use PCP to pay for their next car, while 16% who plan to buy new in the next three years would use PCP.

The EV market

Business is also booming for the electric market in the UK– 2018 was a record year for new car sales, with approximately 132,000 new electric registrations by December. The success across the market could be attributed to some of the latest developments in the industry meaning that some of the initial set backs are becoming less of an issue to drivers – and the news that the government plan to ban the sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. The success of the EV market in the UK can also be attributed to the development of related services; electricity suppliers such as Northern Powergrid have been working on EV charger installation across the country.

Have you thought about upgrading your own vehicle? Which factors influence your car buying habits? This discussion provides a lot of food for thought for both buyers and players in the industry.

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