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The internet now plays a vital part in the car buying process
More car review website traffic confirms
Growth of internet use as a research tool

APN

18 March 2009.

In such times of financial and economic troubles, it might be worth watching the changes that will follow over the next months, or rather years ahead.

One of the interesting changes can be seen right now in the growing confidence of the general public in the online car magazines to shop, compare, consult, check or just browse new cars news.

Although the online car magazine visitor can have very different reasons behind his / her visit, one thing is sure: whatever the reason, the internet is always at hand, whenever suitable, for as long (or short) as necessary, with or without purchase, and from as many sources as you wish. No appointment, no appointment cancellation, no time wasting.

This does not mean that the internet will sell you the car. It will only save you time searching on your screen, rather than around the city.

Once you have narrowed down your choices to a few models / dealers, you only need to finalise your research by visiting, physically this time, your shortlist of dealers to touch, test drive and eventually buy the new or used car of your choice.

Apart from the usual online car magazines which treat new models or technologies as such (like autopressnews.com), other very useful websites will offer you more specific information on cars availability, prices and dealerships in your own market, with interactive exchange within your national or regional community.

One of these interesting examples can be found in the RoadTestReports.co.uk car website which has seen its traffic more than double since the start of the year. From an average 2,300 visitors a day last Christmas, the number has grown to 4,704 visitors a day, as independently verified by Hitwise, with an anticipated 130,000 visitors in March alone.

This growth can be partly explained by a post Christmas rise in public curiosity for new ’09 registrations, but it is also confirms a longer-term trend which has seen the website’s traffic progress since its launch in June 2007.

Faye Sunderland, one of RoadTestReports.co.uk’s journalists explains this popularity: “RoadTestReports.co.uk is part of a wider internet trend which has seen surfers increasingly use websites which involve an element of social networking. This adds weight behind common recognition that the internet now plays a vital part of the car buying process as the public engage with each other to determine their choice of vehicle.”

Websites such as RoadTestReports.co.uk allow users to interact with each other and share their knowledge and experiences of cars or vans they have driven.

Sometimes referred to as the ‘wisdom of the masses’ this process now forms a central part of the research process leading to a purchase.

Survey figures - A recent research from Microsoft Advertising* concluded that the internet is the main influence which determines a consumer's car purchase, while it also proved the internet plays a crucial role early on in the decision making process and throughout the course of planning the purchase of a car.

Throughout the last four years, use of the internet has come to the fore to become the main source used when buying a car, overtaking the role of friends, family and dealers by 2008.

According to the survey of 621 people, 62 per cent agreed that the internet is the most important source used when looking to purchase a car, while 79 per cent said they used the internet throughout the decision making process.

Additionally 39 per cent of those who bought a car in the last six months said they had not decided on the category of car before coming online, with 55 per cent saying they were still undecided over the brand and 61 per cent over the model.

More interestingly, 70 per cent said they feel more confident walking into a dealership if they have researched online first.

RoadTestReports.co.uk enables its visitors to access a hub of car consumer information while forming a networking opportunity. Additionally the website has the expert voices of motoring journalists, who add to the establishment of motoring opinion.

Owned and maintained by Really Good Domains Ltd, RoadTestReports.co.uk was launched in June 2007, offering road test on major cars and vans plus consumer reviews. It provides “featured” reviews written by motoring journalists and reviews from consumers who tell what it is like to drive the vehicles day-in and day-out and the real practical implications of buying them. Anyone can submit a review, which gives it great appeal to website visitors and vehicle manufacturers. Currently the website attracts over 115,000 monthly users and over 260,000 monthly page views.

* Taken from Microsoft Advertising research report ‘Digitally Driven: Understanding today’s automotive purchase process’ published February 2009.

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