If you haven’t bought a car in a while, the pandemic has caused some changes in the car-buying journey you need to be aware of.
Most dealerships have embraced technology to allow consumers to do more research and shopping from home on their own time. With so many options, both on the dealership and the vehicle side, it’s good to have a game plan when you begin the process.
The BestRide.com team recently hosted a Facebook Live event to discuss useful strategies in the vehicle buying process. We were joined by Anne Fleming, the founder and CEO of Women-Drivers.com, a website connecting women and families to certified car dealers.
“Vehicles today are computers on wheels,” Fleming said. “The technology and the safety features in vehicles today are extraordinary and are so advanced. Buyers today have such advantages. It’s a great time to buy a vehicle.”
There are at least 260 car models available, and the average price of a vehicle today is $42,000 whether you’re leasing or buying, she said.
Here are our top five tips to buying a vehicle today:
1. Do your research first.
Buying a new car is a personal decision, so make sure to use your resources and take that test drive. While you should ask your friends and family for advice, make sure you do your research and visit Bestride.com to search from millions of new, used, and certified pre-owned options to find the best ride in your area.
We know that 1 in 3 people don’t know what vehicle they want to buy, so test driving and researching are essential during your search.
Many dealerships are now offering at-home test drives, so make sure you explore this option if you don’t want to visit the dealership in-person.
During the test drive, make sure you ride in real road conditions and mimic city driving, not just around the dealership block. You want to experience the vehicle and see how comfortable it is.
“During the test drive, look for blind spots and check the car for loud cabin noises,” Fleming said. “Bring your family with you to see what they think. Do they like the legroom? How easy is it to get in and out of the vehicle? Your job is to eliminate vehicles. You really want to feel the vehicle. The test drive is an information-gathering process.”
2. Take your time.
The semiconductor shortage has impacted new and used car inventory, with fewer options on dealer lots. It will likely take longer to find your perfect car, so make sure you set aside a week to several weeks for the car-buying journey.
“If you can’t find your first choice, you might not be happy with your third or fourth choice,” Fleming said. “Don’t be in such a hurry, especially if the perfect car you want is not in stock right now.”
Dealerships are bringing the sales experience online, to your home or office. Take advantage of these options, including communicating with dealerships by text message or through website chat so you can make sure all your questions are answered.
3. Find a dealership with an excellent reputation.
Reputation matters! Car dealers showcase what their reputation is through reviews. About 95% of consumers use reviews to see where they’re going to shop, and car buying is no exception.
“It’s imperative to look at reviews,” Fleming said. “A dealership doesn’t need perfect scores. Consumers should also look at how the dealership responds to reviews, whether it’s a complaint or a great review. That showcases how the dealership handles complaints as well as praise. Also, make sure to look at their service reviews, too, since you’ll likely be taking your car in for service.”
Make sure you continue the trend and leave a review for a dealership review to give others feedback about your experience, whether good or bad. Writing a review about a dealership helps other car buyers.
4. Find a dealership with excellent customer response and care.
Contact three or four dealerships in your area to see which dealer responds the fastest and the way that best fits your specific needs. Pay attention to how dealers respond to your questions. Narrow down who you want to do business with. You don’t want to do business with just anybody.
“It’s a new way for dealerships to sell cars and a new way for consumers to buy cars,” Fleming said. “You’re signing on for a long-term affair with this dealership, so make sure it’s the best dealership for your needs.”
5. Take advantage of streamlined online paperwork and vehicle delivery.
Online credit prequalification tools allow consumers to know what vehicles they qualify for at the dealership before they ever set foot on the lot. Depending on the dealer, other paperwork and vehicle delivery services are also available online. You may not even need to visit the dealership in person unless you want to.
“It’s really extraordinary because many dealerships have streamlined their process, so you don’t have to spend hours at the dealership anymore,” Fleming said. “Research which dealerships have the best process you want. Buying a car is a big-ticket purchase, so you want to make sure you’re comfortable and ready.”
Dealerships have made considerable strides to offer more online options, more so than they ever have before. Take advantage of the new offerings and enjoy your car-buying experience. It’s light years ahead of where it was before the pandemic.
You can listen to the entire live-stream broadcast here, and make sure you subscribe to the BestRide.com YouTube channel.