Car buyers in for deals and at-home services amid COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 9:03 AM, Jun 08, 2020

If you’ve been thinking about buying a car, experts say now is the time to shop. Dealers are offering more incentives than ever before to get drivers back on the road, and because of the coronavirus, you can stay home and find a good deal.

“It’s the way the world is going now,” said recent car buyer, Stephanie Given. “Everything’s online.”

Given is an ICU nurse working on the frontline of the pandemic, and in the midst of the health crisis, badly needed a new car.

“We needed that second vehicle, the more reliable vehicle that we knew would be reliable in this time,” said Given.

Her nearly 15-year-old ride was giving out, but, walking in to a dealership made Given anxious.

“I have been under a little stress in my work life and personal life, and I was kind of dreading the stress of buying a car,” she said.

So, she started her search online.

“I found the car online through the Carmax app, and I was kind of let down when I saw the car was in Las Vegas, and it was just a couple seconds and they said, ‘We can ship it to you,’ and I said, ‘What? That’s amazing!’” said Given.

Not only did she find the car she was looking for online, she did all the paperwork at home.

“I kind of had a hybrid experience. I did my part online and then came to the dealership to pick up and take possession of the car,” she said.

Given’s experience is now becoming the norm. Dealers are making it possible to do everything, from shopping to financing, from your couch. Some dealers, like Carmax, will even drop off the car at your door.

“We want to take the scary four-hour dealership visit that you’d expect, and allow you to do as many things as you want at home,” said Corey Haire, the Vice President of sales at Carmax.

“You can do everything from a virtual walk around where they’ll walk around the vehicle with a facetime phone call and take direction from the consumer as to what they want to look closer at,” said Karl Brauer, an Executive Publisher at Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader.

Brauer believes this new way of doing business is here to stay. “I think it’s proving more efficient on both sides,” he said.

Brauer said the car industry is expecting to see a big bounce back through the summer and fall.

“People are moving into more confident, purchasing mindsets,” he said.

According to Brauer, new car sales are down by about 31% compared to spring 2019, but used car sales haven’t taken such a hit—down only about 6%.

“I think there are a lot of people are thinking maybe they want their own personal vehicle in lieu of public transportation, but these people aren’t buying a car because they’ve dreamed of one or have wanted one, this is purely for functional purposes,” said Brauer.

So if you’re looking for a deal, Brauer said the first step is research, and then, look for combined offers.

“We’ve seen deals for 0% financing, which were getting pretty rare recently. We’ve seen deals like deferred payments for three to four months, but we’ve hardly ever seen both of those at the same time,” said Brauer.

Some dealers are offering longer term loans too.

“If you’re looking at a new vehicle, and one of these 0% 72 or 84-month loans are available to you, that’s real money you’re saving over that kind of time,” he said.

If you want the new car smell without the new car price, check out a 2019 model.

“They were going to be hard to sell anyways with the 2020 cars coming out, but now they’re even harder to sell with all the incentives going on for the new cars,” he said.

Brauer reminds buyers that, with any purchase, make sure you’re financially ready. For Given, she said the car and the price were just right, and the online process sweetened the deal.

“I do think it was a little bit of retail therapy. I did something for me during this time, and I needed to do that, but it also filled a need, so it was a win-win,” she said.

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