Malaysians Take Less Than 3 Months to Purchase Cars after Online Research

October 7th, 2013

Findings by iCar Asia and Frost & Sullivan show digital shift fuelling significantly faster purchase decisions across SEA’s largest automotive markets.

It used to be the case where buying a car involved a six-month ‘sales funnel’ with numerous visits to showrooms, browsing through traditional media advertisements and buyers receiving advice from dealers. Not anymore.

A recently released study shows that car buyers in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia on average take less than 3 months to go from interested to purchase to driving home a new set of wheels. What’s driving this accelerated decision making process is the fact that buyers are becoming more informed and empowered through online research. 

The iCar Asia Digital Shift Study commissioned by iCar Asia and conducted by Frost and Sullivan, showed that more than 80% of car buyers in the region’s three largest automotive markets begin and complete their car purchase process within 3 months.

The Study finds that car buyers start by comparing websites, checking out reviews by professionals / owners on review sites, going through social media, and then looking for the best prices online before finally visiting a dealer for test drives.  All this is done in a very short space of time. In Malaysia, it’s 2.4 months while Indonesia car buyers take 1.9 months & Thai car buyers 2.8 months.

In Online We Trust

Perhaps even more telling for the automotive industry is the fact that the Study also indicated that buyers place greater trust and credibility in online research compared to just relying on the brochures and sales pitches of automotive dealers. There is also a preference (frequency) to visit online compared to car dealerships.

Of the 95% Malaysian survey respondents who say they researched their car purchases online before buying a vehicle, 89% visited an online source an average of 6 times before visiting a dealership. In addition, more car buyers visited non-official websites (87%) rather than official car manufacturer websites (83%).

While this could be easily attributed to the ease and convenience of online research compared to physical visits, this would be an over simplistic assumption according to Ravi Miglani, Senior Director (Customer Research) of Frost & Sullivan,

“It’s not just that seeking information via online is easy. Car buyers realise that online sites provide comprehensive information that many dealers cannot provide. Buyers can do price comparisons, seek out personal experiences of other buyers, check out independent reviews and the latest photos of new models, as well as find out tips and things to look out for when looking for a particular make or model or when dealing with a salesperson. The digital shift is not being driven purely by ease of use, but also on credibility and the comprehensiveness of information available,” shared Miglani.

Damon Rielly, CEO of iCar Asia, mentioned that the survey was commissioned to better understand the automotive purchase process in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia and the changing trends that are reshaping buyer behaviour.

“There’s definitely a big shift, not just in the purchasing time frame, but essentially buyer behaviour. Gone are the days where dealers could wait in the showrooms for prospective car buyers to walk in. Marketers must start focussing online – attracting and engaging buyers where they really are present to win the hearts and minds of consumers. The most important source of car buying information is the web,” said Rielly.



  • 89% of the buyers research online before visiting to the actual dealership
  • Online sources and word of mouth (social) are the most important sources of research for Malaysian car buyers
  • 87% looked for information on non-official websites, i.e. blogs, car enthusiasts websites, etc.
  • Malaysian car buyers want from buyer reviews (66%), more accurate car model information (59%) and latest pictures of new models (46%).  


  • Indonesian car buyers take an average of 1.9 months to make a purchase decision while car buyers in Malaysia and Thailand take an average of 2.4 months and 2.8 months respectively.
  • More than 9 out of 10 car buyers say that online sources are crucial to the car buying process in Thailand (96%), Malaysia (95%) and Indonesia (90%)
  • During the car buying process, car buyers in Thailand visit a dealer an average of 3.14 times while they visit online websites for information at an average of 9.05 times. Malaysian car buyers, 3.57 times to dealers versus 6.78 times online and Indonesian car buyers, 3.10 times to dealers compared to 6.29 times online. 
For more information please contact:
Hamish Stone
Chief Executive Officer iCar Asia Ltd
Mobile:  +60 17 473 3778
Yee Chin Beng
Chief Financial Officer iCar Asia Ltd
Mobile: +60126558333

About iCar Asia Limited (

Listed on the Australia Securities Exchange, iCar Asia (ASX: ICQ) owns and operates ASEAN’s No.1 network of automotive portals. Headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the company is focused on developing and operating leading automotive portals in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. iCar Asia is continuously working to capitalize on its market-leading positions, with its online properties currently reaching over 11 million car buyers and sellers in the region.

iCar Asia Group Network of websites: