COVID-19 is having a big effect on how the nation buys cars as more people opt for an entirely online experience through local dealers, according to a leading online motors site.

Exchange & Mart found through its latest car buying survey that 41% of customers insisted that the dealer must be local – despite fewer people choosing to visit the forecourt in person.

And more than a quarter of those asked said finding a local dealer for their purchase has become very important to them due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the process of researching a car to buy moved online some time ago, most car buyers still sought comfort in visiting dealers to view the car in person for the second biggest purchase they are likely to make beyond buying their home.

But since the outbreak of Covid-19, Exchange and Mart reports car buyers are still turning to local trusted dealers who are offering an entirely contact-free car buying process.

Dawn Sweeney, managing director of Exchange and Mart, said: “As with all businesses, we weren’t immune to the effects of lockdown, with car buying essentially stopping when physical showrooms had to shut their doors.

“However, this accelerated innovation from our dealers to provide virtual viewings, click and collect offerings and full remote purchases with home delivery.

“Our research highlighted car buyers’ desire for a local brand they could trust. With over 150 years under our belt as a trusted source for cars across the UK combined with being part of the Newsquest Media Group that serves local communities through our local newspapers and local news sites, we are in a unique position to reach a local car buying audience, so it’s no surprise that 85% of Exchange and Mart visitors would recommend us and 73% are likely to use again.”

The ‘local and trusted’ sentiment car buyers seek has become central to the new advertising campaign for Exchange & Mart, with the brand tapping into the appeal of local sellers and the service they provide.

Mrs Sweeney said: “Listening to our consumers was key when developing our new campaign. We’ve always prided ourselves on working with local dealers throughout the UK, both big and small, and worked hard to build personal relationships with them.

“Trust has always been a big part of our messaging and after conducting surveys and speaking to car buyers, it was evident that this was more important than ever.”

Exchange and Mart has been known for a string of humorous adverts through the years, and Mrs Sweeney said it was important when creating this campaign that they held true to their roots and injected an element of humour into the storytelling.

Their new campaign sets the scene with a young boy helping his dad reverse his slightly banged up car into the driveway, with the help of a few reversing ‘beep’ sounds as he pretends to be a parking sensor.

While getting distracted by his phone, his dad bumps the car.

The tagline reads; ‘You can’t trust a 10 year old to help you park your car, but with hundreds of thousands of used cars from local dealers, you can trust Exchange and Mart to find your next one.’