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Why hasn’t the internet made car buying faster?

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Despite the rise in online car shopping websites, the process of buying a new car remains frustrating and time-consuming. The average US customer continues to spend an average 14 hours of online research and another three to five hours at the dealership. Between test drives, multiple rounds of negotiation, the trade-in process and finalizing the deal with the Finance Manager, buying a new car can easily eat up an entire day or even weekend!

What many people don’t realize is that online sites like TrueCar and Costco simply direct buyers to a local dealership who has provided a pre-set price. This can save car buyers from negotiating for the price of the car itself, but doesn’t significantly reduce the time investment. The consumer still needs to visit that dealership to pick out the car, arrange for leasing or financing, discuss aftermarket options, negotiate the trade-in if applicable, sign a lot of paperwork and learn the features of their new vehicle. At the same time the dealership has to obtain a credit report, evaluate the trade-in, detail the new vehicle and prepare all the necessary paperwork. These can all add up to an average of 3 to 4 hours of the customer’s time.

While the price of the vehicle is pre-determined, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the overall deal is a good one for the buyer. Lease or financing terms still need to be negotiated along with trade-in valuation and the price of any desired aftermarket options. Some, but not all, dealerships may pad the deal in other areas to compensate for the reduction in the price of the car itself.

Why not just bypass the dealership? It’s not actually that easy. The system is set up so that only a franchised, licensed dealership can legally sell a new car. TrueCar and similar car-buying sites simply sell the car buyer's information to a nearby car dealership who makes the final sale.

Cartelligent clients are able to skip the dealership process. They sign the paperwork and pick up their new car at a Cartelligent branch rather than at the dealership itself.

The car buying process remains time-consuming and the internet, while helpful in some areas, does little to address the more time consuming parts of the process.

Online research

Anyone who has ever typed “new car” into Google, has been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available (644,000,000 results at the time of writing). Sites like Consumer Reports can be extremely useful at highlighting safety ratings and vehicle reliability while manufacturer websites can help shoppers learn more about available options and packages. However, car-buyers still need to take this information and translate it to their own circumstances in order to come to an educated conclusion about which car is best for them personally.

The main problem is that each individual will use a car in their own way. A single professional in Laguna Beach needs different features in his car than a family of five in Walnut Creek. Google hasn’t evolved enough to respond to “best car for three kids and a dog for someone who wants to reduce their carbon footprint.”

A online car reviewer may not consider how suitcases will pack into the vehicle for a road trip or how easy it will be to install a bike rack. One critic may pan the same vehicle that another raves about; making it difficult for the consumer to know which opinion to trust. There is simultaneously too much information available and yet not the right information to make a decision.

Cartelligent gives each client a personal car-buying advisor who can share independent advice on any new car, helping them compare vehicles and payment options.

At the dealership

A recent survey by Edmunds found that 1 out of 3 people would rather do taxes, go to the DMV or sit in the middle seat of an airplane than deal with the car buying process. While this may be an extreme reaction, it illustrates that there is a real problem with the current system.

So why does buying a car at a dealership still take so long? Most of it is just the way the system is set up—there are a lot of steps that need to take place and on busy days the process can bottleneck in places like Finance where there are a limited number of employees. The internet just can’t fix a number of the time-intensive parts of the process.

Test-drive(s)

Online research helps many consumers lower the number of vehicles that they want to drive in person, but unless you live next door to a dealership, it takes time to drive to multiple dealerships, check out the vehicles in person and go for test-drives. Additionally, because commissioned sales people are often under pressure to turn every walk-in client into a sale, they will often try to draw out the process in the hope that clients will “buy today.”

Negotiation

Even customers who start with an online car buying site need to go through multiple stages of paperwork and personnel, especially if they have a trade-in or are looking to lease or finance the vehicle. Trade-in inspection and negotiation must be handled separately and can add considerably to the total time spent at the dealership. Although most car buyers are aware that the ubiquitous “Let me check with my manager” is a sales tactic, it can still be effective and remains part of the negotiating process at many dealerships.

Paperwork & financing

Car buyers often need to fill out a credit application by hand, wait while their credit report is evaluated and then negotiate the terms and details of paying for the vehicle. There can be a long wait to meet with a Finance Manager on busy weekends when multiple car buyers need to finalize their deals. Financing or leasing requires extra time and negotiation with the finance office. The Finance Manager is also responsible for selling (high-margin) add-ons such as aftermarket options and extended warranties.

Vehicle delivery

Consumers are demanding more and more technology from the cars they buy. There can be a steep learning curve on a new car, especially for those upgrading from an older model. Walking through all of these features can take time, especially for a client who is mentally exhausted from hours of negotiations and paperwork.

In some, but not necessarily all, dealerships the entire process may be intentionally dragged out. Why? Consumers who have spent a long time at a dealership can be more likely to buy from that dealership so that they feel that the time they’ve spent is not wasted and to avoid starting from scratch with another dealership the next day.

Cartelligent uses its car buying volume and market expertise to negotiate a below market price as good as (if not better than) TrueCar or Costco and includes negotiation of lease or finance terms, aftermarket products and the client's trade-in. Because most of Cartelligent's work is done while the client is doing other things, the time and energy Cartelligent clients spend on the car-buying process is drastically reduced.

Despite the myriad online resources, the car buying process can still be arduous for many shoppers. The dealership process can be bottlenecked and time-consuming, but the legalities make it difficult to bypass this system. Until alternative solutions like Cartelligent become more widely available, car buyers should expect to spend a considerable amount of time and energy buying their new car.

Cartelligent can take the stress out of car buying or leasing by allowing clients to skip the dealership completely. Cartelligent offers personal guidance from a car buying expert from start to finish and negotiates a below-market price on the perfect vehicle. For a free, no-pressure consultation, call 888.427.4270 or get started today.