US customers spend an average of 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 a finance manager, buying a new car can easily eat up an entire day or even weekend! (At Cartelligent, we save our clients almost all of this time by taking on the most onerous parts of the process for our clients.)
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.
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 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:
1. Online research
New car review sites 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.
2. 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.”
Even customers who start with an online car buying site need to go through multiple stages of paperwork and personnel. 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.
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.
5. Financing & Leasing
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.
Trade-in inspection and negotiation must be handled separately and can add considerably to the total time spent at the dealership.
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 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 more information, give us a call at 888-427-4270 or get started today.