<img alt="" src="https://secure.wire0poor.com/215720.png" style="display:none;">
Request a Demo Sign In
February 26, 2024

What Are Customers Talking About Most When Reviewing Car Dealerships?

We found the five main categories that automotive customers care about. Learn how to utilize this information to improve your business operations.

In today’s market, customers look to each other for advice on where to go for their automotive needs. Reviews can be the deciding factor in which dealership a consumer will choose to work with, so knowing what topics affect a given rating will help your business provide the best possible customer experience. 

We collected 1.5 million Google reviews from 16,000+ new car dealerships in the U.S. spanning from February to June of 2023. Widewail’s data science team analyzed these reviews to determine exactly what topics automotive customers care about today.

Let’s take a look at the top 5 leading review categories that come up in dealership reviews to learn what affects a customer’s experience the most, whether positively or negatively, and how you can utilize this knowledge to improve your business. 

1. Staff

78.1% of positive reviews mention staff 

The most popular category mentioned in positive reviews is the interaction between customers and employees. Eight out of ten reviews mention staff, seven of which are positive. Within this category, these are the most common topics that are mentioned and the percentage of positive staff reviews they come up in:

  • Communication (11.21%)
  • Helpfulness (30.81%)
  • Friendliness (22.90%)
  • Professionalism (17.60%)
  • Honesty (3.05%)

The prevalence of these topics suggests the importance of quality personal attention, transparency, and a positive attitude during customer service interactions. It seems that customers are particularly happy when they have productive communication with a specific agent.

We found that 57% of all reviews mention individual team members. The experience customers have with a specific staff member at a dealership is the most commonly mentioned category in Google reviews and has the leading influence on positive reviews.

Not only are staff commonly mentioned in reviews, but they also have a huge impact on the sentiment of reviews. In fact, Widewail found that more than any other category, staff is five times more predictive of a positive outcome than pricing (cost, warranty, deals) and twelve times more predictive than dealership topics like inventory, loaner cars or valet services. This metric indicates that price and dealership attributes (cleanliness, inventory, valet, loaner car, and trade-in) had an insignificant effect on the star rating of a customer’s review.

Screenshot 2024-03-04 at 4.04.09 PM

54.9% of negative reviews mention staff

Of the negative reviews that discuss staff, communication (mentioned in 36.84% of negatives) is the leading subcategory of topics that come up. Other topics that rank are:

  • Personnel (17.04%)
  • Management (16.72%)
  • Honest (6.81%)
  • Helpful (4.17%)
  • Professional (3.42%)
  • Friendly (2.37%)
  • Bait and Switch (1.92%)

These terms suggest that when a customer has a negative experience with the staff, it is due to a lack of transparency, professionalism, and kindness in the process. 

2. Department

75.7% of positive reviews mention a specific department

The second most commonly mentioned topic in positive reviews is the experience with a specific department (Sales, Service, Parts, Finance, etc.) a customer interacted with. The data shows that positive reviews most often reference a positive experience with the Sales Department or Service Department—parts and finance departments are less commonly mentioned.

63.3% of negative reviews mention a specific department

The most frequently mentioned category in negative automotive dealership reviews is the department as a whole. Service is mentioned more frequently than any other department (43.7% of negative reviews are for the Service Department), suggesting that customers have more negative experiences with vehicle repairs and service than they do with the sales side of the business. 

Just as a positive experience reflects well on the whole department, a negative experience with a section of a team will hurt the overall perception of the department, so your dealership must collaborate to problem solve.

Screenshot 2024-03-04 at 2.17.00 PM

3. Customer Experience

17.5% of positive reviews mention the customer experience
As is to be expected, another highly ranked topic in positive reviews is the actual experience the customer had at a dealership. Was the work completed thoroughly? Was the client’s vehicle treated with respect? Were there unforeseen issues, and how were they handled? Was the client kept in the loop? While a complicated repair process doesn’t necessarily guarantee a negative review, service work that is effective, reliable, and simple will make for a great customer experience. 

For automotive purchases, it is important to ensure that the process is transparent, accommodating, and respectful. If a customer feels supported and treated like a person, not just a sale, their review will often mention that experience. 

At a dealership, wait times greatly affect a customer’s experience. Our analysis shows that when a customer’s wait time is consistent with their expectations, their review is more likely to be positive.

50.2% of negative reviews mention the customer experience
The customer experience ranks third in both positive and negative reviews. Negative reviews about the customer experience are centered around unsatisfactory services, wait times, and mistakes. Car maintenance and repairs are mentioned in 33% of negative reviews, and wait times are mentioned 3.1x more often in negative reviews than in positive ones. Dealer-caused damage is also referenced frequently. 

A customer’s experience can be greatly impacted by unexpected issues that occur or an unpleasant appointment—if these issues are not addressed and handled sensitively by the dealership. A negative experience can almost always be improved.

4. Price

8.7% of positive reviews mention price 
Though it may be surprising, price is not mentioned often in positive reviews (4.37% of all positive reviews). Our research indicates that in positive service reviews, pricing generally meets the customer’s expectations and therefore isn’t brought up as much. In positive sales reviews, the larger costs associated with a vehicle purchase are already anticipated. When a dealership matches the expected price estimate, it tends to be an accepted neutral factor in the customer’s experience. 

25.9% of negative reviews mention price
Despite the undeniable fact that the price of a new car or large service bill is central to the customer’s experience, this category comes up less often than other factors. Still, we found that price concerns are almost five times more common among unhappy customers than happy customers, likely because people happy with the price don’t feel the need to mention it, while people upset with the price are compelled to call it out.

Fees for service work are especially in danger of prompting a negative review. While dealerships advertise the sale price of a vehicle publicly, the cost of a service is unique to each situation, and it can often be communicated inconsistently by different team members throughout the process. Warranties and deals that don’t match a customer’s expectations are also mentioned in negative reviews about price. 

However, the experience with pricing does not make or break a review. In service, where pricing is not as transparent, avoid surprises by setting clear pricing expectations upfront and maintaining real-time communication for service customers.

5. Dealership 

8.9% of positive reviews mention the dealership
While mentions of dealership-related attributes come up less frequently in positive reviews, factors such as inventory, loaner cars and valet services, trade-in policies and facility cleanliness still have an impact on reviews. Policies that make the client’s experience at a dealership easy and pleasant do not go unnoticed or unappreciated by your customers.

13.3% of negative reviews mention the dealership
Lowest in the top 5 factors are the aspects and policies of the dealership—the same in both positive and negative reviews. Where helpful practices such as loaner cars, pleasant waiting areas, and expansive inventories are bound to improve a client’s satisfaction, the absence of those elements does not automatically lead to a negative review. Still, the more effort that a dealership puts into policies and practices that make a customer’s visit more comfortable, the happier they will be.

To sum up…

Positive Reviews Most Often Mention:

  • Good experience with sales department
  • Specific staff member name
  • Helpful
  • Friendly
  • Professional team
  • Vehicle was repaired effectively
  • Wait times met expectations

Screenshot 2024-03-04 at 4.16.25 PM
Negative Reviews Most Often Mention: 

  • Poor communication
  • Service department
  • Unsatisfactory or expensive repairs
  • Long Wait Times
  • Price Surprises

Screenshot 2024-03-04 at 4.33.00 PM

So, What Can You Do with this Information?

Now that we have the leading topics in positive and negative reviews, you can use them to both target areas for improvement and amplify the strengths in your dealership.

Here are some tips!

  • Invest in technology that unifies pricing information across platforms, facilitates efficient customer communication and shares reviews that highlight the process better
  • Listen to the feedback from your customers and make adjustments based on it
  • Invest further in the hiring process to ensure that your team is cohesive and collaboratively committed to providing top-notch customer service
  • Monitor and act on rising review mentions like wait times, pricing, dealer-caused damage, Sales and Management (a spike in these indicates a problem).
  • Respond to all reviews and demonstrate your commitment to client satisfaction

In 2024, the dealership that goes the extra mile to provide personalized and dependable support will be the one that stands apart from the crowd. Download the 2023 Voice of the Customer Report to read more about our findings and learn what you can do with this information to better serve your customers and bolster your dealership.

2023 voice of the customer report, analyzing customer review data in automotive

Ellie Guyon

I'm a Vermont local and graduate of UVM where I studied English, Global Studies and the Creative Arts. Outside of my Review Response Specialist role at Widewail, I take on projects with local arts groups as a writer, performer/director, and musician. I am an avid reader and I enjoy collaborating on all things creative.

U3GM Blog Post Comments

Other posts you might be interested in

How to Use Analogies to Make Complex Numbers Resonate // Local Marketing Insider #078

6 min read | April 17, 2024
What 4% and BMW can teach us about better writing.
Jake Hughes Director of Marketing

How to Get More Reviews: Insider Secrets

10 min read | April 17, 2024
If you want to get more reviews for your local business this month, not by year’s-end, do these 9 things. The big $ secret: consistency.
Jake Hughes Director of Marketing

How to Handle a Mass Online Review Spam Event

6 min read | April 15, 2024
Learn how to resolve a variety of online and Google review spam scenarios to protect your company’s reputation.
Colleen Bierschenk Review Response Specialist

Local Marketing Insider

Bite-sized, to-the-point, trend-driven local marketing stories and tactics.