How lockdown has changed South Africa's car-buying patterns

VW Golf GTI. Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
VW Golf GTI. Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
Charlen Raymond

• South African consumers have changed their car-buying patterns since lockdown earlier in 2020.

• There has been a massive car-preference change.

• An interesting trend was the substantial growth in searches for the Volkswagen Golf.

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Lockdown has affected every single South African – on so many levels. One of the most interesting impacts has been the change in car-buying patterns.

This perhaps surprising finding has emerged from an analysis of search and sales data on AutoTrader before and during the various levels of lockdown. AutoTrader is the largest digital automotive marketplace in South Africa. Accordingly, it provides unparalleled insight into car-buying patterns in the country. 

According to George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO, it is interesting to see how preferences have changed during the lockdown. "The 2020 AutoTrader Car Industry Report reveals which cars were the most searched for pre- and during-lockdown. When one compares this to search data during Lockdown Level 2 (18 August to date), there are some distinct differences," he points out.

One of the most interesting trends was the substantial growth in searches for the Volkswagen Golf. In contrast, it was the fourth most searched for vehicle before lockdown, it shot up into the first position during Lockdown Level 5 and Level 4.

Image: Wheels24 / Warren Wilson

"This could have something to do with the affordability of the Golf. According to the 2020 AutoTrader Car Industry Report, the average selling price of the Golf over the past year was R288 049 while the average selling price of the Hilux was R327 807. The dominance of the Golf during lockdown could indicate that motorists were under financial pressure and wanted to minimise their spending on a car," Mienie maintains.

car search prelockdown

There was however an exception to this rule in the form of the Porsche 911 which was the tenth most searched for car during the lockdown. 

"The 911 is periodically in the top 10 list of most searched for cars – yet it did appear during the lockdown. Maybe motorists were dreaming of better times to come, or maybe they just wanted to have some fun during what was a very difficult time for us all," Mienie suggests.

level x lockdown, car search

The data also reveals lower search statistics for the Ford Ranger compared to its competitors. "According to the 2020 AutoTrader Car Industry Report, the Ford Ranger was the top-selling used car, contributing 4,7% of all cars sold, at an average selling price of R305 944, an average mileage of 85 948km and an average year model of 2016. Yet it was the fifth most searched for vehicle during all three periods," Mienie reveals.

While the exact reasoning behind the search data is supposition, Mienie says that one thing is certain: "Lockdown has had an enormous impact on the lives of motorists (and indeed all South Africans). It has greatly impacted the used car market too. Hopefully, those challenging times are now behind us," concludes Mienie.

car search during lockdown

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