Press release

Consumers set to abandon public transport as a result of COVID-19

  • ‘Transport distancing’ likely to drive car sales, with 56% of UK driving licence holders who don’t currently own a vehicle, now considering one post ‘lockdown’
  • People put off using cramped public transport, with 48% less likely to use it
  • More than half of consumers think owning a vehicle will be more important after lockdown

According to the latest consumer research by Auto Trader, the UK’s largest marketplace for new and used cars, nearly half (48%) of UK public transport users said they would be less likely to use it once the current restrictions have been lifted. ‘Transport distancing’ was even more of a concern for younger consumers, with 66% of 18-24-year-olds claiming they’d be less likely to use it.    

The research found that more than half (56%) thought that owning a vehicle will be more important in the future. For those living in a city centre, and typically more dependent on public transport, this increased to 64%.  The research, which was conducted between the 14th – 17th April, consisted of three separate surveys targeting different consumer demographics; in total over 3,000 consumers were surveyed.

Of the 1,067 people asked about their current attitudes towards car ownership, nearly three quarters (74%) said that they are more concerned about having personal space following COVID-19, which is now beginning to shift their views on their personal modes of transport. Over half (56%) of UK driving license holders surveyed (1,059) who currently don’t own a vehicle said COVID-19 has made them consider purchasing a car when it’s safe to do so.

Commenting on the findings, Auto Trader’s chief operating officer, Catherine Faiers, said: “Our research highlights just how profound an impact COVID-19 has had on consumer attitudes towards transport. It also confirms that the global pandemic will have far reaching consequences that last after the current restrictions have been lifted.”

Despite audience levels being lower during this lockdown period than normal, approximately down -30% year-on-year, Auto Trader is still seeing healthy interest for cars on its marketplace, with over 750,000 unique visits to its platform every day. This is also reflected in the research which suggests that a quarter (25%) of the consumers surveyed who are researching for their next car (1,051), are currently looking to purchase a vehicle now or as soon as they’re able to make a transaction. Whilst over half (57%) said that although they were still looking to buy, they will delay the actual purchase until later in the year. Only 2% of consumers have decided not to purchase a vehicle as a result of COVID-19.

Given the current economic climate and the uncertainty facing many, confidence in vehicle affordability remains high, with only 16% feeling apprehensive about how they’d fund a vehicle purchase before the end of June 2020.

Faiers continued: “At a time of such uncertainty for the automotive industry, with retailers across the UK facing huge pressure as a result of COVID-19, the research reassuringly points to a market which has been paused but will ‘resume’ again. Not only does previous consumer appetite for a new or used car remain, but once the restrictions have been lifted, we believe the market could see an uptick in demand as we’ve seen in China, and are seeing early signs of in Germany.”

-ENDS-

Research methodology

The research, which was conducted between the 14th – 17th April, consisted of three separate online consumer surveys targeting different consumer demographics or focused on different themes: consumer attitudes to car ownership (1,067 participants), consumer car buying behaviours in response to COVID-19 (1,051 participants), and a survey of current UK driving license holders not currently owning a vehicle (1,059 participants). 

About Auto Trader

Auto Trader Group plc is the UK and Ireland's largest digital automotive marketplace. Auto Trader sits at the heart of the UK's vehicle buying process and its primary activity is to help vehicle retailers compete effectively on the marketplace in order to sell more vehicles, faster. Auto Trader listed on the London Stock Exchange in March 2015 and is now a member of the FTSE 100 Index.

The marketplace brings together the largest and most engaged consumer audience. Auto Trader has over 90% prompted brand awareness and attracts circa 50 million monthly cross platform visits each month, with over 70% of visits coming through mobile devices.

The marketplace also has the largest pool of vehicle sellers (listing around 450,000 cars each day). Around 80% of UK automotive retailers advertise on autotrader.co.uk.

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Auto Trader Group plc
Registered in England (Company number: 09439967)

Auto Trader Limited
Registered in England and Wales (Company number: 03909628)

Registered address:

1 Tony Wilson Place
Manchester
M15 4FN
VAT number: GB 614 8918 20

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