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Youngsters still want to buy their cars at dealerships

Despite internet-heavy options, young buyers favor brick-and-mortar stores.

Young car buyer in dealership
Younger car buyers aren't afraid to shop multiple dealers or brands.
Maskot/Getty Images

Of the numerous things the internet changed in modern society, shopping is perhaps a key area. But despite being able to purchase dog bones with one click and have them shipped in fewer than two days, actually buying a car online isn't exactly the norm even today.

Even young car buyers show a preference for brick-and-mortar stores, according to a new study from Urban Science, which Automotive News reported on Monday. Although Generation Z and Millennials are tech-savvy humans, they're also the generations most likely to visit multiple dealerships in person.

The study surveyed 2,000 car shoppers and 200 dealerships and found Generation Z and young Millennials go to 3.8 dealers on average when looking for a car. Millennials on the older side still visit an average of 2.6 dealers, while Generation X goes to 2.4. Baby Boomers patronized the fewest number of dealers, with an average of 2.1 visits. Not only does it show young car buyers want to make such a big purchase in person, but they also may not be incredibly brand loyal or devout to one local dealership.

Randy Berlin, global director of dealer services at Urban Science, told Automotive News that younger buyers are shopping multiple brands and dealers to make an informed decision. Although a lot of the most important information is readily available online, Berlin called the process for young car shoppers a very "active" one: "It's their first major purchase," Berlin told AN. "They're not loyal to any brand yet."

The value of the dealer also showed its face when the study asked its sample if they would buy a car without any dealer involvement. A whopping 85% said they wouldn't buy a car without seeing it in-person first. Nearly as large a share, 83%, said they'd need to drive the car first, and finally, 89% said the dealer test drive is "most influential" resource. Online reviews came in a close second.

If today's young people still want to partake in the dealership experience, then it certainly seems like the dealership model isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

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