Why Online Car Buying is More Popular Than Ever

Posted by
Online Shopping/Image Credit: Yuganov Konstantin

The car-buying process has evolved over the years, with some especially dramatic changes occurring in the last 2 years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chip shortages, lack of inventory, and safety concerns sent potential buyers to dealers’ sites and online marketplaces in droves as many struggled to find the perfect ride on dealer lots. Many of them found what they were looking for online.

According to a recent report from Progressive, based on a survey conducted in January of 2022, 78% of American consumers that purchased a car online found it to be a highly satisfying and hassle-free experience, while only 58% of buyers who purchased through a dealership said they were highly satisfied with their experience. What does this mean for consumers, automakers, and the future of car-buying? Let’s find out.

Consumers Want a Car Buying Process That’s Hassle-Free

The lack of inventory has been a huge factor in pushing consumers toward online marketplaces. While local dealers have limited selections, search sites (like BestRide!) and online retailers can pull in vehicles for sale from far and wide, eliminating the tedious and time-consuming task of dealership hopping.

The online purchase experience is also frequently much more streamlined, with clearly defined financing options and no random fees or confusing paperwork. You may end up paying slightly more than if you’d purchased from a dealership, but many consumers consider that a necessary cost in exchange for the ease and convenience of buying online.

The biggest selling point for those that choose to buy in person is just that: the personal touch. For some, it’s just a matter of being what they’re used to, but for many others, a personable and knowledgeable salesperson can make or break a purchase experience.

Dealerships Are Closing the Gap

Automakers like Nissan and Ford have recognized this growing transition into the online sector and have gone to great lengths to promote custom online ordering and easy-to-use online navigation for consumers. To their credit, dealers on the local level have also made great strides to offer these same time-saving services. Online financing options, the ability to schedule test drives ahead of time, and shopping the full dealership inventory from the comfort of home are all attractive options that have kept the more savvy and forward-thinking dealers in the conversation.

It’s also worth noting that, since this survey has been conducted, the online marketplace Carvana has hit some serious bumps in the financial road. Since January, Carvana shares have fallen 84.4%, and they have been forced to lay off 2,500 employees (12% of their workforce) in an attempt to tighten their belts. Some of Carvana’s woes stem from ongoing issues related to registration difficulties and hurdles on the state level, but they have also not been immune to the impact of the pandemic and supply chain shortages.

The Test Drive Still Matters

One of the most impactful advantages that in-person shopping has over online shopping is the test drive. Buyers value the ability to test drive a car (often several!) before they make their final decisions. Many online marketplaces allow cars to be returned, which gives buyers the opportunity to have the car for a week or so and see how it fits their needs. The catch is that many of these marketplaces require that you PURCHASE the vehicle. If you change your mind, you’re still able to return the car to the seller, but this stretches out and complicates a process that normally only takes a few hours to accomplish when dealing with dealerships in person.

This is when sites like BestRide truly shine. You can use the site to peruse tens of thousands of vehicles and virtually endless dealership inventories from the comfort and convenience of home, and then schedule an in-person test drive with the local dealer that has your potential new ride.

Easy Financing Options are a Must

Those who have purchased a car in person know how the experience can eat up an entire afternoon. Contracts, documents, financing, and service options are paraded past you in a blur, and it’s very likely that you only understood a fraction of it. Financing is often noted as the least pleasant portion of the car-buying process. Many of the popular car-buying sites have attempted to streamline the process, offering financing options upfront, and encouraging the consumer to get preapproved before they even start perusing the inventory. Quick and easy financing options are as good as gold to many shoppers.

However, dealerships are able to offer a more varied selection of financing rates and options, which can be especially attractive to those shopping with a strict budget or price point in mind. Many dealers also offer the same ability to get preapproved for a financing offer on their own sites, before ever actually heading down to the dealership.

A High-Value Trade-In Process

Those who purchased online were also more likely to trade in their vehicles. Progressive’s survey found that 80% of online shoppers were highly satisfied with this process, compared to 60% of in-person shoppers. Online shoppers felt less pressured and more confident in their trade-in process, and that their trade-in price was favorable or competitive.

Will online car shopping fully replace the in-person experience? Each option possesses its pros and cons, so only time will tell. Luckily, with BestRide, you get the combined advantages of an online marketplace (large inventories and convenience) with the perks of purchasing from a dealer (more financing options, test drives, and personable customer service). Talk about the best of both worlds! That’s why BestRide is the smartest, easiest way to find a car online. Start your search today.

Annie Boss

Annie Boss

Annie grew up in a small mining town in northern Utah, which gave her an early appreciation of big trucks with even bigger tires. She has a true passion for writing, as well as injecting lighthearted fun and gentle goofs into every piece she puts out. Annie now resides in Phoenix, Arizona, and has been writing about automotive and automotive-adjacent topics for the past two years. Her dream car is a bright yellow hard top Jeep Wrangler with SHERA on the vanity plate.