car online - A guide
|Buying a car
in 21st century
The Internet has changed many shopping experiences drastically but there are few that have been impacted as strongly as car buying.
After all, many items – from clothing to house wares to toys – have been sold from mail order catalogues for many years. And although the Internet has added more features to this shopping experience, it hasn’t really uncovered any previously unavailable aspects of the ‘mail order’ buying process or provided you with radically more information than you had previously.
But online car shopping is very different than the offline process. First of all you can now find information about virtually any car instantly. You can learn about a car’s fuel economy, safety ratings, options, color choices and even consumer ratings at no cost, 24/7 without ever leaving the comfort of your home (although you may have to pay for certain information, such as that from Consumer Ratings).
Secondly you can find out what’s hot and what’s not, giving you bargaining power and helping you understand whether your desired car is going to be easy to find and priced lower than MSRP or difficult to obtain and significantly more than MSRP.
You can also find out via online forums and buying sites what the going price is for a vehicle. You never again have to wonder if you’re getting a ‘good price’ or being taken for a ride. And you can also find a ballpark figure for the value of your used car so that you don’t get ripped off when you trade it in. You can also ensure that you know about incentive, rebate and holdbacks (although the
last one can be difficult to find reliable information about) available on your car of choice.
Will you ever know as much as the dealer – especially about holdbacks, recently introduced incentive programs and other ‘behind the scenes’ costs? No. But the Internet will allow you to bargain from a much stronger position than consumers had previously. You can walk on to a
dealer’s lot armed with information that simply wasn’t available to the consumer of ten years ago.
So who’s buying online? Of the approximately 17 million new vehicles sold in 2001 only about 6% were bought online (versus 4.7% in 2000) and this percentage seems to be holding steady (not rising dramatically to the 20% as predicted by Gomez Advisors in this 1999 article). It’s hard to find out exactly who these buyers are without paying big bucks for the closely guarded information (for example, J.D. Powers Automotive Shopper report costs $15,000 US). However, several news items suggest that the majority of online car researchers and buyers are relatively affluent, younger and
that the higher the price tag on the car the more likely that the buyer will have researched it online.
Whether the car is actually bought online or not, researching cars online has