What Car? Reliability Survey - what does it reveal about owners and their cars?

Car owners tell us what they like most - and least - about their cars, and if they buy new or used cars and how much they pay for them...

25 March 2019
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What do you like most about your car? 

Reliability was the number one factor that owners liked about their cars, followed by comfort and performance. 

What do you like least about your car? 

For many owners there isn’t anything they don’t like about their car. Those who had gripes mostly complained about poor fuel economy and boot space.

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What research methods did you use before buying your car? 

What Car? is a popular research tool for car buyers – 61% of you used online car reviews like those on whatcar.com to help you choose your current car and 39% of you read car magazines. The car showroom is still a popular source of information with 58% of buyers visiting a dealership before buying their car.

Did you buy new, pre-registered or used?

Our respondents are a lucky bunch – just over half (51%) bought their current car new or pre-registered, with the rest being bought used. In comparison, the overall split between new and used sales in the UK is 24% new car sales and 76% used.

Where did you buy your current car? 

Given the high proportion of new car buyers, it’s not that surprising that most people (65%) bought their car from a franchised dealer. The next most popular buying option was independent dealers (17%), followed by private sellers (7%).

Buying online is gaining popularity – 3% of cars were bought this way, which is the same percentage as those bought from car supermarkets.

How did you pay for your current car? 

pile of twenty pound notes

Our respondents bucked the overall UK trend of buying on finance – 60% of them bought their cars with cash and only 20% used a personal contract purchase (PCP) plan. In the UK as a whole, more than 80% of new cars are bought on PCP deals.

When are you planning on replacing your car? 

While 34% of respondents were planning on replacing their car within the next 12 months, almost 40% were planning on keeping their car for up to three years and a further 27% were going to hang on to it for more than three years. 

How much will you spend on your next car? 

Our respondents may not replace their cars very often, but they do spend a fair amount when they do. Around 36% were planning on spending £15,000-£30,000, 17% expected to spend £30,000-£50,000 and 5% would spend more than that. Only 29% were going to pay out less than £15,000.

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