Cars.com Cars.com Shoppers Logged a Record 30 Million Hours on the Platform Last Year, as More Americans Turn to Car Ownership

Allison.Phelps

Lot Lizard
Feb 8, 2021
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Shoppers logged a record 30 million hours on Cars.com over the last year, up a 9% YoY, as the stay-at-home economy took hold. First-time and urban buyers increasingly entered the auto market, reflecting a shift away from the public or shared transportation and heightened demand for the freedom and security provided by car ownership.2 As American’s continue to prioritize their cars, dealerships who lean into a digital-first strategy and meet the changing expectations of consumers will pull ahead.

More Americans are prioritizing car ownership. A Cars.com national survey of over 1,500 online respondents revealed that 36% of those who purchased a new or used car since March 2020 were first-time car buyers. This trend is accompanied by accelerated purchasing timelines, growing demand for technology and safety features, and an average price increase for new and used vehicles.2

“One year ago, our world changed as we shifted to digital-first and faced significant transformations in work, travel and commerce. Americans quarantined in their homes found a new appreciation for their cars, which offered a much needed, safe escape and an extension of home during uncertain times,” said Alex Vetter, CEO of Cars.com Inc. “As the U.S. begins to open up, the durable trends we have witnessed in car shopping and selling over the last year will shape the future of automotive and ensure a strong retail environment in 2021. Our next normal demands convenient virtual experiences, online car-buying options and local home delivery.”

Cars.com tracked COVID-19’s impact on car shopping and selling since last March, observing the following significant consumer shifts:
  • Pandemic continues to advance purchasing timelines: Cars.com found nearly 60% of car buyers reported the pandemic influenced their decision to purchase a vehicle, with more than 50% buying sooner than originally planned.2
  • Local dealers will bring it to you: At-home delivery and virtual services by local dealerships skyrocketed over the last year. Since the pandemic started, 20 million vehicles listed on Cars.com have been available for contactless, local home delivery.1
  • Urban car owners take the wheel: In the past year, 38% of car buyers were in urban areas, where the pandemic accelerated car ownership even further; 3 out of 4 city dwellers cited the pandemic as influencing their decision to buy. Urban buyers were also three times more likely to buy an EV than their suburban counterparts.2
  • New or used, cars are selling faster, and for more: Increased demand, supply challenges and a global chip shortage led to rising prices for consumers. New-vehicle average prices rose 4.8% year over year and notably sold 22 days faster on Cars.com compared to pre-pandemic. Used-vehicle average prices increased 9.7% year over year and sold five days faster on Cars.com from the same period a year ago.1
  • Tech, safety and versatility are increasingly important: Americans chose to drive more frequently and longer distances; at the same time, cars became extensions of homes and offices. Predictably, shoppers sought features that would provide more comfort, connection and peace of mind. The following features saw the largest upticks in 2020 searches1:
    • Tow Hitch +55.4% YoY
    • Cooled Seats +36.3% YoY
    • Heated Steering Wheel +34.0% YoY
    • Apple CarPlay/Android Auto +24.3% YoY
    • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert +116.5% YoY
1 Cars.com Internal Data
2 Cars.com’s survey results Feb. 19, 2021; 1,510 respondents
 
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