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Car Purchasing Process - US - April 2015

“With so many buyers using their cars for personal reasons, it makes sense to market the car as more than just a commuter-coddler. Proving that your car, truck, or SUV is versatile while loaded with the tech drivers’ desire is a good way to take advantage of market growth.”
– Tim Healey, Research Analyst—Automotive

This report looks at the following areas:

  • Cars aren’t always for commuters
  • Buyers likely to shop new, not used, and especially not CPO

 This report examines the car-purchasing process, and how today’s consumers are going about their new-vehicle purchases.

Buying a new vehicle has always been an interesting process – after all, a household’s car or cars usually represents the second-largest purchase after their house (in the case of renters, a vehicle may be the largest purchase). It’s also been a difficult process, as consumers must navigate a market of over 300 models, deal with multiple dealerships (often representing the same brand) competing for their business, all while finding the best car for themselves at the right price. There are a variety of options – new or used or certified pre-owned, buy or lease – to consider, as well. On top of that, today’s technology is changing the way consumers research their next purchase – and in some cases, how they conduct the purchase itself.

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
        • Data sources
          • Sales data
            • Consumer survey data
              • Abbreviations and terms
                • Abbreviations
                • Executive Summary

                    • The market
                      • Figure 1: Total US unit sales and forecast of new and used light vehicles, 2009-19
                    • Market factors
                      • Aging vehicle fleet could drive continued growth
                        • Figure 2: Average age of passenger cars and light trucks, 2002-13
                      • More than one quarter of car buyers paid between $20,000 and $29,999 for vehicle
                        • Figure 3: Cost of last vehicle purchase, December 2014
                      • The consumer
                        • Today’s consumer is buying new
                          • Figure 4: New, used or CPO, December 2014
                        • Shopping is the most-cited vehicle purpose
                          • Figure 5: Vehicle purposes, December 2014
                        • Most consumers plan to research cars online
                          • Figure 6: Tools used to research vehicle purchase, November 2014
                        • What we think
                        • Issues and Insights

                            • Cars aren’t always for commuters
                              • The issues
                                • The implications
                                  • Buyers likely to shop new, not used, and especially not CPO
                                    • The issues
                                      • The implications
                                      • Trend Applications

                                          • Trend: Immaterial World
                                            • Trend: Nouveau Poor
                                              • Trend: Slow it All Down
                                              • Market Size and Forecast

                                                • Key points
                                                  • Sales will grow, but rate will slow
                                                    • Figure 7: Total US unit sales and forecast of new and used light vehicles, 2009-19
                                                  • Used cars command a higher share of the market
                                                    • Figure 8: Total US unit sales of new and used light vehicles, by segment, 2012 and 2014
                                                  • Fan chart forecast
                                                      • Figure 9: Total US unit sales and forecast of new and used light vehicles, 2009-19
                                                  • Segment Performance

                                                    • Key points
                                                      • Used-car growth flat, new-car growth solid, new-truck growth even stronger
                                                        • Figure 10: Total US unit sales and forecast of new and used light vehicles, by segment, 2009-19
                                                    • Segment Performance – New Cars and New Light Trucks

                                                      • Key points
                                                        • Steady as she goes for new-car, new-truck sales
                                                          • Figure 11: Total US unit sales and forecast of new cars, 2009-19
                                                          • Figure 12: Total US unit sales and forecast of new light trucks, 2009-19
                                                      • Segment Performance – Used Cars

                                                        • Key points
                                                          • Used cars and light trucks to see flat growth going forward
                                                            • Figure 13: Total US unit sales and forecast of used cars and light trucks, 2009-14
                                                          • CPO market has potential for growth
                                                            • Figure 14: Total US unit sales of total used light vehicles and CPO light vehicles, 2009-14
                                                        • Market Drivers

                                                          • Key points
                                                            • Many factors impact the car-purchasing process
                                                              • Aging vehicles force buyers’ hands
                                                                • Figure 15: Average Age of Passenger Cars and Light Trucks, 2002-13
                                                              • Fuel prices could hurt hybrids, give trucks a boost
                                                                • Figure 16: All grades all formulations retail gasoline prices, dollars per gallon, 2000-14
                                                              • Traditional websites rule the roost
                                                              • Innovations and Innovators

                                                                • Tesla Fights to Change Car-Buying Process
                                                                  • Chrysler Uses Oculus Rift to Give Consumers a New Look
                                                                  • Type of Vehicle(s) Owned

                                                                    • Key points
                                                                      • Despite crossover growth, mid-size and large cars still dominate
                                                                        • Figure 17: Type of vehicles owned, December 2014
                                                                    • Cost of Last Vehicle Purchase

                                                                      • Key points
                                                                        • With an average transaction price of over $30K, many vehicle owners have paid less than that for vehicles
                                                                          • Figure 18: Cost of last vehicle purchase, December 2014
                                                                      • New, Used or CPO

                                                                        • Key points
                                                                          • Vehicle owners slow to embrace CPO vehicles
                                                                            • Figure 19: New, used or CPO, December 2014
                                                                        • Vehicle Purposes

                                                                          • Key points
                                                                            • Commuting, shopping, personal business are top uses for cars and trucks
                                                                              • Figure 20: Vehicle purposes, December 2014
                                                                            • Even trucks are used for shopping
                                                                              • Figure 21: Vehicle purposes, by type of vehicles owned, part 1, December 2014
                                                                              • Figure 22: Vehicle purposes, by type of vehicles owned, part 2, December 2014
                                                                            • Most respondents drive fewer than 20,000 miles per year
                                                                              • Figure 23: Annual miles driven, by vehicle purposes – Any rank, part 1, December 2014
                                                                              • Figure 24: Annual miles driven, by vehicle purposes – Any rank, part 2, December 2014
                                                                            • Commuters more apt to purchase soon
                                                                              • Figure 25: Vehicle purposes, by plans to purchase a vehicle, December 2014
                                                                          • Plans to Purchase

                                                                            • Key points
                                                                              • 30% of respondents will be shopping soon
                                                                                • Figure 26: Plans to purchase a vehicle, December 2014
                                                                              • Income trumps age, race when it comes to purchasing
                                                                                • Figure 27: Plans to purchase a vehicle, by demographics, December 2014
                                                                              • Online research is key, but old methods haven’t gone away
                                                                                • Figure 28: Plans to purchase a vehicle, by tools used to research vehicle purchase, December 2014
                                                                              • Leases and financing drive near-term purchase plans
                                                                                • Figure 29: Plans to purchase a vehicle, by reasons for purchasing a vehicle, December, part 1, 2014
                                                                              • Driving fun, lifestyle needs are biggest purchase factors
                                                                                • Figure 30: Plans to purchase a vehicle, by reasons for purchasing a vehicle, part 2, December 2014
                                                                              • Those who bought new last time intent on buying sooner
                                                                                • Figure 31: Plans to purchase a vehicle, by new, used or CPO, December 2014
                                                                            • Reasons for Purchasing Vehicle

                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                • High mileage and desire for new tech top list of purchase reasons
                                                                                  • Figure 32: Reasons for purchasing a vehicle, December 2014
                                                                                • Younger buyers looking for fun to drive vehicles, older buyers worried about resale value
                                                                                    • Figure 33: Reasons for purchasing a vehicle, by demographics, Part 1,December 2014
                                                                                    • Figure 34: Reasons for purchasing a vehicle, by demographics, Part 2, December 2014
                                                                                  • High mileage, better tech, better fuel economy matter when selecting next vehicle
                                                                                    • Figure 35: Reasons for purchasing a vehicle, by type of next vehicle(s) considered, Part 1, December 2014
                                                                                    • Figure 36: Reasons for purchasing a vehicle, by type of next vehicle(s) considered, Part 2, December 2014
                                                                                • Plan Not to Purchase

                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                    • Holding on to vehicles longer created less demand to buy
                                                                                      • Figure 37: Reasons for not purchasing a vehicle, December 2014
                                                                                  • Research Tools

                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                      • Internet leads in auto research
                                                                                        • Figure 38: Tools used to research vehicle purchase, December 2014
                                                                                      • Research methods are similar across races, ages, and genders
                                                                                        • Figure 39: Tools used to research vehicle purchase, by demographics, December 2014
                                                                                    • Involvement in Vehicle Purchase

                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                        • More respondents buying solely than jointly
                                                                                          • Figure 40: Involvement in purchasing the next vehicle(s) for your household, December 2014
                                                                                          • Figure 41: Involvement in purchasing the next vehicle(s) for your household, by demographics, December 2014
                                                                                      • Type of Vehicle Considered for Next Purchase

                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                          • Mid-size cars remain strong
                                                                                            • Figure 42: Type of next vehicle(s) considered, December 2014
                                                                                          • Compact crossovers popular with women; even parents shun the minivan
                                                                                            • Figure 43: Type of next vehicle(s) considered, by demographics, Part 1, December 2014
                                                                                            • Figure 44: Type of next vehicle(s) considered, by demographics, Part 2, December 2014
                                                                                        • Attitudes toward Car Purchasing Process

                                                                                          • Key points
                                                                                            • Car buyers more likely to be “confident” than nervous
                                                                                                • Figure 45: Attitudes toward car purchasing process, December 2014
                                                                                              • Women less confident, more stressed and nervous, than men
                                                                                                • Figure 46: Attitudes toward car purchasing process, by demographics, December 2014
                                                                                              • Those buying soonest are the most confident
                                                                                                • Figure 47: Attitudes toward car purchasing process, by plans to purchase a vehicle, December 2014
                                                                                            • Race and Hispanic origin

                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                • Hispanic buyers looking to purchase soon
                                                                                                  • Figure 48: Plans to purchase a vehicle, by demographics, December 2014
                                                                                                  • Figure 49: Reasons for purchasing a vehicle, by demographics, November 2014
                                                                                              • Appendix – Trade Associations

                                                                                                Companies Covered

                                                                                                To learn more about the companies covered in this report please contact us.

                                                                                                Car Purchasing Process - US - April 2015

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