More than four out of five motorists looking for a used car go online to search for one, new research suggests.
According to used car expert HPI, 84% of the people it surveyed said they checked out classifieds on websites such as Auto Trader or Fish4Cars.
Most buyers also believed they would get a better deal on second-hand cars online than through dealers.
Nearly half (46%) thought their model of choice would be cheaper online, while 30% thought they would get the best prices at auction.
Just 14% thought purchasing a car through classifieds would be the most affordable option and 10% favoured franchised and independent dealers, or car supermarkets.
HPI said the findings indicated that dealers would do well to invest in developing attractive "virtual" showrooms.
Daniel Burgess, managing director at HPI, said: "With consumers generally now browsing and buying online, not just by PC but by smartphones and tablets, those dealers that treat their website as secondary now need to be taking steps to shift its priority."
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