Stop! Time Thief!

Vehicle buyers unhappy with three-hour-plus dealership transactions, reports CDK Global.

Nancy Dunham, Principal Analyst/Retail

September 19, 2023

2 Min Read
Consumers still want to visit dealerships but are unhappy with time commitments there, says CDK’s Thomas.Getty Images

Want to impress your vehicle-buying customers? Stop wasting their time.

A new study from CDK Global Research & Insights shows that more than half (54%) of vehicle buyers are unhappy that their buying experiences took three-plus hours to complete. Dealers need to shorten transaction time to no more than two hours to turn customer results around, reports CDK.

“Despite the expansion of the direct-to-consumer retail model across the U.S., consumers still prefer the brick-and-mortar dealership experience. We’re seeing it the strongest among first-time buyers, with 70% of customers relying on local auto retailers to complete the entire journey at the dealership,” says David Thomas, automotive industry analyst at CDK Global. “Improving the car-buying process to two hours or less can significantly boost a dealership’s NPS (net promoter score, which loyalty and predicts business growth) score and help ensure lifelong customers for sales and service.”

CDK’s Ease of Purchase survey is an ongoing monthly survey with a national sample of 350 U.S. consumers who purchase new vehicles within three months before they are surveyed. CDK launched the study in June 2022, and its findings include results through July 2023.

Findings show new-vehicle-inventory issues continued to impact dealerships throughout the past year, with just 36% of buyers locating the vehicle they wanted in stock for January 2023, compared to 52% of consumers the following month. Overall, in-stock vehicles averaged 44% at dealerships – a significantly low number post-COVID. Purchasing in-transit cars will remain a growing trend, with 30% of consumers willing to wait for their desired make and model.

 CDK Global’s Ease of Purchase survey data also found:

  • Nearly 43% of consumers visited two dealerships when shopping for a vehicle, with 47% seeking guidance from an expert before deciding on their purchase. 

  • Conversely, 30% of customers visited only one dealership before purchasing, with 34% preferring to select their vehicle and negotiate the best price, including trade-in value. 

  • On average, less than 2% of those surveyed bought a car entirely online, never exceeding 3%. 

  • Ordering cars from the factory declined steadily, with 28% of shoppers in June 2022 and dropping to 18% in recent months, with the average falling near 21%. 

  • Rising interest rates impacted vehicle financing, with the ease of credit application dipping to a record low of 57% in January 2023 before recovering to the yearly average of 62% in June 2023.




About the Author(s)

Nancy Dunham

Principal Analyst/Retail, WardsAuto

Nancy Dunham became an auto journalist more than twenty years ago. She has worked as an editor and writer for the National Automobile Dealers Association, US News & World Report, CarFax, and various newspapers in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Her work also appears in Costco Connections, AARP, the New York Times, Rolling Stone and other publications.

Before specializing in automotive retail journalism, she was a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and publisher.

She lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her three beloved cats.

Contact her at [email protected] or

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