How Do Borrowers Shop for Car Loans?

Think about the last time you bought a car. What was important to you? Maybe you wanted a new, fast car or maybe it was the right time to trade in your old fast car for a family-friendly minivan. Either way, you might have asked friends for recommendations, visited multiple dealerships, or if you’re like most shoppers today, you spent a lot of time researching it online. As a banker, you probably also thought a lot about financing your new purchase. Regular consumers approach car shopping the same way.

Today about 43% of American adults have car loans. And Millennials are buying cars at a much higher rate than the previous generation. According to TransUnion, people ages 21 through 34 are taking out 21% more auto loans than Gen X borrowers did at the same age.

With all of the digital tools and resources available to shoppers today, the car buying process has changed. CarGurus recently released their 2018 Buyer Insight Report about how people shop for cars. They found that the top reasons that people start looking for a new car are that they need to replace their vehicle soon, want to upgrade, or their current vehicle doesn’t work.


What consumers are looking for online.


According to Autotrader, car buyers spend 61% of their time researching and shopping online. We took a look at Google Trends and Google Keywords to see what shoppers are actually searching for on the internet when they’re ready to buy a car. Here’s what we found.

breakout car loan search terms
This data from Google Trends shows the breakout terms searched over the past five years. Breakout terms refer to words or phrases that have had a large jump in volume over a certain time period. From this, we can see that people tend to search for the cheapest new cars. We also found that pretty early in their search for a new vehicle, people are using specific terms for their segment like “best car for teens” or “best car for families.”

Looking at this screenshot from Google Keyword Planner, we can see that people are searching for used cars in high volume. The prominence of this term indicates that many shoppers are very cost-conscious during the car buying process.

car buying search terms
On par with the searches for “used car” are searches for car payment calculators. This suggests that financing is not an afterthought or something people only start thinking about once they’re at the dealership. It’s top of mind when people start shopping.

car loan searches
We also found that when people are searching for financing, they tend to search for the term “car loans” over “auto loans.” Keep this in mind when revising your webpage about your loan products. Using the term “car loans” instead of “auto loans” can help you rank higher for what people are actually searching for.


Get their attention.


CarGurus found that 50% of shoppers get their financing through the seller (like the dealership) and 49% get financing through a financial institution. In PwC’s recent Consumer Lending Report, borrowers said that the largest differentiator among lenders is “having a fast end-to-end process.” They’re also looking for loans that provide product comparison tools, financial literacy tools, and loan status updates. Basically, they want a more modern, technologically advanced loan than what they’re used to.

When you have a great loan product that checks all of those boxes, you can use targeted marketing to send information about your auto loan products to consumers who may be buying a car soon; that way you’re top of mind when they start to think about financing.

Tags: Research, Lending