While car prices were high in 2023, car buyers — especially used-car buyers — were increasingly happier with their experience, according to the latest research from Cox Automotive.

Cox’s recently released 2023 Car Buyer Journey Study found 69% of all car buyers reported being highly satisfied with their shopping experience, up from 61% in 2022. That jump was fueled primarily by used-vehicle buyers, whose satisfaction soared 10 percentage points year-over-year, from 58% in 2022 to 68% last year.

That rise follows a two-year decline in customer satisfaction.

Cox analysts said the increase was driven by a number of factors, including improved inventory levels, the return of discounts and the growth of the omnichannel approach to vehicle buying, which combines online and in-dealership activities.

Dealerships also scored high in the surveys of nearly 3,000 consumers who bought a new or used vehicle in a 12-month period ending in August 2023, with 74% of buyers saying they were highly satisfied with their dealership experience, up two percentage points year-over-year.

New-car buyers matched the all-time high 79% set in 2020, while 73% of used-car shoppers reported being highly satisfied, up from 70% in 2022.

Overall, customers were most satisfied with dealerships’ test drive experience (82%), vehicle pickup and delivery process (79%), and interaction with the sales team (77%).

In the used-car sector, customer satisfaction was up in six of the 10 touchpoints mentioned in the survey, led by the test drive (82%), pickup and delivery (78%), interaction with sales (76%), interaction with F&I (72%).

“There is an often-cited narrative that suggests going to a car dealer is worse than a root canal,” Cox Automotive vice president of research and market intelligence Isabelle Helms said in a news release. “Our research and data, however, suggest that is simply not the case. In fact, 79% of new-vehicle buyers were highly satisfied with the experience provided by their local automobile dealer.”

Other findings from the study include:

— Affordability is still an issue, with 49% of buyers reporting they paid more for their vehicle than expected. Still, that was down from 54% in the 2022 study. Vehicle selection was much less of an issue for customers in 2023, with just 39% saying it was worse than expected, a huge drop of 17 points.

— Car shoppers prefer an omnichannel approach. The survey found 50% of all car buyers completed 100% of the steps in person, while 43% completed steps in a mix of online and in-person at the dealership. Only 7% completed the entire process online. Asked for their preference, 71% of consumers said omnichannel, 21% preferred entirely online and just 8% said they would purchase entirely in person.

— Cox cited a sharp decrease in the length of the process as a key reason the shopping experience improved in 2023. New-vehicle buyers reported spending 11 hours and 45 minutes from beginning to end, down more than 80 minutes from 2022, while used-vehicle buyers spent more than 14 hours, about an hour less than before.

The study is available for download here.