Has the Pandemic Changed Car Buying Forever?

Buying a new car from a dealership hasn’t always been the easiest walk in the park. First, you have to find the car that you want, then you have to deal with a salesperson to get through the whole process. However, the one fortunate thing that the global pandemic has brought us is a new way to buy cars in the sense that the whole process can now be done online and, for the most part, in the comfort of your own home. But will the new car-buying process stick around forever?

Ari Janessian – a YouTuber and auto broker – recently release a video (posted below) that covers the aspects of car buying during the pandemic. Here are some of the most notable points of the video.

Consumers want video presentations of the car

One of the main ways that the car sales process has changed is that many salespeople nationwide are no longer doing in-person vehicle walkarounds. The vehicle walkaround is an important step as it shows you, the customer, not only what the vehicle is equipped with, but you’re also able to see how it looks in person. And that’s important because the color of the car can look different depending on the lighting and you are able to see the size of the actual car in person.

However, many dealers are now doing video presentations of the cars and sending them to their customers. And while that’s much more convenient, Janessian says that many customers are displeased with the color and size of the car when they finally see it in person, which in turn causes more problems.

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Dealers are offering solo or at-home test drives

The test drive is extremely important as that’s the time you get to actually drive the car and see how it works and, up until the past year, you had to do it in the awkward presence of a salesperson. But during the COVID era, customers now get to test drive the car by themselves or even at home.

Again, that sounds great, but Janessian says that one issue is that customers are left with many questions about the car, or perhaps want to see the car in a different color or configuration, but are left hanging due to the lack of a salesperson’s help.

While getting to test drive a car at home is much safer and convenient, it can actually prove to be inconvenient if you want to see a different car or color. Sure, the salesperson will likely bring it to you, but that takes more time.

Negotiating the car sale

You’re a rare breed if you actually like negotiating with the car salesperson. However, with some dealers, you will no longer get the satisfaction of getting a car to its bottom dollar as many of them are moving toward online car-buying like you will find at Carvana, for example. That means it’s a lot easier for you to buy a car, however, you may not get the best deal possible due to the new process since you won’t have the luxury of the back-and-forth conversation.

Salesperson showing vehicle to potential customer in dealership; Shutterstock ID 447213895; Purchase Order: -
Salesperson showing the vehicle to a potential customer in dealership | Shutterstock

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Signing the contract online

Another beauty of having a mostly online car-buying experience is that you can now sign the contract for it completely online, which is convenient, and skips having to wait in line to see the finance manager. However, while conveniences like using DocuSign are nice, they leave more room for error in the end, which could lead to a lot of back-and-forths and take a lot more time than necessary.

For example, if there are errors on the contract, then they could need to be re-sent between the yourself and finance manager more than once, which could have been mitigated if you were actually there in person.

A person doing car buying research on their laptop.
Car research | Joseph Branston/Future via Getty Images

Go to the dealership in person, if necessary

It’s safe to say that the global pandemic has gotten the ball rolling on a new and more up-to-date way of buying cars from dealerships, however, not everyone is optimistic that it will stay this way forever. Car and Driver noted that it’s more-than-likely that dealers will eventually fall back into the old ways of selling cars and they even spoke to consumers who thought the same since not all dealerships are converting to online sales.

We’ll just have to wait and see, but for now, go to the dealership if possible to pick out the car you want and do the paperwork there if needed to save any potential issues. For everything else, like talking about the price of the car and financing, you can enjoy doing that from the comfort of your own home for the time being.