• Average time spent shopping for a new car decreases by five hours
  • Average time spent shopping for a used car decreases by three hours
  • Average buyer spends more time shopping online

Most people enjoy taking the keys to a new car. The excitement of that moment is surely more fun than the work of finding the right vehicle at the right price. But car shopping is getting easier, or at least less time consuming for many shoppers; that's according to the 2013 Polk Automotive Buyer Influence Study commissioned by AutoTrader.com.

The study looked at new- and used-car shoppers who spent at least some of their shopping time using the Internet. According to Polk, the average time these new-car shoppers spent shopping -- both online and in dealerships -- has dropped by 5.25 hours since 2011, the last time Polk conducted the study. For used-car shoppers, the change was less dramatic but still significant. Their time shopping has dropped 2.75 hours since 2011.

Now, the average new-car shopper who uses the Internet spends 13.75 hours shopping. Used-car shoppers using the Internet now spend about 15.25 hours. That's a drop of 18 percent for new-car shoppers and about 15 percent for used-car shoppers.

In part, better online resources are making car shopping quicker and easier. More listings are online than ever before, and the quality of those listings is improving. More vehicle shopping sites and apps for mobile devices are helping car shoppers, too. And according to Kevin Filan, vice president of customer marketing and industry relations for AutoTrader Group, the economy plays a significant role.

"When we commissioned the first study a few years ago, the economy wasn't as strong as it is now, and we believe that shoppers were being much more cautious, taking longer before arriving at their final purchase decision," said Filan. "Now that the economy is stronger, buyers are taking less time overall, but they are devoting more of that time to shopping online. This is significant, as it points to the increasing influence of the Internet during the shopping process."

It's certainly easier to peruse dozens of listings online than to drive from one dealership to the next. Shopping online is increasingly simple and effective, a trend that should continue to make car shopping more efficient for consumers.

What it means to you: Everyone wants to make a wise vehicle purchase decision, but efficiency is important, too. Time is money. So spend time shopping online before hitting the dealerships. You can narrow your list of vehicles, saving time while staying informed.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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