How to Buy a Car in the Digital Age?

When your Dad had gone out to buy a car, he probably hung out at the closest dealership for a few days. He had long discussions on the technical merits of various models with the salesman, took a few options out for a test drive, and then sealed the deal. Thus, began a lifelong relationship between your Dad and the auto dealer encompassing everything from service and repair to future car purchases. The digital age has made it a lot different and more straightforward than ever.

The advent of eCommerce has opened up a whole new chapter in the annals of car salesmanship. Gone are the days when the information available to the customer primarily came from the automakers or the sources linked to them. The value of such information (traditional advertising and publicity campaigns) has been relegated to a mere first step in the search for the right car, where customers narrow down choices based on technical specifications provided by websites. The actual buying decision is now based on what other people are saying. In other words, word of mouth has taken on a whole new dimension. 

Here are a few vital steps to buy your next pair of wheels in this digital age.

Step 1: Choosing the vehicle brand/model

When you have finally made up your mind to get rid of your current wheels and go for something snappier, the first thing to do is narrow down a few brands you are comfortable with based on experience, great ad campaigns, or just because “I want this one because it’s cool.” Your first source of information is the automotive portals, where you can check technical specifications, availability (both stock and location-wise), and price comparisons. Then comes the fun part!

Step 2: Ask around (the web)

With instant access to thousands of other users, you no longer have to rely on what the automaker puts up on their website or print ads. You can always ask friends and family, but if they are already using a particular vehicle, they may not necessarily want to blow the whistle on their own choice. Auto blogs, forums, and social media can provide a much more realistic picture. You can chat with experts and motoring enthusiasts who will be able to give you more detailed advice on the actual performance of your choice of vehicle. The automaker’s Facebook page and Twitter can also provide some useful insight. 

According to a recent study, 45% of potential car buyers rely on reviews and comparisons as their primary source of information, 30% of car buyers check blogs and forums, 15% go through their social networks, and 10% go for brand-owned and operated dealerships. In addition, different buyers use different devices to look for information depending on the day of the week and the time of the day. 

Step 3: Time to step out

By now, you should have narrowed your choices to one brand and may be stuck between a few models. It is now time to visit the dealership(s). But wait! Please note we said to visit the dealership, not the “nearest or closest” dealership. Competition is tough enough for auto dealers to offer really cool deals, which may include free fuel, rebates on road taxes, special discounts, finance deals, or free service for a year. More importantly, if you are going for financing, choose the dealer that offers you the most flexible payment plan rather than the one just down the road. 

Customers don’t mind going to the dealer which suits their needs. The studies reflect that 31% of customers are likely to travel 40-100 miles for a better deal, 22% will travel 10-20 miles, while only 7% will search within a ten-mile radius. 

Step 4: Take her out for a ride

Once you have selected your car, the rest of the process is fairly simple, and you can comfortably follow in your Dad’s footsteps. Take your vehicle out for a ride. If you are buying a family car, take everyone with you. It can save you a lot of trouble to check for car seat comfort, luggage space, and other user-specific features at this time because you will probably be stuck with this car for a couple of years at least.

Step 5: Seal the deal

It is when the dealership handles the paperwork, and you anxiously await the delivery of your new set of wheels. As you have bought this car after careful research online, you continue to be more brand loyal.

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