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Understanding the role of social media in today’s car shopping journey

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on September 9, 2021

In today’s digital era, it’s no longer enough to hope that a shiny new vehicle on your lot will catch a passing shopper’s eye, prompting them to come in for a test drive and to make a deal. Instead, most car buyers have spent hours scouring the web for information about the vehicle they want, possible deals, and more before ever stepping foot at your dealership.

While the vast majority pore over auto shopping sites – 94% of car buyers online use auto shopping sites like CarGurus before buying – to get their questions answered, that’s not the only way shoppers get their information. Prospective shoppers also use (and get distracted by!) social media while researching their next vehicle purchase.

To get a pulse on the role of social media in the shopping journey, we analyzed the data from our soon-to-be-released Buyer Insight Report. Here are three takeaways and what they mean for your dealership.

Social media is a powerful research tool for shoppers…

Social media is so much more than a way to keep in touch with friends or share recent photos. It’s also a powerful platform where shoppers can crowdsource recommendations, watch online videos, and engage with dealers and brands. In fact, 68% say they used social media to assist with car shopping in some way. Even more, 26% of shoppers say social media directly informed their car purchase—up from 19% a year ago. It’s clear social media is both a useful and influential tool for shoppers who haven’t yet made up their minds about their vehicle purchase.

…But it’s also arguably a shopper’s greatest distraction

Digital tracking shows nearly all (95%) of car shoppers online checked social media at least once during an active car shopping session. Some of these visits to social media sites do include continued research, but they also include shoppers uploading new photos or connecting with old colleagues. Though it has its advantages during the research process, social media makes it easy for shoppers to get knocked off track. We all know how five minutes on social media can quickly turn into 10, then 20, and so on.

Facebook and YouTube reign among car buyers

When it comes to car shopping, not all social media platforms are equal. Facebook and YouTube are the most commonly used social platforms among car buyers—both in day-to-day use and to assist with car shopping. Specifically, 45% of car buyers used YouTube and 44% used Facebook to assist in their car shopping process. While Reddit is a less popular channel overall, over half (54%) of their typical audience leverages the site when car shopping.

What does this mean for dealers?

It probably comes as no surprise, but if your dealership isn’t on social media, you could be missing out on a massive number of sales. Here are some simple tips for improving your dealership’s social media presence:

  • Keep your dealership page up to date. This should be easy to do, but it does require designating someone to maintain and update your dealership’s social media profiles. Whether it’s showcasing the latest vehicles available on your lot, introducing new staff members, or advertising a timely special offer, shoppers want to be able to find this information on social media.
  • Make sure your ads and content are relevant and interesting. With shoppers easily distracted on social media platforms, it’s crucial that your ads be captivating and relevant to shoppers. Refine your ad targeting to reach in-market shoppers and use copy that will connect with your different audiences.
  • Invest in your online reputation. If your brand and reputation aren’t up to snuff online, shoppers will simply click on to the next dealership. Consider sharing informal video testimonials of past customers as a way to show your authenticity and commitment to customer satisfaction.

Dealers who put the time and effort into maintaining their dealership’s social media pages will see higher engagement, generate more high-quality leads, and increase ROI over time.

Want more insight into how consumers research and shop for a vehicle? CarGurus Consumer Insights Director Madison Gross and Senior Consumer Insights Analyst Ali Chapman will dive into our latest data during their session at Navigate. For more information about our virtual dealer conference in October and to register, visit

Topics: CarGurus data, social media, trends