Despite Global Supply Shortages, Canadians Remain Steadfast In Their Vehicle Preferences

Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

According to data released today from, Canada’s largest and most trusted automotive marketplace, luxury and mainstay car brands remained the top vehicle choices for Canadians in 2021, despite pricing and availability shifts in the market. AutoTrader’s 2021 Top Searched vehicle list revealed that perennial favourites, the Ford F-150, Ford Mustang and BMW 3 Series held strong as Canada’s top three vehicles for the second year in a row. Overall, while there were some shifts in rankings, the same 10 cars Canadians sought in 2020 appeared in this year’s list as well.

With over 10 million Canadians visiting to browse hundreds of thousands of vehicles for sale each month, mines and analyzes its search data each year, to capture the pulse of Canadian car buyers’ interests and provide insights into their most coveted car selections.

2021 Top Searched Vehicles in Canada

  1. Ford F-150
  2. Ford Mustang
  3. BMW 3 Series
  4. Porsche 911
  5. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  6. Honda Civic
  7. Toyota RAV4
  8. Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  9. Chevrolet Corvette
  10. BMW M

In 2021, long-term impacts of the pandemic manifested in the automotive sector, including most notably, a global shortage of microchips, which put strain on new car inventory. This, paired with pent-up consumer demand, led to record high new and used vehicle pricing in Canada. Despite these market shifts, Canadians remained loyal to their favourite cars, suggesting that these factors were not deterrents for car shoppers.

“When it comes to vehicles, Canadians like what they like and we found this consistency to be a reassuring sign for the industry, demonstrating consumers were willing to weather the storm,” says Jodi Lai, Editor-in-Chief, “While cars continued to dominate 80 per cent of the Top Searched list, the truck is still king with the Ford F-150 claiming the top spot nationally for the seventh year in a row, and the Toyota RAV4 remaining a fan favourite in the SUV category.”

Provincial Search Overview

2021 provincial search data revealed key regional preferences for car shoppers across the country.

BC balances luxury with utility
Last year British Columbians were the most curious Canadians when it came to luxury vehicles with the most luxury cars searched versus any other region. However, in 2021, the more economical Toyota RAV4 (#4) replaced the luxury BMW X5 as the sole SUV on the list. British Columbia now shares top honours with Ontario as provinces with the most luxury selections in the Top 10.

Trucks gain traction in Alberta
The Ford F-150 was still number one for Albertans, but unlike last year, this wasn’t the only truck on the radar. The Toyota Tacoma landed at #8 on the province’s Top 10 list. Alberta has long favoured larger vehicles, and this year was no exception, with half of the region’s list consisting of trucks and SUVs. The return of a second truck (last seen in 2019), along with new entrants, like the Toyota 4Runner (#9), indicated a return to the region’s tried and true vehicle preferences.

Function over style in Saskatchewan
In a province that prioritizes utility over all else, it’s no surprise that Saskatchewan again had the most trucks on their Top 10 list versus any other province this year. Reigning champion, the Ford F-150 was the most preferred vehicle in Saskatchewan, with other truck favourites, such as the GMC Sierra 1500 (#5), Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (#6), and Toyota Tacoma (#7) all making the list. Similar to last year, luxury vehicles were absent from the Top 10, as Saskatchewan opted to flex muscle.

Cars continue to rule in Ontario
Eighty per cent of the Top Searched list in Ontario was made up of cars once again this year. Ontarians showed a penchant for the finer things, with half of its vehicle searches consisting of luxury nameplates, rivaling British Columbia. In Ontario, the Ford Mustang ranked #1, unlike the rest of Canada where the popular Ford F-150 truck took top spot (with the exception of Quebec).

Quebec lusts for luxury
For the first time ever, a luxury car ranked #1 in Quebec. This year the sleek and sporty Porsche 911 jumped from seventh place in 2020 to first place, dethroning the beloved Honda Civic, which had maintained top position for the past four years. The number of luxury vehicles on the list remained consistent year-over-year, with the BMW 3 Series (#5) and Mercedes-Benz C-Class (#7) joining the Porsche 911 (#1) on the list. Car interest also rose among Quebecers, accounting for 60 per cent of the region’s Top 10.

Manitoba Stays Steady
Although it was a new year, consumer habits remained similar in Manitoba. In top spot was the Ford F-150 followed by the Ford Mustang, keeping consistent with last year’s top picks. The Honda Civic moved into third position, shifting the Toyota RAV4 to fourth. Manitobans loved their SUVs this year, with the Toyota RAV4 (#4) Honda CR-V (#5), Jeep Wrangler (#6) and Jeep Grand Cherokee (#7) included on this year’s list.

The bigger the better in the Maritimes
It was go big or go home in the Maritimes as vehicle upsizing trends continued. The Toyota Highlander (#9) replaced the BMW 3 Series (#9), reflecting a growing interest in larger vehicles like SUVs and trucks for the region. Atlantic Canada also prioritized practicality over luxury, as the loss of the BMW 3 Series marked an absence of luxury on the Maritimes list.

Trend Spotting

In addition to mining its marketplace data for insights and trends, each year conducts ongoing consumer research studies to provide an up-to-the minute view of the evolving automotive landscape. This year’s research explored the impact of COVID-19 on Canadian car shopper intent and provides a glimpse into what can be expected in 2022. Observations and predictions include:

Canadians still hesitant about public transportation, prioritizing personal modes of travel: A study deployed by in October 2021, assessed the impact of COVID-19 over a year and a half after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. Following another study conducted in 2020 that found COVID-19 had an impact on declining consumer usage of public transit and ridesharing, new research revealed comfort levels with public transit remained low. While more than half of car shoppers thought the situation was improving (55%), many still stated they were using public transit (45%), cabs (44%), ridesharing services (42%) and carpooling (39%) less often compared to pre-pandemic. In contrast, Canadians opted to walk (40%) and drive themselves (36%) more often than before. Along with the pent-up demand due to early shutdowns, appetite to purchase a vehicle remains high, as almost 1 in 5 Canadians are still looking to buy a vehicle within the next six months.

Global microchip shortage disrupted supply chain, shifted consumer behaviour and pricing patterns: The global shortage of microchips had strong implications in the automotive sector in 2021, fuelling an ongoing shortage of new vehicles in the market. found 4 in 5 car shoppers were aware and willing to make significant adjustments as a result, with 42 per cent willing to travel further, and 31 per cent of these shoppers, open to travelling over 400 kilometres to find the right vehicle. This behaviour was backed up by site analytics showing users are indeed widening their search radius. The scarcity of new vehicles also had a subsequent impact on the used vehicle market – nearly a third of shoppers surveyed (27%) were willing to switch from purchasing new to purchasing used. The microchip shortage, paired with pent-up demand for vehicles, prompted increases in vehicle pricing, with average new and used vehicle prices reaching a record high of $49,900 and $31,875 respectively in November 2021. As production levels slowly improve, and overall factors stabilize, prices are expected to normalize accordingly. With the shortage top of mind, Canadians leveraged tools like the marketplace to help bridge the gap sourcing inventory, comparison shopping and reviewing price guidances, with the marketplace recording a 20 per cent lift in traffic for 2020, and then another 12 per cent increase in traffic for 2021, year-over-year.

Some Canadians saved more due to lock-down, with one-third seeking to upgrade their vehicle budget: While COVID-19 understandably generated greater concern around finances, almost half of car shoppers (48%) said the pandemic allowed them to save more than they normally would, according to research from The Bank of Canada estimated that there was an extra $100 billion in Canadians’ savings accounts. Among those who were able to save more, 63 per cent planned to use it to purchase a vehicle, and a third of these shoppers (34%) planned to buy a more expensive vehicle than initially budgeted. In the aftermath of the pandemic, price continued to be a priority for consumers, as a third of Canadians surveyed (34%) ranked price as the #1 consideration when it comes to buying a vehicle ahead of factors like fuel economy, safety and brand.

There has been a seismic shift away from traditional sedans to larger SUVs, crossovers, and trucks: In recent years, more Canadians opted for a ‘bigger is better’ mindset when it came to vehicle preference. found that 30 per cent of car shoppers intend to upsize to a larger vehicle from their current car. Among those who plan to upsize, nearly half (48%) intend to upsize to a SUV, while a third (32%) said they would pivot to a truck. Respondents cited more cargo space, better seating comfort, and more seats as the top reasons for going big. Searches for SUVs increased almost two per cent in 2021, in line with a three per cent growth in share of segment on the marketplace. This upsizing trend has been prevalent in automaker lineups, which included more releases of larger SUVs and trucks, and a decline in smaller vehicles. The compact sedan and hatchback segment continued to get smaller, as automakers replaced their entry-level models with subcompact SUVs.

Electric vehicle popularity charging ahead: 2021 was another big year for electric vehicles (EVs), as popularity for electrification continued to grow. According to research conducted among marketplace users, interest to own an electric vehicle is high, with 64 per cent of non-owners open to buying an EV for their next vehicle. The top reasons Canadians provided for going electric included fuel efficiency/savings, environmental friendliness and low maintenance. In addition to the growing inventory of electric vehicles, automakers are expected to release more SUV, adventure and purpose-built enthusiast EVs, and 2022 will mark the first year fully electric trucks will be available to purchase, with the GMC Hummer, Ford F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T vying to be the first on the market. While less than 1 in 10 (8%) consumers surveyed currently own an EV, that number is expected to rise in the coming years, as marketplace searches for electric and hybrid fuel types more than doubled, and EV inventory grew 31 per cent year-over-year.

“While 2021 saw volatility in market conditions, it also demonstrated how well equipped consumers and the industry are to adapt,” says Ian MacDonald, Chief Marketing Officer, “Canadians looked for ways to make the best of the situation, leveraging tools like the marketplace and travelling the extra distance needed to bridge the gap. The stability seen in this year’s search insights, paired with what we know about abundant shopper activity, is an indication that the market is set to bounce back in 2022 and as microchip production ramps up, gradually return to normality.”



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