AutoTrader’s Top Vehicles of 2023 research shows that Canadian car shoppers are still optimistic, reflected by search rates for luxury vehicles. However, actual completed transactions show a preference for utility.

This year, Canadians were plagued by high cost-of-living and vehicle prices — even though they are on the way down from 2022. But AutoTrader reports, consumers are not losing their optimism.

Reporting on top searched vehicles for the year, AutoTrader data shows 60% of the list is made up of luxury sedans and sports cars.

The Porsche 911 hit the No. 2 spot for most-searched vehicle for the first time ever, up from No. 6 last year. This pushed the popular Honda Civic down to third place. The Ford F-150 series made the top 10 for the ninth time, and the Dodge Ram 1500 made its way into the winners’ circle, as well, which is only the second truck to break through to the top 10 most-searched vehicles, according to AutoTrader data.

“Each year, AutoTrader analyzes millions of data points to piece together an underlying narrative about consumer vehicle shopping behaviors and patterns,” says Ian MacDonald, chief marketing officer at AutoTrader, in a news release. “This year, we see vehicle buyers searching aspirationally, but ultimately opting for more practical purchases, which could suggest Canadians are maintaining an optimistic outlook, but prioritizing reliability and utility in a turbulent year.”

Meanwhile, the Top Sold Vehicles of 2023 list, although similar in ways to the top searched list, “is decidedly more practical in nature,” AutoTrader said.

In fact, 90% of the top 10 vehicles sold in Canada this year are functional utility vehicles, like trucks and SUVs. AutoTrader reported no luxury brands appeared on this year’s list.

“The departure between the search and sold data sets, perhaps suggests that in a year where wallets are top of mind, Canadians may be interested in aspirational vehicles, but they are landing with more practical purchases,” AutoTrader said.

Topping the most sold list is the Ford F-150 followed by the Dodge Ram 1500. These are followed by the Ford Escape, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and the Honda CR-V.

“Affordability is always an important consideration for vehicle shoppers, especially during these times,” says Jodi Lai, editor-in-chief of AutoTrader, in the press release.  “But when it comes to a milestone purchase as important as a vehicle, Canadians aren’t necessarily sacrificing spend. Although vehicle prices were higher this year, it didn’t stop shoppers from seeking aspirational vehicles, and while purchases skewed more practical, the emphasis wasn’t only on economical options, which could indicate prices aren’t as much of a deterrent as they were last year.”

Province results

Breaking down the AutoTrader report results by province, the site took a look at trends across the country:

— British Columbia: Luxury vehicles are becoming popular in B.C. once again. AutoTrader has seen two consecutive years of a focus in the province on economical vehicles, but this year the tides turned. Luxury vehicles make up 50% of the most searched for vehicles in B.C. this past year, and also touts the highest number of luxury vehicles on the list in any region.

— Alberta: Alberta is still focusing on larger vehicles, with trucks and SUVs filling up the most-searched spots. The Toyota Tacoma and Dodge Ram were newcomers to the list this year.

— Saskatchewan: This province is known for its practicality in auto, AutoTrader reported, and this was true once again in 2023. Eighty-percent of most-searched vehicles in the province were functional vehicles, including the Dodge Ram 1500 and Toyota 4Runner.

— Ontario: AutoTrader says Ontario is steering toward sedans, and cars are still the segment of choice. That said, trucks are slowly gaining momentum. The Ford F-150 claimed the top spot this year, which pushed the Honda Accord off the most-searched list.

— Quebec: Economy is tops in Quebec. The top five on the province’s most-searched list are consistent with 2022 results, topped by the Honda Civic. The only new player to make it onto the list in this province is the Jeep Wrangler at No. 6.

— Manitoba: Not surprisingly, larger SUVs are popular in this province. It leads the country in SUVs with 40% of searches including these vehicles. On the list are the Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

— Maritimes: Last year, buyers here were downsizing when it came to vehicles, but that is no longer the case. According to AutoTraser, Atlantic provinces are shifting their focus back to larger vehicles. Trucks and SUVs made up 70% of the most-searched vehicles this year.

AutoTrader outlook

AutoTrader also provides annual trends and forecasts in its reporting.

This year, the site’s analysts explored how Canadians have been dealing with difficult economic conditions.

Observations include:

— Last year, Canadians were looking for more economical rides. This year, heads are turning to the “bigger is better” mindset, and not only searching more for trucks, but buying them more, as well. For the first time since 2019, two trucks were included in AutoTrader’s Top 10 Most Searched Vehicles List.

— AutoTrader found that throughout 2023, Canadians have shown “resilience” in their auto shopping behavior. A recent study conducted by AutoTrader, reveals that while some vehicle shoppers admit feeling less confident about the economy, overall, they remain positive about their personal financial situation. The AutoTrader marketplace has seen a 5% rise in visits this year compared to the same time last year.

— As supply shortages lessen and new-vehicle inventory grows, AutoTrader thinks this will lead to more balance to interest in used vehicles. On AutoTrader, new vehicles account for 41% of inventory, up from 30% in 2022. New car buyers who previously were pushed towards nearly new, now may be able to find a new car to buy now.

— Although the EV sector continues to come out with more models, there has been a definite drip in consumer interest as of late. This year’s AutoTrader data suggests EV purchase intention has declined. In 2023, only 56% of car shoppers who do not own an EV, are open to purchasing one for their next vehicle, down from 68% the year prior.

The analysis was performed based on site analytics from AutoTrader using Canadian search and sold by proxy delist data from Jan. 1 to Oct. 27. Year-over-year analysis was based on data from January 2022 to October 2023.