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Consumers still intend to buy cars — even during COVID’s third wave

Consumer intentions to purchase a new or used vehicle in Canada remains strong — even during the third wave of the pandemic, according to a new study conducted by AutoTrader.ca. 

Its March 2021 report reveals consumer intentions to purchase a vehicle within the next six months is hovering around 17%, as of the time the study was conducted. A year ago it was 20%, and although the figure has declined slightly by a few percentage points, it is still high enough to indicate that many consumers still intend to buy a car.

“Trader is optimistic that the results from the latest consumer research combined with the double-digit growth in traffic and engagement across the country on AutoTrader.ca will translate into yet another surge of new and used car shopper demand for dealers,” said Lilian Lau, VP of Marketing at Trader Corporation.

The reasons consumers are looking to purchase a vehicle have remained consistent since last year, with 27% of respondents saying their current car is getting too old, 18% would like to upgrade to something nicer, and 9% want a larger vehicle. 

Consumers interested in buying a used vehicle are mainly sourcing their information from automotive marketplaces (62%), followed by dealership websites (39%) and manufacturer websites (33%).

As for consumer concerns, the pandemic and finances remain a stress factor — but much less so than a year earlier. 

On the pandemic and its impact on their intention to purchase a vehicle, the survey reveals that 41% of respondents are very concerned about COVID-19, compared to 66% in March 2020. And 36% expect that they will need to extend the timing of their vehicle purchase, down from 68% in March 2020.

On finances, 37% of car shoppers are worried about affordability due to the crisis, versus 56% a year ago. And 64% of respondents plan to use their extra savings from the pandemic to purchase a vehicle, compared to 36% who will not. However, only 23% of consumers plan to buy a more expensive vehicle with their extra savings, versus 77% who will not.

Overall, and based on the findings from Trader’s latest wave of consumer research, Lau believes “it’s fair to say that the general levels of uncertainty and apprehension that car shoppers reported just a year ago continue to trend in a positive direction.”

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