BBB: What car buyers consider before making a purchase

Milwaukee, Wis. – As the automotive industry starts to show signs of recovery, more consumers are turning to Better Business Bureau (BBB) to connect with trustworthy dealerships. Between January and June, the number of customer inquiries into new and used car dealers jumped 20% year-over-year, suggesting that the industry is starting to see an upturn.  

Between federal loan programs and manufacturer incentives, car sales have climbed since bottoming out in April. With consumer sentiment improving in June, McKinsey & Company reports that 75% of consumers have experimented with different shopping behaviors during the pandemic. The National Automotive Dealers Association says while vehicle sales are up 7% compared to May, it is down nearly 24% since last June.  

After analyzing approximately 98,000 BBB complaints and customer reviews on new and used car dealerships, BBB reveals top customer considerations when purchasing a vehicle. 

Download the infographic (PDF).

What Customers Like 

  • Friendliness– customers tell BBB that friendly salespeople made the buying experience better. Nearly a quarter of customers say that kindness and openness gave them peace of mind. Creating an emotional connection with the customer led to a positive experience at the dealership. 
  • Loyalty – Customer loyalty is often developed after the point of purchase when the buyer returns home with the car. Customers who have a positive sales experience are more likely to bring the vehicle back to the dealership for maintenance or repairs, according to McKinsey & Company
  • The Showroom – While a clean and organized showroom can go a long way for a prospective car buyer; many dealers are focusing on the virtual experience. According to Consumer Reports, car dealers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by ramping up their online sales tactics and offering home delivery options. For buyers who desire an in-person experience, an impressive showroom can make an impact by highlighting the dealership’s pride in their cars and facilities.  

What Customers Don’t Like 

  • Mechanical Issues – an overwhelming 42% of BBB complaints and customer reviews deal specifically with service issues and breakdowns soon after purchase. Customers correlated the mechanical issues back to where they originally purchased the car.  
  • Maintenance – a quarter of the BBB complaints and customer reviews mentioned the dealership’s handling of repairs. New car dealerships were exceptionally high, since many of those facilities offer vehicle maintenance versus used car dealers. Now, amid the pandemic, dealers are taking added steps to ensure service departments are fulfilling orders safely. 
  • Sales Tactics – 18% of people complained to BBB about shady business practices before the papers were signed. Allegations include bait-and-switch and high-pressure sales tactics.  

Price isn’t everything 

While pricing and speed of service are essential to many car buyers, trust, transparency, and advertising honestly can make or break a deal. Sixty-seven percent of customers say they’ll pay more for a great experience, according to Automotive News.  

BBB Accredited Auto Dealers commit to embody integrity and tell the truth by meeting or exceeding the BBB Standards for Trust. With more than 10,000 BBB Accredited new and used car dealers across North America, consumers have a choice when purchasing a vehicle.   

As consumer confidence grows and businesses rebound from the pandemic, auto dealers have an opportunity to focus more on trust and customer experience.  

To learn more about how BBB can add trust to your business, visit us here.   For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.  ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2019, people turned to BBB more than 183 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.8 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.