Car Shopping in the Age of COVID-19 has completely changed since the onset of the pandemic. Here’s the current state of industry.
The emergence of appointment-only and remote shopping
In the early weeks of the pandemic, dealerships responded swiftly by adopting appointment-only and virtual operations. The bulk of the legwork in selecting a car and negotiating options and pricing was done remotely, over the phone and via virtual meetings.
It was also common for dealerships to accommodate at-home test drive requests and even transactions themselves. These practices were a prudent response to an unprecedented public health crisis, but for most dealerships 100% virtual car buying was not designed to be sustainable over the long term and across the board. Their business model was built on in-person sales on company turf.
Traditional operations have largely resumed now, with measures in place for safer browsing, including physical distancing, capping the number of persons allowed in the showroom, and vigilant cleaning of the vehicles themselves.
That said, some of the changes from early this year are likely to stick. Our world was already on its way to becoming more virtual, as the auto industry is well aware.
The spring of 2020 saw an onslaught of seemingly irresistible dealer incentives, such as deferred monthly payments, low-interest loans, and lengthier loan terms of up to 84 months. Dealers understood the sudden economic insecurity gripping the nation, and tailored their marketing efforts accordingly.
As a consumer, it’s important to do some homework, to gauge your budget, and to select a financing or cash options that makes sense for you in the long run. It’s also good to bear in mind the old adage — if it sounds too good to be true, most likely it is.
Some of the payment deferral programs may sound great, but depending on your terms, interest on the vehicle may be accruing from the moment you purchase. A seven-year loan could be rife with pitfalls, and ultimately can result in you owing more than your car is worth. In many instances the rebates are far more valuable than the “special rates” and those who are seduced by the low rates and longer terms are often individuals who can least afford to saddle their budget with seven-year loans.
Remember, too, that you are not obligated to apply for and accept dealer financing when buying a car. Many dealerships will post online pricing that are contingent upon dealer financing. Best to assume that those incentives are to benefit the dealership, not the buyer and it might be worth exploring financing options with your own bank or credit union.
The nature of the industry changes brought about by COVID-19 is fluid, and varies by manufacturer.
You can read more about incentives here: https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/coronavirus-car-deals-payment-deferrals-and-incentives
Production woes and staffing cutbacks
The COVID-19 pandemic created a variety of problems in the areas of manufacturing, inventory, and staffing. Car Pal has observed these issues, notably via our customers.
Paula M. of Chicago experienced weeks of frustration and dead ends in shopping for a car on her own this summer. Multiple inquiries to dealerships were ignored and her phone calls went unreturned. This was very likely the result of industry-wide staffing cutbacks, factory shutdowns, and general operational restructuring.
Soon after, Paula discovered Car Pal. “I can hardly believe that after a month of working on my own to find the car we wanted for the best deal, Lindsay and Car Pal got us an even better car for less money within a week,” Paula said.
The benefit of having an industry insider like Car Pal in her corner proved invaluable during these uncertain times. “And now a brand new leased car is parked outside my building! It was even delivered to us across state lines. Couldn’t have been easier!”
It will take some time for the pandemic ripple effect between factories and showrooms to subside, but Car Pal’s mission remains steady: personalized service in negotiating the best deal on your behalf.
In conclusion, you can trust Car Pal’s proven record of advocacy and experience, especially in times of remarkable upheaval in the auto industry. We will be happy to address any questions you might have about the latest news in car shopping, incentives, and inventory.
Should you feel more at ease shopping “the COVID way,” Car Pal is in your corner. We will advocate for you as your dealership liaison, so you can feel safe and confident in navigating the process on your own terms. Call our CEO, Lindsay Graham, directly at 336-601-6390 for a free consultation.