Does it work or is it a recipe for disaster?
In the age of the internet, and with so many websites out there, buying a car online can be done, but does it work, does it save the consumer money and will it result in a positive experience? In the feedback we’ve received, the answer might be yes to all of those questions, but rarely to more than one, and most times ‘no’ to all of three parts of that question.
Online car buying and leasing can work. There are plenty of cars that get sold through the internet every day, but the issue that most people have is that there is no human element, and because of it, there is substantial disappointment and tons of surprise that come along the way. Because everything is done online, there’s no one who has a genuine interest in the buyer or lessee to answer questions, to give an opinion, to get intricate information from or to really walk a person through what to expect out of the transaction. Because of that, people often find that buying online is not nearly as easy as it’s made out to be. There are lots of ‘unknowns’ and they are left to do far more ‘work’ than expected to net positive or any results.
Trying to buy or lease online can make for an extremely frustrating experience. Most people who attempt it come to find that online car buying websites allow them to build a car any way they want to, making it seem as though they can have a car with or without any desired or undesired options, and in any color combination. What most don’t realize, though, is that the consumer, unless they factory order a specific vehicle (which generally can’t be done online), is never in control of what’s actually available for purchase or lease, and that most manufacturers (to slim down the cost of production) make their cars in a very limited number of combinations. In other words, a consumer’s ability to go online, build and get a price for a car doesn’t mean that it will exist. And, because most car buying websites will generate a sales price for a car, and then refer the consumer to a local dealership, the consumer only finds this out when they arrive at said dealership where, to their surprise, they are put into a position where they need to start all over and make some serious adjustments to their expectations of color combination, equipment level, and yes, price…which ultimately pushes the transaction and the control into the hands of a sales person.
In addition, and unless a consumer goes directly to a specific dealership’s website, most online car buying websites boil down to what are commonly called lead generators. Sites that offer car-buying services like Edmunds, Costco, Cars.com, TrueCar, and others allow you to build a car online from nearly any manufacturer. However, in order to get an actual price quote (not a suggested price point) requires that personal and contact information be submitted, which is then sold to dealerships who pay those sites for sales leads. Most times, those sites are selling that information to multiple dealerships. Anyone who has tried it knows that almost immediately after clicking ‘submit’, an influx of emails, phone calls and solicitations are to be expected. And, the fine print within those sites says that when ‘submit’ is clicked, they have been given permission to release that information.
Lastly, consumers generally come to find out that online pricing is almost never honored. Nearly every website includes in their very difficult to find terms of services or disclosure pages, that pricing is subject to the discretion of the dealership, that numerous fees are likely not included and that there are no guarantees being made about the information provided on the site, the vehicles themselves or their availability.
In the end, online car-buying is possible, but because of the way that it works, very minute pieces of which are described here, most people are left feeling disappointed, unsure whether or not they received a competitive price, and frustrated by the experience.
Because car-buying and leasing are such a big decision for most, the feedback that we get says that most people, and even those who try to buy online, prefer to work with someone directly who they can build a relationship with, and who can be at their side advising them along the way. For many, that means the assistance of an unbiased third party who is partial only to the needs and goals of the buyer. For most of you receiving this newsletter, you know what that means, and for those who have never tried working with a third party, we’d encourage you to tell them your story!