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Inside the Mind of the Buyer: What Do Car Buyers Really Want These Days?

Inside the Mind of the Buyer: What Do Car Buyers Really Want These Days?

Are you struggling to get cars off the lot? Worried about bringing in inventory that may end up taking valuable space?

Choosing the right stock can be a challenge. Knowing what your customers want is difficult when you consider the number of variables that can affect their decision. A spike in gas prices? A manufacturer caught cheating on their emission testing? These will impact customer tastes.

These can have a profound impact on what sells and what stays.

However, the better you understand buying trends, the likelier you are to make smart decisions. It’s important to stay up to date on what customers are looking for and what they’re buying.

Keep reading for more information on what car buyers are looking for.

Who’s Buying Cars?

One of the biggest challenges in meeting buyers’ needs is the shift in demographics from Boomers and Gen Xers to Millennials. While Boomers and Gen Xers had different tastes, there seemed to be an evolution of preference over time.

Millennials, however, grew up in a drastically different world. This has had a major influence on their buying tastes. To start, many of them don’t even consider a vehicle a necessity. Of the ones who do, the traditional selling features like power and performance are losing ground. Contemporary concerns like connectivity and autonomous features are now more important.

It’s not all bad news, though. Millennials are more willing to pay extra for higher quality. They’re also more interested in extended warranties.

What Do Buyers Want in a Car?

Time for the magic question: What do buyers want? What are the most common features they look for both from the car as well as from the buying experience?

First, the following are the key attributes shoppers look for in a new vehicle.


Horsepower and 0-60mph times used to move units. Now, these numbers hold less weight in the current marketplace.

When asked, fuel economy and safety are the most common responses. These metrics are easy to understand and quantifiable. They make for an easy logical argument. It helps to reassure the buyer that they’re buying a quality product.

Emission standards have brought most manufacturers within a few miles-per-gallon of each other. There’s little difference in gas consumption between brands, based on their class size. Hybrids and electric vehicles are the only alternatives in this area. But if that’s what buyers want, they probably won’t consider traditional cars.

Satisfying the need for safety offers an opportunity for upselling. Even basic model cars now come with a higher level of safety than before. Most vehicles offer packages that add additional safety features, though. Lane departure warning and extra airbags are a couple of examples of what’s available.

All-wheel-drive is increasing in demand, too. Having power available to all four wheels is especially popular in areas that deal with cold weather. If you’re in an area that deals with winter weather, this could be an attractive option to offer.


As mentioned above, connectivity has become a prerequisite for many shoppers. Smartphones are an essential part of day-to-day life. The expectation is that this experience should carry into the car. Bluetooth is becoming a standard expectation for integrating a phone.

The practice of being on a phone extends to how people like to interact with devices. Having a touchscreen display is the preferred means most buyers want. The more intuitive the display, the more attractive it is for buyers.


The cost of living has outpaced what most people earn. Since a new vehicle is one of the larger purchases most people will make, they expect it to last.

That’s why extended warranties have grown in popularity. They offer peace of mind for a much longer stretch of time then manufacturer warranties do. As well, these warranties tend to keep the buyer loyal to the dealership for their service needs.

What Do Car Buyers Expect from the Buying Experience?

Knowing what features sell cars is half the battle. The other half is satisfying the customers’ buying experience. The old practice of visiting dealerships and test driving cars has been replaced with online research.


There are many online resources that create an expectation of a vehicle’s price. You can expect buyers to ask about similar vehicles online and why price differences occur.

Your prices must reflect this reality. Information breeds competitiveness. You’re not just dealing with other local dealerships, but with anyone selling a car online.


Brand loyalty doesn’t have the same pull it used to. Instead, third-party opinions have a greater influence over what’s attractive and what’s not.

You can expect that shoppers have already researched different vehicles before visiting the dealership. Millennials are especially informed before making a purchase. But even older buyers can be expected to have done some at least some research.

A great way to capitalize on this attitude is by displaying any awards your dealership may have received. Posting testimonials from satisfied shoppers is another way of reinforcing your brand. The power of recommendations has been proven to be a powerful influencer.

Streamlined Service

When the world is at your fingertips, any delay seems unreasonable. Make the transaction is quick and seamless as possible and you’ll keep your buyers engaged.

The world moves at a faster pace now more than ever. A drawn-out dealership experience is a major turn-off for buyers and can push them away. Efficiency is key.

Final Thoughts

The business of selling cars is constantly evolving. From global changes to technological advances, what sells today won’t sell tomorrow.

Staying on top of buying trends and watching demographic changes will help keep you prepared for future demand. It provides you with the opportunity to find the vehicles buyers are going to be looking for.

Car buyers expectations are always changing, too. The world is growing more and more connected. It’s important to recognize the role social influence has. Traditional approaches to selling don’t work when buyers have access to the same information as you.

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