Consumers’ experience with car buying has improved this year, replenished inventories and cooling prices leading the way to greater satisfaction despite high interest rates and six weeks of auto worker strikes.
Two studies released this week show that the car-buying process is getting easier and more fruitful.
J.D. Power’s 2023 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index indicates overall customer satisfaction with the purchase process rose seven points from last year to 793 on a 1,000-point scale. It credits improved inventories and “moderating” vehicle prices.
"Vehicle buyers are more satisfied with the inventory choices they now see in dealerships across the country—more than in the past three years,” said Vice President of Automotive Retail Chris Sutton. “Increased inventory also means fewer buyers are paying more than the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for their new vehicle."
J.D. Power’s survey found that buyers of gas-powered models tend to have more satisfaction with the purchase process than electric-vehicle buyers, whether mass-market or premium consumers. Satisfaction among the former was 58 points higher than that of EV shoppers, 34% of whom said dealers didn’t help them get comfortable with maintenance needs.
Lower prices also made shoppers happier. Mass-market buyers paying above MSRP dropped from 25% last year to 15%, and paying above MSRP correlates with far less satisfaction, J.D. Power said. Overall satisfaction with price improved but was still down from prepandemic levels.
Buick ranked highest in satisfaction among mass-market brands for the second year in a row, Porsche among premium brands.
A monthly survey by CDK Global found an improved consumer experience at the dealership in October. Its Ease of Purchase score rose from 83% in September to 85%, despite tight credit and other market pressures.
The researcher also said increased inventories are to thank for the improvement, helping more buyers find the models they wanted. It said 52% had success, up from 47% in September and from 44% a year earlier.
CDK also found shoppers had to visit fewer dealerships to find what they wanted, just 26% visiting at least three, down from 30% a year earlier. Thirty percent visited just one store, up from 25% last October.
The weak aspects it uncovered were around the financial aspects of buying, from negotiating price to the financing process, all of which saw declines.
“If there are steps to address the trade-in process specifically, that would make a significant impact on the overall experience,” said David Thomas, director of content.