NEW YORK: Digital media is becoming an increasingly influential factor on car purchase habits in the US, with tablets and smartphones exerting a growing impact, a study has found.

Based on data drawn from a survey of 12,289 people who bought or leased a car, JD Power & Associates, insights provider, revealed that 79% of buyers now research potential auto buys online.

Some 99% of this audience used a desktop or laptop computer as part of this process, while 20% used smartphones and 19% a tablet.

More broadly, a 30% share of the consumers who looked for vehicle details before making their final choice sought out this material via at least two of these channels.

In all, 59% of people using their smartphone on the path to purchase actually used the device while they were in a dealership, with searches for information on pricing, product specification and vehicle comparison proving especially popular. By contrast, tablet owners normally deployed their devices at home.

"Access to new-vehicle information through the internet and apps ... is having a greater impact on many aspects of the purchase decision than ever before," said Arianne Walker, a senior director at JD Power & Associates.

"It is important for brands and websites to provide consistency across their sites and apps, no matter what device is being used to access the information.  The shopping experience should be equally usable and the shopping information equally complete, no matter the device."

The most popular sources of information among the digital media audience were manufacturer websites on 98%, followed by third-party sites on 81% and online platforms run by dealers on 73%.

But social media had a rather more limited impact, with just 5% of respondents relying on services like Facebook and Twitter for information.

Brand owner websites were usually favoured when it came to researching specific car models. Independent online sources, on the other hand, typically served as tools to compare products and read consumer reviews.

Dealer websites were generally accessed to find out about availability, as well as for researching opening hours, contact details and directions.

Elsewhere, the analysis discovered that 59% of internet users only narrowed down their consideration list to one car during the final week before making a purchase.

Data sourced from JD Power &* Associates; additional content by Warc staff