What Consumers Look For in a New (or Used) Car

Car buyers have different needs for new and pre-owned vehicles, and social media has their wish list.

What matters most to car buyers? Comprehensive safety features? Low maintenance costs? Reliability?
The answer, it turns out, depends on one on major variable: Are they looking for a new car or a used one?

Used cars may just be older versions of new cars, but they actually cater to distinct audiences with different goals and expectations. For instance, buyers looking to purchase a new car prioritize safety and space while for those scouting for a pre-owned vehicle may be willing to compromise on space in exchange for low miles.


At a time when car sales are slipping and lots are full of unsold cars, to keep inventories slim, carmakers and dealerships want to make sure they are finding — and trumpeting — cars with the features that buyers want.
Crunch time or not, car buyers flock online to crowdsource tips and resources from social media. But are they making the same demands from a new car and a pre-owned one? Our data says consumers are not..

Safe to Say, It’s a New Car?

To state the obvious here — safety is a no-compromise first priority when it comes to buying new cars, particularly for families and new parents. Growing families, unsurprisingly also tend to prefer spacious cars.

Among top preferred features, bluetooth connectivity has now become an indispensible part of a vehicle. Aside from the obvious priority on safety, car buyers look for good bluetooth and audio connectivity systems in both new and used cars that lets them stream audio, control features with their voices, and rely on built-in navigation.

Old Could be Gold

Interestingly enough, a reliable bluetooth connectivity beats low miles as the top feature among buyers considering pre-owned cars. And, in an expanding used-car market, it’s not just about low mileage — consumers also insist on automatic transmission, leather interior, and fuel efficiency.

Who is Buying What?

Our analysis of the data provided interesting insights into the demographics of the audience discussing new and used cars.

The majority of those discussing new cars is audience from ages 18-24 (50%). This makes sense considering most first time car buyers happen to be millennials. The group that comes in distant second (27%) is teenagers under 17, on the cusp of becoming licensed drivers.
The number of consumers discussing new cars trails off above the age of 25. Conversely, that’s the group leading the ‘used-cars’ conversation. Fifty-eight percent of the used-car discussion is led by consumers over 35, the same group contributed a measly 16% to the new-cars conversation. Also noteworthy is the fact that the overall audience discussing both used and new cars skews female.

What else do they like?

Analyzing pools of affinities and conversation topics can help spot the right audience and understand them better. We found there to be very little, or almost no overlap between groups discussing new and old cars.
The age group of the audience hints at specific interests — the audience discussing new cars skew younger and tend discuss brands like Nike, Starbucks and Playstation and talk about homework, makeup and volleyball whereas the group talking about used cars have more worldly interests discussed healthcare, world news, law and conservative politics.

And the last word goes to…consumers

Listening to key conversations on social media can help segment an audience to decipher how their demands make them different. Some are easily pleased with a decent sound system whereas some others drive a hard bargain for used cars. Either way, they are bringing their concerns and queries to forums. Are carmakers tuned in?
This is a part of a larger series on the automotive industry. Click here to download the full report.

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