The scope of post-COVID car purchase searches is extended by 25%

Auto Trader has revealed that car buyers are considering vehicles offered for sale 25% further from their homes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before COVID-19, the average distance between buyer and seller was around 40 miles, but restrictions and acceleration in digital retail trends have driven a shift in consumer behavior, he said.

Auto Trader found that during the last national closures when the physical esplanades were closed, the average distance increased to 60 miles.

Although this dropped slightly from the reopening of physical showrooms in April to around 50 miles, it marks a 25% increase in the pre-pandemic average.

With more retailers adapting to the changing expectations of car buyers, such as offering money-back guarantees and extended warranties, car buyers are becoming more comfortable shopping from further afield, Auto Trader said.

Auto dealership sites are expected to undergo a major transformation over the next decade.

Research by Auto Trader revealed that nearly two-thirds (62%) would be willing to buy a car without a test drive if offered a 14-day money-back guarantee.

Auto Trader said the propensity for long-distance shopping was further highlighted in a separate investigation conducted in May, which revealed that 46% of consumers are currently willing to shop at a retailer located more than 50 miles away.

More than one in five (21%) were willing to buy up to 100 miles from home, 10% up to 200 miles and 16% more than 200 miles.

Auto Trader said the research highlights market opportunities for retailers that are embracing online retail.

Karolina Edwards-Smajda, Director of Business Products at Auto Trader, said: “As online retail becomes more prevalent and consumer confidence grows, the geographic distance between buyers and sellers will become less relevant.

“It represents a great opportunity for retailers who can reach beyond their local market, either through click-and-pick or door-to-door delivery.

“Adopting these services means that all retailers can compete with online participants who operate across the country and invest heavily in national marketing campaigns.”

Auto Trader is set to roll out a suite of online retail products during the second half of 2021, including a market extension tool designed to extend the reach of retailers to additional geographic regions to target new customers.

Auto Trader suffered a 29% decline in revenue and a 38% reduction in operating profit as it acted to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on its auto retail customers, its 2020 annual financial results revealed.

May used car sales volumes were 14% ahead of the same period in the 2019 pre-COVID trading period, according to Auto Trader data.

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