The latest data from Auto Trader has revealed the distance consumers are prepared to buy or receive their next car from has increased significantly over the course of the pandemic, highlighting the significant market opportunities for retailers who are embracing online retailing. With growing consumer confidence in buying online, this trend is only set to continue.
Prior to COVID-19 the average distance between buyer and seller was circa 40 miles. However, the restrictions and the subsequent acceleration in digital retailing trends has driven a change in consumer behaviour. During the latest national lockdowns when physical forecourts were closed, the average distance spiked to 60 miles. Although this has dipped slightly since the reopening of physical showrooms in April to circa 50 miles, it marks a 25% increase on the pre-pandemic average.
With more retailers adapting to the changing expectations of car buyers, such as offering money back guarantees and extended warranties, car buyers are becoming increasingly comfortable with buying from further afield. In fact, research conducted by Auto Trader revealed that nearly two thirds (62%) would be open to buying a car without a test drive if they were offered a 14-day money back guarantee.
The propensity for long distance buying and the opportunity it presents was further highlighted by separate research conducted in May. It revealed that 46% of consumers are currently willing to buy from a retailer based over 50 miles away. More than one in five (21%) were prepared to buy up to 100 miles from their home, 10% up to 200 miles, and 16% over 200 miles.
Commenting on the findings, Auto Trader’s director of commercial products, Karolina Edwards-Smajda, said: “As online retailing becomes ever more prevalent and consumer confidence grows, the geographical distance between buyers and sellers is set to become less relevant. It represents a huge opportunity for retailers who can reach beyond their local market, whether that’s through click and collect or home delivery. Embracing these services means all retailers can compete with the online entrants who operate nationwide and invest heavily in national marketing campaigns. We’re committed to supporting our retailer partners in their digital retailing ambitions and providing them with the tools and expertise they need to capitalise on changing consumer demands.”
As part of this commitment, Auto Trader is set to roll out a suite of online retailing products throughout H2 2021, including a market extension tool designed to extend retailer’s reach into additional geographical regions to target new customers.
 2019 average
 As of April 2021