Thinking of buying a car? Great! Thinking about the hassle of the purchase process? Not so great.
If you dread the car buying process, you’re not alone. In fact, less than 1% of consumers actually enjoy the car purchasing process. The other 99% of us can think of plenty of things we’d rather do than start shopping for a new car. Mounds of housework? Sure. Sitting at the DMV for several hours? Yup. Counting the blades on a ceiling fan? Sounds great!
Here at Control the Road, we’re determined to change that. We want to make sure you experience Buying Made Equal—a great car buying experience regardless of your needs or circumstances. You most likely find yourself asking, where do I start?
Research. This essential first step helps you not only figure out what you want but also determine the best place to go to get it. Not all vehicles are the same, and not all dealerships are the same—that’s why we’re here to guide you through the initial step of finding the best options for you, your lifestyle, and your needs.
Begin Your Car Shopping Online with Third Party Websites
In this day and age most of us do some portion of our shopping online—which also includes car shopping. In fact, a recent study from Cox Automotive showed that car buyers spend more than half their time in the purchase process doing research online!
To get an idea of what type of vehicle you need, start by filling out the questionnaire in Control the Road’s Purchase Advisor. Think about what your lifestyle demands from your vehicle, and then start researching vehicles with your desired features on third party websites like Consumer Reports, Edmunds, and Motor Trend. Overall, about 78% of car shoppers use third party sites like these to research vehicles, and with good reason. When you’re shopping for a purchase this significant, you want to know that you’re getting unbiased information about specific vehicles. Look for reviews, specs, and road test data about any vehicles you’re interested in purchasing on these third-party sites. While you’re at it, look at information about your current vehicle to determine what trade-in value you’ll likely be able to get for it.
Once you’ve narrowed down a few options for makes and models, check out vehicle brand websites like (ex. Toyota.com, Ford.com) to compare features for your preferred vehicles. Typical car buyers spend less than 10% of their purchase process time on manufacturer websites but these sites can provide helpful comparisons of different models and editions of vehicles, as well as provide photos and technical specs for each one.
Find the Best Car Dealerships Online
You’ve found what you believe to be the best options for your next vehicle. What now?
While it’s tempting to head straight to the dealership for a test drive, save yourself time and hassle by finding the right dealership(s) to visit. Not all car dealers are the same, but an hour or two spent looking at dealer websites can help you determine which ones have their customers’ best interest in mind—that’s you!
If you’re looking for efficiency throughout the car buying process from start to finish, know that car buyers like you have come to expect it—and dealers that are truly customer-centric will provide it. According to Cox Automotive, more than 80% of car buyers want the option to complete at least one step of their purchase process online, like getting pre-approved for a loan or securing a guaranteed quote for a trade in vehicle. As you browse dealer websites, look for transparency and easy-to-navigate menus, and ask yourself the following questions.
When looking at vehicle and shopping pages, does this dealer website have:
- Actual photos of their vehicles (both new and used), or just stock CGI photos?
- Clearly listed vehicle prices, or just an MSRP and a button that days “Click for more info,” “Get ePrice,” “Unlock your special price,” or something similarly vague?
- An explanation of all vehicle options, colors, and accessories for your vehicle of interest?
When looking at the dealer’s informational web pages, does this dealer promote:
- Partnerships or relationships with community groups and support organizations?
- Awards won from vehicle manufacturers or brands? What about awards from other automotive related sources?
- Names of their staff members with photos? This can help you become more familiar with exactly who you’ll interact with in-store.
- The use of energy efficient technology at their dealership? Look for this or any other “positive image” promotions that interest you or align with your values.
Look closely at the financing pages on a dealer’s website. One in four car buyers has no idea what financing and insurance products are available before they walk into a dealership—and that could be because dealerships try to keep this information hidden. If you’re looking for car dealerships who truly care about their customers, look for dealers whose websites clearly explain:
- rebates and special financing
- leases, loans, and other purchase options
- extended warranty options
- service plans
Lastly, look at the service page of each dealer website. Does the page show specials and hours of operation? Is there an easy and quick way to schedule a service appointment online?
Is Car Purchase Research Worth It?
While it may seem like overkill, putting in the time to research vehicles and car dealers online is absolutely essential to saving yourself time and headache during the car buying process. Technology and consumer expectations have changed and it’s only right for dealers to keep up with what customers want.
Some dealers may be stuck in the past, but it is possible to find one that will meet your needs throughout the entire purchase process. Here at Control the Road, we believe in Buying Made Equal, and we’re here to help you ensure you have the best possible experience—regardless of your lifestyle, circumstances, and unique needs in a vehicle. We’d love to support you in your purchase with our Concierge Purchase Service.
Want to get started on your own? Check out Control the Road’s our Purchase Advisor and/or Adaptive Equipment Driving Guide and stay tuned for future posts on how to make the car buying process work for you.
We’re here to help you Control the Road, every step of the way.