Millions of motorists turning to smartphones while at dealerships to compare and find best used car deals

posted on 27/10/2022
Used car deals

Amid the cost-of-living crisis, research has revealed millions of canny motorists are now increasingly using smartphones and social media to inform their next car purchase and find the best deal on a used car.

According to research from the CarGurus UK Buyer Insight Report, the use of mobile phones while on the forecourt has increased by 12% (from 59% to 71%) since 2020. Even when in conversation with dealers, buyers are using their phones to check vehicle specs, compare other cars for sale and read car and dealer reviews for last-minute reassurance.

In addition, many are turning to social media to inform their choices – seven in 10 (71%) use social media to assist with the car-buying process, while 21% say social media directly impacts their car purchase (up from 16% a year ago).

The most-used social media channels when looking to buy a car are YouTube (41%) and Facebook (37%), followed by Instagram (21%) and Twitter (13%).

The research also revealed the top three reasons for buying a car, which were that people saved money during lockdowns (24%), moved to a new house (22%) or got a new job (19%).

The top considerations for buyers when purchasing a car are budget (32%), reliability (29%) and driving feel (25%). However, buyers also experience a rollercoaster of emotions - and while 55% claim that car buying is fun, a further 53% say it is stressful.

The CarGurus study, which details how consumers’ attitudes have changed towards the car-buying process over the last two years, also found the number of buyers using instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp as an initial point of contact with dealers has almost doubled, growing from 5% in 2020 to 9% in 2022.

Today’s consumers are more likely to contact dealers online ahead of visiting in person. This is especially true for people who buy new cars, with 45% contacting the dealer online ahead of an in-person visit. The study also found 42% of people aged 24-32 years contact a dealership online first.

Alexandra Howerter, Senior Consumer Insights Analyst at CarGurus, said: “Smartphones are helping consumers become savvier when looking to buy, allowing them to come armed with all the data and hold their own in negotiations. This levels the playing field and alleviates some of the stress and anxiety around buying a car.

“Social media is also a great way to learn more about the car you want to buy, however, consumers must also be cautious about which sources they choose to trust. At CarGurus we’ve developed a unique data-driven approach that calculates an Instant Market Value (IMV), which reflects the market value of a vehicle in the current market. This helps consumers to take the stress out of buying and negotiating, so they can be confident they have the best deal.”

“Meanwhile, on the CarGurus UK YouTube channel our team of experts review more than 100 new and used cars every year to help buyers make an informed decision about what model is right for them.”

Top ways to save money when buying a car:

Be Prepared to Travel
While there are no set rules for one area of the UK being cheaper than another, buyers can save hundreds or even thousands of pounds by taking advantage of regional price variations.

Time it Right
It won’t surprise you to hear that most people search for convertibles in the spring and summer, or that there’s a spike in searches for 4x4s whenever snow is forecast. As demand increases, so too do prices, which is of course no good for savvy car buyers. It’s also worth knowing that used car sales generally slow in December as minds turn toward Christmas, which can make that a great time to strike a deal. 

Mileage Doesn’t Matter
The fact is most modern cars are built well enough to clock up in excess of 100,000 miles without breaking a sweat. The key to a successful high-mileage purchase is to focus on models that are renowned for their reliability and have covered the majority of their life racking up low-stress motorway miles.

Be Nice!
This one has less to do with supply and demand than with common sense, but it’s worth repeating: A seller will be much more willing to be flexible on price if he or she likes you. Smile, be polite, and if you think the car has been well cared for, pay the seller a compliment by saying as much.

For more tips and advice on used car buying, visit

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