Car Buying Insights for Auto Advertisers


Big Tex Truck Town Dealership & Mobile Phone showing ad from Big Tex Truck Town

Car buying behavior has changed dramatically in the last decade thanks to the Internet. Consumers used to rely on TV commercials, buying guides like Consumer Reports, and referrals from friends, and then eventually make their way to the local dealerships. A car buyer 10 years ago visited roughly five dealerships before purchase. Per Autotrader, today’s buyer visits only 2.7 dealerships on average per a car purchase – and there are currently more than 17,500 dealerships in the U.S. Competition is heating up.

Digital media has become the primary source of information for car buyers. Shoppers have access to more information than ever before, and they arrive at the dealership armed with the information they need to make a smart and informed purchasing decision. Car dealerships are under tremendous pressure to drive auto shoppers into their stores – and then win their business quickly before they can walk out the door.

Getting that foot traffic isn’t easy. The automotive buyer’s path to purchase is anything but straightforward! Here are a few useful stats for auto advertisers that provide some insight into the buyer’s journey:

  • It starts with digital: Almost 50 percent of all car purchases start online, according to Bain & Company. Shoppers will flip between online and offline channels for the remainder of their journey.
  • Seamlessness is key: Customers typically make that switch between digital and analog channels four times before they purchase. Marketers and advertisers should keep in mind that customers expect a seamless, consistent experience as they move across channels.
  • Make a powerful first impression: Six out of 10 shoppers enter the market without a specific car in mind. That means auto advertisers and marketers have the opportunity to influence them from their first moment online.
  • Digital media drives decisions: More than 60 percent of customers decide on brand model and price before they enter the dealership. So, those online touchpoints are the best opportunity to win shoppers.
  • Lots of digital opportunity: In the car buyer’s path to purchase, there are 24 touchpoints on average – and 19 of them are digital. Auto advertisers and marketers have many, many opportunities to engage and persuade shoppers online.
  • Shopping across screens: More than half of new vehicle shoppers use a mobile device in their shopping journey. 14 percent use exclusively mobile devices, and an average of 85 percent of shoppers used multiple devices to do their research. 23 percent of car buyers actually use their mobile phones to comparison shop while they’re on the lot!
  • Longer research times than you think: The average decision-making cycle, from research to purchase, is about nine weeks. The amount of time spent online adds up to about 14 hours and 48 minutes.

What all this means for auto advertisers is that a digital strategy is more important than ever before. With so much of the buyer’s journey occurring online – and across so many digital channels – automotive advertisers must ensure they’re diversifying their presence to create engaging and relevant touch points for consumers throughout the entire car buying cycle. The best approach is to adopt a localized programmatic strategy, one that empowers them to localize both ad targeting and content, to deliver performance on high volumes of localized campaigns, and to receive deep insights on their dynamic audience – whether for a handful of dealership locations in one city or thousands of locations across the U.S.

Learn more about how local auto dealers can benefit from programmatic advertising and move more cars off lots by downloading’s free Auto Advertiser’s Playbook now. It’s loaded with stats, insights, case studies and tips that will help guide your local auto advertising strategy.