Most buyers spend the majority of their time online when planning a car purchase.

New study details how long it takes before car shoppers buy

When it comes to the car shopping process and what to know when buying, there's really no such thing as having too much information. Settling on the right vehicle to buy is arguably the biggest purchase decision the average consumer makes, so the factors and variables at work are not to be taken lightly.

As challenging as the decision may be, though, a newly released survey suggests many buyers may have their minds made up even before the research process begins in earnest.

From start to finish – beginning with an internet search and ending with their signature – car buyers carve out a grand total 14 hours and 48 minutes for the hunt, according to a recent study conducted by Cox Automotive. During this period, approximately 60% of it is devoted entirely to the web, both researching specifications and seeing what's out there and available for purchase.

Buying online only? Most say yes

As with many other industries, like online auto insurance, the internet has revolutionized the car shopping experience. With with a few button clicks and random keystrokes, reams of information are at consumers' fingertips. In a poll done two years ago, three-quarters of respondents said they wouldn't have any problems with conducting their entire car-buying process online, based on the findings from an Accenture survey. Indeed, of the 10,000 car-seeking individuals who took part in the poll, 80% said they would be using the internet in one capacity or another before they came to a final decision.

Interestingly, the average amount of time buyers dedicate before spending money depends on the kind of vehicle they're interested in. For example, used car buyers devoted 15 hours and 39 minutes to the process – 62% of it online – compared to 13 hours and four minutes for all-new automobiles, the report discovered. Roughly 55% of that was exclusively via the internet.

Experts believe online car buying is here to stay because of its convenience.Experts believe online car buying is here to stay because of its convenience.

Not only are more consumers taking full advantage of the internet – sometimes at the exclusion of seeing cars in person – but they're doing so on multiple devices. More than half – 53% – of respondents said they'd shop for a car on various outlets, like their smartphone, tablet, as well as their laptop or desktop, Cox Automotive discovered. Just 18% said they'd complete everything through one handheld device.

Consumers have a bit of a love-hate relationship with internet-based car shopping, because even though they're more willing to use the web as an exclusive means to shop and buy, it doesn't quite match the in-person experience, a separate poll from Accenture discovered. For example, among U.S.-based shoppers, 35% said they preferred going the old-fashioned route, buying straight from a dealership. Similarly, half of respondents in the Cox Automotive survey said their purchase decisions were influenced both by websites as well as the dealerships they frequented. However, nearly 40% of people in the poll said they only visit one dealership.

Third-party websites going the extra mile

Third-party automotive information companies are always looking to make the car shopping process more efficient for consumers. Last year, vehicle valuation firm Kelley Blue Book introduced an online tool called "Get New Car Smart" that aims to arm buyers with all the specifics they need before deciding what car is the best bet. Edmunds.com, another third-party auto information domain, has similarly resourceful shopping tools.

Mark O'Neil, COX Automotive chief operating officer, recently said that he fully anticipates the "click to buy" trend to continue, to the point where its the norm.

"The beauty of digital retailing is that it is a win-win," O'Neil explained at the Automotive Forum, according to Auto Remarketing Magazine. "Consumers are happier, and early studies show that digital retailing tools can help dealers turn inventory up to five days faster as compared to traditional sales."

There's no right or wrong answer about the best car-buying medium. But here at Elephant Auto Insurance, we can confidently say that online car insurance has helped more people obtain affordable premiums, without compromising on coverage quality. Discover how easy it can be by getting a free quote.