The first step of the consumer decision-making process is problem recognition. If there is a tension between the desired state decision and the actual state decision, then there is a problem that triggers a decision. Various non-marketing factors and needs influence this decision. For example, the mindset may be that the household needs a new family car because the current one is failing and costing considerably in repairs. It would generate significant comfort and positive experiences and be a good long-term investment. With the car market expected to experience delays and shortages due to COVID-19, it may be a good time to purchase before prices continue to go up. While it may be a significant financial burden, it is a permanent and useful element for the household.
The next step is information search. The household members may start thinking about the type of car they want basing on their own experiences, and they may ask for advice from personal sources such as friends and families. Then, there are external sources such as websites, videos, and guides to purchasing a family car. Part of the information search is based on certain criteria, such as the available budget or loan, rebates, and other benefits that may be received from purchasing a specific type or brand of vehicle. The amount of information searched depends both on the consumer and the target market’s decision-making patterns.
The third step is the pre-purchase evaluation of alternatives. While there may be an evoked set of car brands desired, such as previously owned cars or well-known family car brands, since it is a large purchase, evaluative criteria will be considered based on key product attributes. Therefore, aspects such as reliability, safety rating, and features, gas mileage, comfort/family settings that are important in a family vehicle may be considered. Different approaches to decision rules may be used, by evaluation by aspect, where brands are ranked on an evaluative criterion until only one is left or compensatory, with the brand with the highest score in all relevant criteria being the most effective in selecting a vehicle. However, consumers do tend to have limited ability to accurately evaluate alternatives and most likely will be swayed by key elements such as price/discounts, warranty, and brand name.
After making a pre-purchase decision, the next step is store choice and purchase. Consumers decide where and how they will shop and potentially make in-store decision alterations. Cars are typically purchased at dealerships and official brand dealers. If a specific brand is already chosen, the consumer will likely head to the nearest dealership of that brand. If not, but the consumer has a set of features in mind, they may head to a multi-brand dealership the likes of Carmax. In a dealership, they can physically examine a car of their choice, compare it to others, and also be influenced by financial aspects such as the price, credit availability, and rebates. Since a car is a large purchase, there is little influence on alternative evaluations unless some other type or brand of car recommended by the seller also meets all the specific criteria initially examined. Given the strained state of the automotive market currently, it is possible that alternatives are found until a purchase is made. Finally, there are the post-purchase processes.
With a car, there is potential for buyer’s remorse due to the sheer financial spending and the principle that a car depreciates in value relatively quickly. However, that is usually compensated by perks such as free oil changes and a warranty to maintain the quality and functionality of the vehicle.