More than half of those searching for a car use the internet to inform their choice, according to a report by Close Brothers Motor Finance.

The report ‘Britain under the Bonnet’ found that 40% of prospective car buyers searched online using Google, Bing, or Autotrader, 11% used auction websites such as eBay, and 4% made use of social media.

Just 43% turned to their dealer for advice on their next vehicle purchase, while 30% asked friends and family, 17% read motor magazines, and 12% looked in the motor section of newspapers.

Those who went to a dealer for advice spent less time researching before they made a purchase, 21 days, almost half of the 41 days needed by online searchers.

Close Brothers found that 44% of motorists purchased their last car from a new car dealership, compared to 34% who went to a second hand dealer, and 13% to a private seller.

Used car dealerships were more popular among those aged 18-34 years however, with 39% of this age group opting for second hand, versus 34% who used a new dealership.

The results display a generational divide, as older drivers aged 35-54 years prefer new car dealerships, with 41% opting for them versus 34% choosing second hand.

Over 55s were even less likely to purchase a used car, with just 31% of motorists in this age group using a second-hand dealer, and 54% choosing new.

James Broadhead, chief executive officer of Close Brothers Motor Finance, said the results showed that dealerships still had an important role in consumers’ purchasing choices.

He said: “The way people buy cars is evolving, as the internet is making consumers more conscious of what they want.

“But the research makes it clear that people still look to dealers for advice and support, and there are real opportunities on offer to dealers who have the right insight into what their customers are looking for.”