Consumer Focus: New car buyers share what they REALLY think about the buying experience

As the auto industry continues to evolve, car dealers must understand consumer demands and concerns and learn how to best address them. On today’s CBT News Consumer Focus, we caught up with four new car buyers from across the country to hear feedback on their purchases, and we learned that customer service was just one of the factors in their decision-making.

The interviewees all started their car buying journey online, researching limited inventory to minimize shopping hassles. Gayle went to a dealership based on recommendations, while Audrey knew which car she wanted and studied it online before going to test drive and talk price. Sandra asked colleagues at work for guidance and then went to a third-party website, but after not getting a response, she called and set up an appointment to look at a car at the dealership.

Janice, Gayle, Audrey, and Sandra all went car shopping during this shift in dealership offerings due to COVID-19. Janice made an appointment, and the dealership had the cars waiting for her. Gayle went to two dealerships. The first one was close by, but the customer service was poor. The second dealership was farther away, but they were well known and had better customer service. Audrey’s experience was different from pre-covid times. She felt less pressure from the salespeople because inventory was limited.

“I would have liked to have gotten a better price because I paid higher than MSRP, but I didn’t really have a choice. I came out better than other people out there,” Audrey explained. “If there was more inventory, I would have searched more and been willing to travel further for a better price.”

Sandra’s experience didn’t take up much of her time at the dealership. Her salesperson was highly recommended and worked well with her.

Janice financed her vehicle and found the process to be quick and easy. Audrey did not finance or have a trade-in and found the dealership’s push for financing to be the only issue she had with the transaction. Gayle financed her vehicle and found the process easy, though she was unhappy with the overall pricing. She also recognized that pricing would be higher than anticipated. Sandra used a credit union and had no issues with the process.

There are pros and cons to financing through the dealership and searching for financing on your own. Some customers believe it is easier to do it all at the dealership, while others think you can get a better rate if you finance with an outside party. Ultimately, it is up to the consumer to decide what is best for them.

Janice stated, “I’ve done it both ways. I think finding your own financing can help you get a better rate than the dealerships offer at times. Doing it with the finance department can be an easier process, though.” While Gayle thought, “I think it’s easier at the dealership. Not that you shouldn’t research beforehand, but I want to get out of the dealership and move on. I don’t want to have to go multiple places and have to come back to the dealership later. The dealership gave me options with different lenders. We sold our car with Carvana instead of doing a trade-in. We actually made money on the sale, and within an hour of them inspecting the vehicle, we had a check in hand. I don’t know that we would have gotten that smooth or easy of a process at the dealership.”

All four customers said they would recommend both the dealership and the salesperson they worked with to others. All four customers had positive experiences at the dealership and said their salesperson was knowledgeable and helpful. All four customers said they would recommend the dealership they went to specifically. Gayle had issues with her tires after purchase but said she would still recommend the dealership and salesperson.

Audrey, Gayle, Janice, and Sandra had different levels of satisfaction with their experiences, but all had some advice for new car dealers. Audrey’s main advice was for dealers to be transparent about pricing so that customers know exactly what they’re getting into and don’t have any nasty surprises when it comes time to sign on the dotted line. Gayle loved the “wining and dining” aspect of her experience and thinks that ensuring customers are comfortable and enjoying themselves is crucial. Janice believes that it’s essential to consider each customer’s individual needs, and Sandra thinks that dealers should be upfront about any faults or flaws in the vehicles they’re selling.

Did you enjoy this edition of Consumer Focus? Please share your thoughts, comments, or questions regarding this topic by connecting with us at

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok to stay up to date.

While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for all the latest auto industry news from CBT News.