Used Car Shopping Evolves
“Well, let’s go get some dinner and think about it,” I said after test-driving a 2008 Audi Q7 with my girlfriend.
Our salesman and the sales manager stood with us, hoping to entice us into the next room, where we could discuss numbers. Upon hearing my desire to leave, the salesman shot a glance at his manager, who just smiled, nodded, thanked us for coming in and wished us a good night.
We went on our way and discussed the merits of the car over sushi, quite impressed with the lack of sales pressure and the overall pleasant experience at the dealer.
If all experiences were like that, there’d be no reason for change. Yet change is happening.
Shopping for used cars today is far different that it was 10 years ago. With tools like CarGurus.com, dealers are pretty transparent to the consumer, because they can’t hide their prices behind closed doors. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can see the price and compare it to those of other dealers before ever stepping foot into a dealership.
Rather than simply providing car listings, CarGurus.com helps shoppers determine whether a particular listing is a good deal. Fairness of a deal is determined by the company’s comprehensive instant market value (IMV) analysis, which is calculated daily for millions of cars.
In my vast experience of shopping for, test-driving and buying cars, CarGurus has been the best resource for finding competitive pricing. Buying a car online without ever seeing it is a bad idea, and CarGurus provides the best link between dealer and customer.
Some companies are beginning to pop up that offer more of a “vending machine” style of buying cars. A potential buyer will find a car online, view 360-degree images of the exterior and interior, then either show up at a garage to pay and drive away or arrange for delivery. There’s no salesman, no dealership, just a minimal staff to help with paperwork and accept a check.
There’s a problem with that method of car buying, though. Buyers should be able to take the car for a mechanical inspection and give it a thorough test drive before buying. That’s where interacting with a dealer is far more convenient. Plus, a dealer will take a trade-in, while a “vending machine” dealer does not.
I’m all for evolution in how cars are sold, but I think it works best to evolve with transparent pricing and no-pressure sales people.
That might be just enough to get me to take a second look at that Q7.
What’s your preferred method of car-buying: traditional dealer or “vending machine”?