Maybe Car Buyers Aren't Ready To Purchase Online Yet

Illustration for article titled Maybe Car Buyers Aren't Ready To Purchase Online Yet

Everyone from giants like Amazon to startups like Beepi are trying to figure out ways to sell cars online. However, a recent survey suggests that most car buyers aren’t quite ready to abandon the visiting the dealership just yet.


Automotive News recently reported on a survey of more than 2,000 new car buyers in August from software company DealerSocket, and that survey reveals a disconnect between what dealers think they have to offer in terms of online shopping and what the majority of car buyers are looking for.

From the survey.
From the survey.

Many large dealership chains like Sonic Automotive, AutoNation, and Penske Automotive are making big investments in online shopping options. The report cites an industry urgency to mimic startups like Carvana and Beepi in the used car realm or offer a “Tesla-like” buying experience for new cars. Of course, they can only go so far, given how the laws constrain direct sales.

But when asked whether they would like to “complete the entire process online instead of visiting a dealership,” only 33 percent of respondents answered yes. The survey described “a false sense of urgency” for full digital retail.

And DealerSocket’s recent survey indicates the only very wealthy buyers are mostly interested in conducting their car transaction online:

Half of surveyed consumers earning $100,000 to $149,000 annually would like to bypass the dealership and buy vehicles online.

In contrast, 29 percent of people making $25,000 to $49,000 said they’d like to buy vehicles online. In addition, 37 percent of men want to buy vehicles online, while 29 percent of women do.


As a consultant who works with a variety of car buyers on a daily basis, the explanation for these findings can be summed up by two primary factors.

First, wealthy buyers tend to value their time over the price of the vehicle. That’s not to say they don’t care about getting a good price, but those buyers are more willing to pay what they consider a fair price for a car in order to avoid the often time-consuming dealership experience. These buyers often know exactly what they want down to the colors and options before ever going to a dealership.


On the other hand, car buyers with a more median-level income have more of a need to try out a few different makes and models in order to come to a decision on which one works best. These buyers are more focused on saving money more than time, and are looking for a process that is honest and straightforward.

The report concluded that dealers need to be ready for online shopping, but not at the expense of the in-store dealership experience. At least, for now.

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (


Online purchases are always disappointments, especially when mobile apps are involved. For example, I downloaded the much-advertised Quicken Loans Rocket Mortgage app, only to learn I could not finance the purchase of a rocket.