Data released on December 8 by AutoTrader, Canada’s largest automotive market platform, reveals a nuanced view of car buyer preferences in 2022.
This trend is characterized by rising consumer demand, the residual impact of the global microchip shortage and record high fuel prices. While luxury and classic car brands remain the favourites among Canadians, more economical options are also gaining in popularity. Note that curiosity about exotic or high-end models does not necessarily translate into a buying signal.
With 11 million Canadians visiting AutoTrader.ca each month to browse hundreds of thousands of new and used vehicles for sale, AutoTrader mines and analyzes its research data each year to discover what Canadian car buyers are interested in and provide insight into the most desirable car choices.
Ford F-150 tops the charts
The long-established Honda Civic climbed four spots to second place among Canada’s most popular vehicles, while the Toyota Corolla and Camry moved up several spots in the Top 20 list.
For the eighth year in a row, the Ford F-150 remains at the top of AutoTrader’s list of Canada’s most wanted vehicles for 2022, while an SUV, the Jeep Wrangler, has taken the BMW M cars’ place on the list.
Wanted vehicles in Canada
- Ford F-150
- Honda Civic
- BMW Serie 3
- Ford Mustang
- Mercedes-Benz Class C
- Porsche 911
- Toyota RAV4
- Mercedes-Benz Class E
- Chevrolet Corvette
- Jeep Wrangler
With the cost of living and gas prices rising significantly in 2022, Canadian consumers appear to be paying more attention to their car choices. The biggest change in this year’s Top 10 list was the dramatic rise of the Honda Civic from sixth to second place.
In addition, interest in the affordable Toyota Corolla has increased significantly in searches, rising eight spots since 2021 (from 23rd to 15th). It made the list of the top 20 most wanted vehicles nationally for the first time since 2019, and it replaced other vehicles to make the top 10 most wanted list in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.
These changes suggest that a segment of the Canadian population is looking for more economical options, and that this class of car is still popular.
“The year 2022 has been particularly different from previous years – with significant concerns such as rising costs of living, vehicle shortages and economic pressures,” says Ian MacDonald, chief marketing officer at AutoTrader. “However, it is encouraging to see that Canadians’ purchase intentions for vehicles have remained stable. They are looking to make financially savvy decisions, including being flexible in their vehicle choices and spending more time educating themselves using resources like our marketplace before taking action.”
The 2022 provincial search data revealed the top regional preferences of car buyers across the country.
British Columbia moves away from luxury
This year, the Honda Civic earned a spot on the province’s top 10 list, knocking the BMW M off the list and signaling that BC continues to move away from luxury vehicles.
In 2021, the more economical Toyota RAV4 (in 4th place) replaced the luxurious BMW X5. While in 2020, BC had six luxury vehicles on its Most Wanted list – the most in the country compared to any other region – by 2022, the list is down to four. When it comes to top honors, the Ford F-150 remains in first place.
Popular SUVs in Alberta
Large vehicles continue to attract attention in Alberta. Four SUV models, one more than last year, and one truck make up half of the most wanted list. The Toyota Tacoma, 4Runner and Chevrolet Corvette have disappeared from the list, and Albertans have replaced them with the BMW X5 (in 8th place), Honda Civic (9th) and Toyota Highlander (10th).
Pickup trucks still popular in Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan remained true to its tradition, once again surpassing all other provinces in the number of pickup trucks in its top 10 list. The Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 and Toyota Tacoma are still the favorites in the class. The province holds the top spot on the most wanted list without any luxury vehicles, and the Honda Civic (in 3rd place) made it to the top of the list, demonstrating Saskatchewan’s convenience.
Ontario moves to more economical models
Passenger cars continue to dominate in Ontario, occupying eight of the top ten spots on the region’s most wanted list. This year, Ontarians were looking for more economical options, which is why the list has one less luxury vehicle model, and the Honda Civic, which was in fifth place last year, has risen to the top spot. In 2022, Honda Accord searches (in 10th place) replaced BMW M sedan searches.
Honda Civic takes back its title in Quebec
The year 2022 marked the return of the perennial provincial favorite Honda Civic to the top of the list, dethroning the Porsche 911 – the surprise favorite for 2021. However, the Porsche 911 is just behind (in 2nd place), creating an interesting combination of luxury and economy. The Toyota Corolla (8th) is a newcomer that succeeded the Jeep Cherokee in the list of the 10 most wanted vehicles.
SUVs dominate in Manitoba
This year, SUVs have gained ground in Manitoba and represent 60% of the vehicles on the top 10 list, making it the most interested province in this category. In 2022, the Toyota Highlander (in 9th place) replaced the Chevrolet Corvette and with this addition, the car class moved up to second place.
Maritime Provinces move away from large vehicles
The Atlantic Provinces continued to shift away from luxury in 2022. The regional rise of SUVs in the region in 2021 was short-lived, with the Toyota Corolla (in 9th place) knocking the Toyota Highlander off this year’s top 10 list. While the Ford F-150 remains in first place, cars and sedans make up 50 percent of the vehicles on the list, which contains no luxury vehicles.
Trends for 2023
In addition to mining its market data for ideas and trends, AutoTrader conducts annual consumer research to provide an up-to-the-minute view of the changing automotive market.
This year’s research looked at how car buyers are reacting to the impact of the microchip shortage, in addition to inflation and rising costs of living. Here are the main observations on the market.
Electric vehicles (EVs) have been gaining popularity in recent years, and interest in these vehicles has reached new heights in 2022. When gas prices skyrocketed last March, searches for EVs on AutoTrader also increased drastically, by 89% over the previous year.
According to a survey of AutoTrader users, two out of three people intending to purchase an EV in Canada indicated that rising gasoline prices directly accelerated their decision to go green to reduce their dependence on fuel. In 2022, the number of car buyers who inquired about EVs increased by 148% over the previous year. Energy cost efficiency remains the primary driver of EV adoption, followed by environmental friendliness and low maintenance.
This year, Canadians continued to face higher vehicle purchase prices, stock-outs and longer delivery times due to the impact of the ongoing microchip shortage. New vehicles have become even more sought after products.
The average time a new vehicle stayed on AutoTrader dropped from 86 days in 2021 to 49 days in 2022 (a 43% decrease). Potential vehicle buyers in Canada have demonstrated a willingness to overcome challenges by adapting to new market standards, with 33% saying they are willing to purchase a different make and model of vehicle than the one they had planned to buy (up from 20% in 2021), and 23% saying they are willing to pay a higher price due to the shortage
Last year, the impact of the global microchip shortage greatly affected the supply of new vehicles, encouraging more Canadians to consider buying a used vehicle. The trend has continued into 2022 as AutoTrader.ca research shows that one-third (36%) of Canadians looking to purchase a vehicle are willing to buy used instead of new, a 10% jump from 2021.
With the average price of used vehicles dropping and the inventory on AutoTrader increasing, used vehicles continue to be an attractive choice for car buyers.
A buyer’s market
AutoTrader’s research indicates that despite the economic uncertainty, the outlook for the automotive industry is promising. Research has shown that Canadians’ purchase intentions for the next six months have actually increased to 24% in October 2022, compared to 18% in March of this year.
Most people who intend to buy a vehicle have a positive view of their personal and household finances. Only 15% feel that their situation could deteriorate in the next six months. The study found that car buyers’ budgets are unlikely to change even if the market changes, the economy stays the same or weakens.
The price factor
Affordability is always an important factor for Canadian car buyers, so we weren’t surprised to find that the Honda Civic – a car known for its performance at an affordable price – is even more relevant,” says Jodi Lai, editor-in-chief at AutoTrader. We also found that Canadians remained loyal to many of their favourite vehicles, with the Ford F-150 being the most popular vehicle in Canada for the eighth year in a row and the only pickup truck on the list. However, with its increased popularity, the Jeep Wrangler has displaced the BMW M from the most wanted list, and the Toyota RAV4 has jumped three spots from 2021, demonstrating how Canadians prefer more practical vehicles.”