According to the latest data from Auto Trader, after an initial dip following the Prime Minister’s announcement that England would be entering its third national lockdown, consumer demand remains robust on its marketplace, with the new restrictions having little impact on buying intentions.
During the first three days of the new year, there was a 7% year-on-year (YoY) increase in visitors to Auto Trader, before taking a slight fall immediately following the announcement on the 4th January. However, with an average of 1.8 million visitors a day recorded during the week ending 10th January, levels were still 1.1% higher than the same period last year. And, as people adjusted to the latest restrictions, volumes began to increase, with the number of visits reaching a 4.3% YoY growth over the weekend. Despite the disruption, the number of leads being sent to retailers last week remained strong, with volumes increasing 7.4% YoY.
Affordability confidence reached 2020 high
Research conducted by Auto Trader further highlights the limited influence the recent measures are having on consumer buying intentions. Despite the tighter restrictions rolled out across the UK throughout November and December, an onsite survey conducted at the end of last month revealed that consumers' confidence in being able to afford their next car had reached a 2020 peak. In fact, 43% of on-site users said they were more confident than they were a year ago, and 50% felt about the same. Notably, the percentage of people saying they were less confident, was at its lowest level (7%) since the start of the pandemic.
Looking specifically at the impact of the government’s latest restrictions, 55% of the 1,466 on site users surveyed last week said they were looking to purchase in the next three months. It marks a significant increase on the 36% of consumers who indicated a three-month timeline when asked the same question in April, and 49% in November. Over a quarter (26%) said they were currently looking to purchase in the next two weeks.
In terms of whether the lockdown had directly affected their timeline, almost 60% said it had no impact on their decision (54%) or had made them want to purchase even sooner (5%). 15% said they weren’t sure, which represents an opportunity for retailers to remove doubt through how they present themselves and their vehicles. 27% of those surveyed said the new rules had made them want to delay their purchase, however, the largest percentage is by three months (42%), which is typical buying behaviour during normal trading conditions.
Separate onsite research also highlighted the value of car ownership as a result of COVID, with 35% of consumers believing that owning a car is more important to them now than it was before the pandemic, which is at its highest point since we began asking the question in June. What’s more, 10% of people are still in market to buy a car specifically to avoid public transport.
In a separate piece of research conducted in December, 35% of consumers said that owning a car is more important to them now than it was before the pandemic, the highest level since Auto Trader began asking the question in June 2020.
Commenting on the findings, Auto Trader’s data and insights director, Richard Walker, said: “The lockdown was not the start to the year any of us were hoping for and unfortunately these new measures across the UK will have a significant impact on everyone’s plans over the next quarter. However, the data does give us reasons to be positive, with clear evidence of strong underlying consumer demand and buying intent.
“As well as being far better prepared to continue selling via click and collect and home delivery over the coming weeks, we’re confident retailers can expect strong levels of demand as we come out of these restrictions.”
 Survey conducted 8-12th January 2021