A new study conducted on behalf of motoring website Auto Trader has found that 86% of car buyers will do their research in the evening.
The study pooled the experience of 1,300 car buyers from a three month period and included samples from 16 dealers, four franchise groups, ten independents and supermarkets.
It showed that most people will do research online in the evening after 6pm, with only a small majority searching during working hours when dealerships are open, shedding light on the changing process people go through when making a car purchase.
It also showed people are likely to search online via dealer websites rather than visit an actual dealership when researching what car to buy, and that up to 50% of car buyers visited the dealer they bought their car off only one time, compared with 47% for supermarkets and 51% for independents.
The study also showed how the way people search online is changing with two thirds of searches to the Auto Trader website made from a tablet or smartphone.
Customer and buyer interaction is also changing with 66% of consumer-dealer transactions at dealerships being the first point of contact between buyer and seller. It also showed that the majority of people had already made up their mind of what car they wanted to buy when they first visit a dealership.
This research shows how quickly the car buying process is changing with more and more people doing their research online rather than visiting dealerships or supermarkets. It also shows the vast rise in smartphone and tablet use for searching online proving that car dealers have to be up to date with their websites so they are responsive to these devices.
Speaking about the latest insight into the car buying process, Auto Traders market research director, Nick King said: "This latest research continues to frame a buying journey where a forecourt visit is increasingly the affirmation of a decision made following extensive research online.
"In this new online environment things like full page ad views and a content-rich, responsive dealer website become key tools in driving leads. They are the night watchmen for your dealership, the professional face of your online business that drive leads out-of-hours, or in the absence of any active engagement with you or a member of your team."