Consumer insights shaping today’s car buying process

Today on Inside Automotive, Steve Baldwin, Vice President of National Sales at Capital One Auto, discusses how data from the 2022 Car Buying Outlook can help car dealers understand their customers, and remain relevant in a competitive and ever-evolving industry.

2022 Car Buying Outlook showed over the past 12 months, perceived transparency of the car buying process has significantly decreased for car buyers. Decrease in perceived transparency by consumers may be attributed to the difficulties induced from the current economic and supply chain issues. In fact, of car buyers who believe the car buying process has gotten harder, 60% report it has gotten harder because car prices have increased, 29% because used car options are too limited and 26% because it’s difficult to find the kind of car they actually want. 

As consumers develop a more robust understanding of the car buying process through online tools, dealers are continuing to enhance their digital offerings, and change how they navigate the sales process. 

“Dealers need to understand that each consumer is at a different place,” says Baldwin. ‘[If dealers are] flexible, and meet their customers where they are, [they can make the] customer feel empowered, and really well looked after.” 

Capital One has invested research into car buying to help car dealers understand what consumers are looking for from dealerships. 

The 2022 Car Buying Outlook found that while car buyers are leveraging the web for research, they are still planning on transitioning to in-person as they get further into the process. Vehicle financing is also transforming during this boom of digital adoption, as 34% of car buyers now say they would like to be pre-qualified for financing before going to the dealership. 

Based on feedback from dealers, Baldwin says consumers demand speed in the car buying process.

Alongside the Car Buying Outlook, Capital One’s digital tools help car dealers work more efficiently and car buyers find the car they want. Capital One Auto Navigator helps buyers find the vehicles they want, see their financing options (real rate and monthly payment), and get pre-qualified without any impact to their credit score. 

“At Capital One, we’ve leveraged technology in a powerful way to empower the consumer, without disempowering the dealer,” says Baldwin. 

“We have seen dealers deliver extreme customer satisfaction without sacrificing anything else along the way,” says Baldwin.

For more insights into car buying from Capital One, check out their 2022 Car Buying Outlook.


The Capital One Car Buying Outlook consists of findings from two surveys targeted to consumers and dealers. 

The consumer survey of 2,200 U.S. adults ages 18+ was conducted on behalf of Capital One Auto Finance using Morning Consult. Of the 2,200, 643 have purchased a car in the last 6 months and are considered “current buyers” and 1,557 self-reported that they’re planning to purchase a car within the next two years and are considered “future buyers”. The survey was fielded October 20-29, 2021, with a margin of error of +/- 2%. 

The dealer survey of 530 current car dealers was conducted on behalf of Capital One Auto Finance through Morning Consult. The 530 respondents work for an automobile dealership as an owner, general manager, F&I director, sales manager, internet manager, or in the business development center at dealerships with an approximate annual sales volume of at least $1M. The survey was fielded October 20-29, 2021, with the margin of error +/- 4%. 

Year-over-year findings are compared to the 2021 Car Buying Outlook. The 2021 Car Buying Outlook was fielded to 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18+ and 401 current car dealers between October 1-20, 2020. 

  1. Most comfortable purchasing a vehicle at dealerships that offer online and in-person shopping options (44%), dealerships that only operate in-person (31%). (consumer sample: 2,200) 
  2.  Will visit 3 dealerships (24%), 4+ dealerships (15%) for next car purchase. (consumer sample: 1,557) 
  3. Visited 3 dealerships (19%), 4+ dealerships (9%). (consumer sample: 643) (Purchased car in last 6 months)
  4. Transparent indicates response selection of “completely” or “very” transparent”

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