September 2

Pros and Cons of Car Shopping Online

It wasn’t long ago that the idea that people would shop for and buy things over the Internet seemed far-fetched. Simply ordering a book and having it delivered to your front door felt like an amazing feat. Today there seems no bounds to the items you can secure through the click of a mouse. Even car-shopping — and buying — has found a place in the world of e-commerce.

Being able to find your new ride from the comfort of your living room couch requires a different mindset. But it’s one you can easily adapt to, as long as you keep some basics in mind. What are the pros and cons of car shopping and how can you best use them to ensure a positive experience?

E-Commerce and Auto-Buying

Image via Flickr by Hitchster

Depending on how it’s defined, online car shopping has already gone mainstream. A 2018 study from Google and Kantar TNS U.S. found that 92 percent of consumers had conducted some form of online research as part of shopping for a new or used car. That research most commonly covers questions about:

  • Lifestyle fit. Is the car I’m interested in big enough for two dogs?
  • Price range. Which crossover SUVs have prices that are less than $25,000?
  • Car features. Does the car I’m researching include lane departure warnings?
  • Comparisons. How does the fuel efficiency of car A compare to car B?

Google’s research also indicates that online car buyers are particularly interested in finding various types of video, especially those that show a test drive. This finding is particularly interesting as it could signal a shift: that more and more people are getting comfortable with the idea of buying a car online, without ever visiting a dealer. Let’s look at some pluses and minuses of taking that approach.

Advantages of Online Car Buying

The online car-buyer has more control over many of the variables involved in finding a new ride. Many, but not all. As we’ll see, the virtual environment cannot replicate everything about the in-person experience of working with an experienced dealership that is motivated to earn your business.

Time and convenience are the biggest advantages of online car-buying. You can shop when you want and how you want, without facing pressure from an over-eager salesperson pushing you hard to decide. You don’t have to make an appointment to shop online. Shop in your pajamas at midnight, even. 

The online experience also expands the number of options you can consider at one time. When shopping at dealerships in person for new cars, your search is limited to the makes and models that those particular dealers have sponsored. In other words, a Chevrolet/Buick/GMC dealer is not going to be able to show you the latest Honda.

The opposite is true online. You can shop multiple makes and models at once and explore pricing at multiple dealerships, all at the click of a mouse. You can focus on the features and benefits you are looking for in a car, rather than on which dealership you will visit and which cars they have that fit your needs. You can even expand the geographic breadth of your search to look for cars across a wider radius.

Because everything online is out in the open, online buying brings you closer to the true market price of a vehicle. Dealers know that buyers are doing their online research, so they are more likely to offer the lowest possible price — especially if it means they can make a sale without taking up the time of a salesperson.

Finally, online buying can make the financing process easier and more transparent as well. You can use online calculators to model different scenarios that will allow you to get the price you want and the payment you need.

The Downside of Online Car Shopping

So, what’s the catch then? There’s no longer a need to visit a dealership, right? Not quite. As we have seen many times in the Internet age, some elements of the brick-and-mortar experience cannot be replicated online. Let’s start with the experience of figuring out if a car is right for you.

Videos and 360-degree tours help, but they are not the same as sitting behind the wheel and seeing what it feels like to take your prospective new car for a spin. The test drive is an important part of making an investment in a new car, and not just to rev the engine. You want to know how the car looks and smells and feels, and how you look inside it. 

Buying a car online may bring an extra layer of costs that do not exist with an in-person purchase. For example, you may have to pay a cost for having the car shipped to your home or work. The shipping process raises the risk of vehicle damage while en route. 

Online car-buying also offers a very different customer service experience. When you visit a dealership, you benefit from the years of experience of the staff — sales, service, and finance professionals alike. They are experts in the dealer’s various makes and models and can offer their solid advice, helpful in evaluating your options. Finance managers may have lending relationships that can help you lower your payments.

Having a dealer relationship is also valuable should something ever go wrong with your car. Returning a car that’s been shipped directly to you is, to say the least, complicated.

Join Our Family at Huffines Chevrolet

For going on 100 years, Huffines Chevrolet has been serving the driving needs of the people of central and southern Texas. The dealership continues to rest on its founding principles of serving the customer and investing in the community. We are a full-service dealership that offers the latest models of Chevrolet cars, trucks, and SUVs, along with a wide selection of used and certified pre-owned vehicles from Chevrolet and other manufacturers. Our Finance Center team is ready to work with you to address your lending needs, and our service department is devoted to helping you keep your car on the road for as long as possible. Call or contact us online. We’d love to hear from you!


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