5 Things to Know About Online Car Buying

By KBB Editors 09/15/2020 5:00pm

There’s no question that the world of automotive has witnessed massive change lately. Fueled by COVID shutdowns, online car buying is now mainstream.  Locating the perfect car is now, in many ways, easier and more personalized experience than ever before. More and more, the automotive industry has become geared toward digital.

A recent study from KBB.com parent Cox Automotive, reveals just how comfortable people are shopping for a car online.

“With the industry’s increased focus on digital retailing, we wanted to know how consumers prefer to find, research, and purchase vehicles in the online space,” said Sonia Kher, a research manager at Cox Automotive. “We wanted to understand shoppers’ experience levels with digital retailing, their attitudes and comfort levels with various steps of the online car-buying process, and any barriers that might make it more difficult for them to buy online.” Here are 5 Things to Know About Online Car Buying:

1. Most shoppers are generally comfortable completing the early steps of the vehicle purchase process online

The majority of people are very open to doing things like researching incentives and scheduling test drives online, saying that they believe it will save them time and stress.

2. In the final steps of the purchase process, shoppers tend to prefer in-person communication

As the deal approaches and the car-buying journey nears its close, people lean toward face-to-face interaction, saying that it makes it easier to negotiate a price and trust a dealer. That in-person connection is increasingly being offered at the customer’s home.

3. Over half of shoppers would feel comfortable selecting extended warranties and add-ons online

This is one area of automotive that still has room to grow. While prior to COVID, only about one-third of all dealers would offer these options to shoppers in the online setting. That number is growing daily. Dealers have since added services that allow for home test drives, virtual vehicle walk-arounds, and remote digital completion of paperwork.

4. Applying for financing is polarizing as an online step in the car-buying journey

The study found that applying for financing online is perceived to be the least comfortable step for consumers to take. But, doing your homework and pre-qualifying for a loan online first is one way to streamline the car buying process.

5. Reducing risk is key to online car buying

When a dealer’s website or an automotive shopping website offers options that address the perceived blind spots of shopping online (think test drives, complementary mechanic inspections, and the ability to opt out of a deal after seeing the car in-person), people are more likely to buy a car online.