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Survey: Americans Grew Happier With Car Shopping in 2023

After two bitter years of bad experiences, Americans didn’t mind car shopping as much in 2023. Almost seven in 10 pronounced themselves “highly satisfied” with the shopping experience in a new survey.

Cox Automotive’s 2023 Car Buyer Journey study surveyed nearly 3,000 consumers who bought a new or used vehicle during the 12-month period ending August 2023 about their experience. Cox Automotive is the parent company of Kelley Blue Book.

The result? Car shoppers were more satisfied in 2023 after two years of frustration. A recovering selection of cars and lower prices helped many drive away happier with their purchase.

  • Sixty-nine percent of buyers called themselves “highly satisfied” with their shopping experience — up from 61% in 2022 and 66% in 2021, but not quite recovered to pre-pandemic norms in the low 70s
  • New car buyers were happier — 73% called themselves satisfied, compared to 68% of used car buyers
  • Car buying in America continues to be driven by households with above-average incomes. New car buyers averaged a household income of $115,000 as automakers focused on building more expensive models. Used car buyers averaged $96,000
  • Most buyers — 68% —  looked at both new and used cars
  • Buyers typically went to two dealerships and considered two models
  • Nearly 80% of buyers visited a third-party research website like KBB.com, while visits to automakers’ websites and online retailers like Carvana dropped from 2022
  • Most shoppers were looking to replace a car, but 15% were adding a new car to their household, up from 11% last year

Most Buyers Liked the Dealership

Americans were more satisfied with car dealerships than you might expect.

“There is an often-cited narrative that suggests going to a car dealer is worse than a root canal,” said Isabelle Helms, vice president of Research and Market Intelligence at Cox Automotive. “Our research and data, however, suggest that this is simply not the case. In fact, 79% of new-vehicle buyers were highly satisfied with the experience provided by their local automobile dealer.”

Related: What 2024 Could Look Like For Car Shoppers

Only 7% of car buyers in 2023 completed 100% of the steps online, while 43% completed steps in a mix of online and in-person, and 50% completed all the steps at the dealership.

Comfort with online shopping is growing, but most Americans would prefer to split their time between online and in-person shipping. Seventy-one percent of consumers said they’d prefer to complete their next purchase partially at the dealership. Twenty-one percent said they’d rather shop entirely online, while only 8% said they would do it entirely in person.

One reason the shopping experience improved year over year was that it took significantly less time to get a deal done. In the most recent survey, new buyers reported spending approximately 11 hours and 45 minutes from beginning to end, down more than 80 minutes from the prior year. In comparison, used-vehicle buyers reported spending more than 14 hours, a 1-hour decrease.

EV Buyers Younger, Wealthier

Electric cars appealed to younger and wealthier buyers in 2023. EV buyers were notably younger than average (41 years old versus 52 for all new-vehicle buyers) and higher earners. The average household income for an EV buyer was $140,000.                

Related: Ordering a Car From the Factory — Everything You Need to Know

Only 15% of EV buyers pursued an in-person process. Notably, EV buyers completed the process faster than buyers of gas-powered cars and were more satisfied with the overall experience.

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