Battle for Auto Loan Customers Shifts from Dealership to Online Pre-Approval, J.D. Power Finds

Battle for Auto Loan Customers Shifts from Dealership to Online Pre-Approval, J.D. Power Finds

45% of all customers now do research prior to financing a vehicle

In an automotive market beset by supply shortages and record high prices, more vehicle shoppers than ever have begun shopping for vehicle financing before ever setting foot in a dealership. According to the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study,SM released today, auto financing pre-approval has become the top of the funnel for auto loan customer acquisition and brand loyalty, putting the focus on digital channels as the starting point for the consumer financing journey.

“Auto financing customer behavior has fundamentally shifted from an exercise that largely took place in a dealership finance department to one that takes place online upwards of 30 days prior to a vehicle purchase,” said Patrick Roosenberg, director of automotive finance intelligence at J.D. Power. “Nearly half—45%—of all customers now do research prior to financing a vehicle and their experiences with lenders  can have a tremendous influence on that process. That really puts the onus on lenders to deliver a superior customer experience to existing customers and to position their websites and consumer marketing initiatives to maximize conversions.”

Following are key findings of the 2021 study:

  • Pre-approval becomes lynchpin to auto financing journey: Nearly half (45%) of all auto loan customers do some type of research on financing options prior to purchasing a new vehicle. The proportion jumps to 62% among members of Generation Z.[1] Ultimately, 60% of customers who shop online for auto financing options end up applying for a pre-approval.
  • Auto financing research begins a month before a purchase: Among most auto loan customers who research financing options prior to a purchase, the research process begins more than 30 days prior to purchasing or leasing a vehicle. Effective use of both applied for and unsolicited pre-approvals can lead to a greater customer recapture rate and conquest opportunities.
  • The memory remains: Current and past experiences with auto lenders matter now more than ever as many customers begin the shopping process because of marketing information or incentives they’ve received from their existing lender or auto manufacturer.
  • Personalization is next frontier: Customers have different preferences for how they want to manage their accounts and be contacted by lenders. As this interaction continues to shift to digital channels, lenders will need to tailor their outreach to the needs of individual customers.

Study Rankings

BMW Financial Services ranks highest in customer satisfaction among luxury brands, with a score of 874. Chase Automotive Finance (871) ranks second and Ally Financial (865) ranks third.

Ford Credit ranks highest among mass market brands, with a score of 867. Capital One Auto Finance (863) ranks second and Honda Financial Services (860) ranks third.

The newly redesigned U.S. Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study measures overall customer satisfaction in five factors (listed alphabetically): account management; application/approval process; billing and payment process; customer orientation process; and customer service experience. The study was fielded in July-August 2021 and is based on responses from 10,462 customers who financed a new or used vehicle through a loan or lease within the past three years.

For more information about the U.S. Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study, visit

About J.D. Power
J.D. Power is a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services and data and analytics. A pioneer in the use of big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithmic modeling capabilities to understand consumer behavior, J.D. Power has been delivering incisive industry intelligence on customer interactions with brands and products for more than 50 years. The world’s leading businesses across major industries rely on J.D. Power to guide their customer-facing strategies.

J.D. Power has offices in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. To learn more about the company’s business offerings, visit The J.D. Power auto shopping tool can be found at

1J.D. Power defines generational groups as Pre-Boomers (born before 1946); Boomers (1946-1964); Gen X (1965-1976); and Gen Y (1977-1994); and Gen Z (1995-2004). Xennials (1978-1981) and Millennials (1982-1994) are subsets of Gen Y.

2021 U.S. Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study
2021 U.S. Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study
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