How to Help First-Time Car Buyers Purchase a Vehicle

First time car buyer holding car key

When it comes to auto financing and/or purchasing a vehicle, many first-time car buyers—a majority of whom include Generation Z and younger millennials—don’t know what to expect. With these two generations being a growing part of the car-buying market, it’s important to understand how to appeal to younger consumers.

Although first-time car buyers are doing most of their research online—17.6 hours, to be exact—a large majority of them still want the dealership involved in the buying process, according to a recent study by Urban Science in conjunction with Harris Poll. The study, which surveyed approximately 2,000 shoppers and 200 dealers, found that 81 percent of car buyers still value dealer insight when making a purchase decision. This most likely is due to the fact that many younger consumers need guidance during the car-buying process to help them make the best decision for their situation. Moreover, according to JM&A Group, younger car buyers place high value on having a seamless buying experience and trust the dealer they are working with.

To provide a positive experience to first-time car buyers, dealers may want to assess their sales approach and prioritize relationship building and responsive customer service. Here are some ways that may be helpful when guiding them through the car-buying process:


  1. Understand how they operate.
    A recent study from Cox Automotive found that younger car buyers typically have a set budget in mind before going to the dealership, and the vast majority need to seek vehicle financing. Helping first-time car buyers understand what options they have within their budget is a good way to keep them informed and engaged in the car-buying process.

  2. Be respectful.
    Since many first-time car buyers do most of their research online, it’s important for dealers to acknowledge the amount of time and effort they’ve already dedicated to the car-buying process. Taking the time to listen to their needs and preferences, and asking specific questions about their research can help build trust early in the process.

  3. Share valuable information online and in person.
    According to a survey from CDK Global, 62 percent of millennial car shoppers use dealer websites as a primary source of information. With that being said, it’s important to start relationship building on your website by providing car buyers with transparent, educational resources that will assist them in the research phase and provide you with a potential sales lead. It’s also important that the resources you provide on your website are consistent with the information you share with the customers who come into your dealership.

  4. Get to know your customers.
    Younger car buyers want to feel like they can trust the dealer they are working with, so it’s important for dealers to make a conscious, consistent effort to get to know their customers. A study from Accenture found that 95 percent of millennials want brands to actively “court” them and make an effort to retain their business. Focusing on building a genuine connection with your customers rather than the bottom line can have a positive impact on not only your business, but your reputation.

  5. Offer subprime auto financing to car buyers with no credit.
    Since many first-time car buyers have little to no credit history established, offering subprime auto financing through your dealership can also help position your car business as a valuable resource in their car-buying journey. Credit Acceptance is an indirect subprime auto finance company that works with more than 12,000 participating car dealers across the nation to help them provide car buyers with bad credit or no credit approval to purchase a vehicle. To learn more about becoming an enrolled dealer in our program, fill out the Become a Dealer form on our website.