Catastrophe behind nearly one-in-five new car purchases

Nearly one in five new car buyers are in the market because they have an urgent need to replace their current vehicle due an unforeseen event, such as a breakdown or accident, according to new research by What Car?.

Britain’s leading new car buying platform and consumer champion surveyed 1534 in-market car buyers, and 18% said they were in the market because of a “catastrophe”. As a result, they were in urgent need of a replacement vehicle and far less likely to wait for a factory ordered car.

The survey also revealed that these buyers were far more likely to want to test drive prior to purchase, with 65% stating that they drove multiple cars in search of a replacement, compared with just 33% of normal buyers. This was chiefly identified as a means of short-cutting the need to do extensive research elsewhere prior to buying the car.

The unplanned nature of the purchase was reflected elsewhere, too; What Car? also discovered that “catastrophe” buyers are far more likely to change their minds during the purchase process. Nearly half said they changed their mind a lot during the process, compared with just 13% of other buyers.

Crucially for retailers, buyers who frequently changed their mind during the purchase process were found to underspend on their initial budget. Nearly 50% of respondents in this category reported spending less, compared with just over 20% of those who didn’t change their minds frequently.

The research also showed that “catastrophe” buyers are far more susceptible to emotional pain points (defined as a negative experience in the research and car buying process) in their car-buying journey. For instance, nearly half (46%) of all catastrophe buyers said stock availability was important to them, compared with 39% of normal buyers.

Getting a good price or finance deal was also a higher priority for these buyers; more than half considered this an important aspect, compared with 46% of normal buyers.

Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, said: “Qualifying customers and understanding their needs is more important for retailers now than ever – but this survey highlights just how many buyers are in an urgent need for a new car, and just how different their needs are compared with those of the majority of buyers.

“With nearly one in five buyers self-identifying in this category, this is clearly a demographic that retailers cannot afford to ignore – especially given that these buyers enter the showroom with a longer shortlist to consider but with less time to contemplate a buying decision.

“It’s evident that dealers having adequate stock, being able to organise test drives at short notice and being accommodating on price and finance are all especially important to catastrophe buyers.”

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