Face-to-face car sales may quickly be coming to an end. Taking a cue from the ecommerce industry, many car dealerships are shifting to an online sales model to streamline the car buying experience.

In this article, we’ll explore what’s driving this shift to online car sales, new features offered by online car dealerships, and more.

Let’s get started!

What’s driving the shift to online car sales

Traditionally, buying a car can be a long process that often involves haggling, confusion, and frustration. It’s not a pleasant experience. The shift to online car sales is, in large part, an attempt to alleviate these pain points.

Part of the rise of online car sales has to do with the growth of ecommerce giants like Amazon, which have increased consumer demand for convenient shopping experiences. Easy online ordering and two-day shipping have conditioned many consumers to expect more from businesses.

Another reason online car sales are becoming popular is that so much product information is available to consumers these days. With how ubiquitous Google and smartphones are, it’s no wonder they are going to the internet to start their car search. Many come to dealerships with their car and financing already picked out. Relying on car salespeople is simply no longer necessary in the information age.

Tiger Okeley at car dealership Oak Motors said, “We rarely see a customer come to one of our locations without having already browsed through our inventory online. People aren’t coming to see what we have for sale, they’re coming to look at a handful of cars that they already know they’re interested in.”

But it wasn’t until 2020 that the shift to online car sales really kicked into full gear. Supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic (and the coinciding war in Ukraine) led to a shortage of silicon chips and semiconductors needed to produce many cars. As a result, new and used car prices skyrocketed, leading many consumers to explore ordering cars from factories directly.

Interest in buying cars online has only gone up ever since. According to a 2021 study conducted by CarGurus, 60% of respondents said they’d prefer to do more of the car-buying process at home for their next vehicle purchase.

Car dealerships must now adapt to new expectations.

Features offered by online car dealerships

To thrive in the digital age, modern car dealerships are offering all of the following features:

• Online apps to let consumers look at real-time car inventories and shop from the comfort of their homes.

• At-home test drives through door-to-door drop-off and pick-up systems so that consumers can test out cars on their own in a low-pressure setting.

• Pre-ordering so that consumers can get the car they want even if it requires some waiting, a feature that became popular during pandemic car shortages.

• Contactless delivery so that people don’t need to go into a dealership or interact with anyone to buy a car. They can get one delivered to their door just like an Amazon package.

• Online car reviews and ratings so that people can compare different cars without needing to actually test drive them.

Again, these online features are all driven by consumer demand. According to the same CarGurus study referenced earlier, shoppers are most interested in pre-scheduled dealership appointments (46%), solo test drives (42%), test drives at home (32%), and at-home delivery (30%).

The future of online car sales

For most people, a car is the second most expensive purchase they will ever make, and modernizing the transaction will help reduce a lot of the stress, frustration, and confusion often associated with the process.

Of course, change won’t happen overnight. Many car dealerships are offering the best of both worlds by having physical dealership locations plus a website where people can look at their vehicle inventory. That way, people can start their car shopping online and finish in-store.

This provides a better experience for everyone involved. It offers the car buyer more convenience, less pressure, and a faster experience while allowing car dealerships to sell more cars in less time. It’s a win-win!