Car shopping online reached pre-coronavirus levels at end of April: Report

‘We’re now seeing those numbers increasing going into Memorial Day’

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Interest in buying a car reached pre-coronavirus levels in the last two weeks of April and are continuing to grow, according to one report.

Earlier this week, TrueCar -- an online automobile marketplace -- released the results of an analysis of the platform’s web traffic before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the report, the data from before the coronavirus pandemic was taken from March 1 to March 12 and the data from after the coronavirus pandemic was taken from March 13 to May 5.

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Based on TrueCar’s data, web traffic and interest in buying a car returned to levels seen before the pandemic but continued to increase.

“We’re now seeing those numbers increasing going into Memorial Day weekend to levels closer to what we typically see toward the end of the year,” Nick Wollard, TrueCar’s director of OEM and affinity partner analytics, said in a statement.

“Automakers quickly turning on 0 percent financing offers in response to COVID-19 actually spurred an increase in pickups and utilities in the period after COVID-19 took effect,” he added. “This was clearly a winning strategy to shore up demand and we see incentives as a driver of purchase intent in our consumer research as well.”

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Purchase intent, according to the report, means a consumer has sent their contact information to a dealer through TrueCar, asking for a price on a specific car.

New vehicles saw an increase in purchase intent 9 percent higher than used cars in the post-coronavirus time frame, according to the report.

Specifically, full-size pickups saw an increase in purchase intent of 38 percent, sports cars like Corvettes and Porsche 911s saw an increase of 26 percent and midsize pickups saw a 15 percent increase.

According to the report, domestic brands also saw greater increases in purchase intent, with Ram up 38 percent, GMC up  17 percent and Ford up 5 percent.

There was also an increased interest in more expensive cars, TrueCar reported.

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“The pace of change we’ve seen recently is unprecedented, so we wanted to capture consumers' needs and concerns around car buying as they rapidly evolved,” Wendy McMullin, TrueCar’s head of research, said in a statement.

TrueCar also surveyed consumers who were interested in buying a new car within the next year in three waves during the coronavirus period -- on March 17, April 9 and May 4.

According to those results, 8 percent of respondents said their main reason for buying or leasing a car was to avoid taking public transportation.

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The survey also found that “remote retailing” options were the top reasons why consumers would shop at a particular dealership.

“With continuing concerns around being exposed to COVID-19 or exposing others, remote retailing capabilities and safety measures around test driving vehicles and home delivery are critical components dealers can offer to get consumers to engage now,” McMullin said.