Majority of Brits still want to test-drive new cars

New cars in dealer showroom.

You can buy pretty much anything online these days. But would you buy a new car?

According to new research from the AA, the answer is probably no.

They found that three-quarters of Brits say they would never buy a car online without seeing it in person first.

This insight comes despite a recent revolution in online vehicle-buying facilities, with car dealers introducing new virtual forecourts and video call walkarounds.

Buying online

This year’s AA survey of more than 17,000 drivers discovered that the number of motorists willing to gamble on buying a car online has actually fallen since last year.

They found only a fifth of new car-buyers in 2020 have bought their motor without viewing it first – a fall from 24% in 2019.

Of those who did brave an online purchase, 62% opted for a brand-new vehicle from the dealer, while 38% bought their used car unseen from either a dealer, private seller or online auction site.

Younger drivers are the least likely to buy a car online, with 84% of 18–24-year-olds and 80% of 25–34-year-olds saying they would never purchase a car without viewing it first.

Women were also found to be more cautious when shopping for a new vehicle online.

Overall, 79% of us claim we have never bought a car without testing the metal first, and never would in the future. That’s an increase over the 69% who said the same thing in 2019.

Virtual viewing

Since the coronavirus lockdown, car dealers have been quick to introduce more online options for car buyers.

Virtual forecourts, video call walkarounds and online payment portals allow us to view and purchase new vehicles without stepping foot in the dealership.

But James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars, commented that while online services are useful for research, people still value the reassurance of seeing a car in person before parting with their cash.

He said: “Buyers know they can carry out extensive research online to compare prices and check a car’s history before they choose to buy — but nothing compares to seeing a vehicle up close and getting a feel for it during a test drive.

“With social distancing remaining in place, it is recommended that people continue to carry out their research online first, and compare prices at dealerships before booking an appointment to see the cars they are interested in.”

Looking to purchase new wheels? Check out our essential car-buying guide to help you decide whether automatic or manual is the best drive for you.