How Buying A Car Has Evolved
I don’t want to age myself, but I actually remember a time when you couldn’t buy anything online. The internet was brand new, and it was mainly used for two things: sending electronic messages (known as “e-mail”) and research. When Amazon established itself in the mid-90s as an online store, it started to change the culture of the internet forever.
Nowadays, you can find just about everything online, and we’re starting to enter an era where you can buy almost anything online. This has completely changed how people shop. The days of walking into a store blind are long gone, replaced by customers walking in locked and loaded with more information than they could ever need. This especially applies to buying a new car. With so many models and trims available that can be paired with dozens of accessories, knowing what you can get and where it’s available is crucial.
The way people have bought cars has evolved dramatically over the last century, and like any retail business, the evolution of the sales process is fascinating. Here’s a brief look at the history, and potential future, of car-buying.
How It Used To Be
Buying a new car used to really be a chore. In fact, buying anything was a chore. For pretty much everything, you had to *shudder* go places. Research was difficult in those days because you had to find out the information yourself. You couldn’t count on someone else doing the grunt-work for you and then just looking it up. People would go from dealership to dealership, narrowing down their choices by brand, then model and finally any extras they wanted. People would go to many dealerships looking at vehicles, talking to people (yes, you used to have to do that), and reading whatever brochures the dealership would provide before deciding on something.
This was also before the days of public reviews, so no one would really know how good a vehicle or dealership actually was beforehand. It was all by word of mouth that you learned about all the models available and which dealership to go to. There was no public list of pricing, so you really didn’t know if you were getting a good deal or not. You just had to hope that you had an honest salesman.
How It Is Now
People nowadays have so much access to information right at their fingertips that shopping is almost…lazy.
As stated above, if you wanted to buy a car in the past, you would have to shower, get dressed, and go to multiple stores and talk to multiple people to learn about a vehicle. Now, you don’t have to leave your house to learn everything you need to know. Heck, you don’t even have to leave your bed. You can just grab your tablet that has access to all of the world’s information and look up whatever you need to know.
Through this magical window, you can check multiple dealerships for multiple vehicles with multiple accessories…all while lying in your PJs munching on Cheetos. You can look up a vehicle’s reputation, average selling price and the reputation of the dealership in seconds. This will help narrow down which vehicle you’re getting and how much you’ll end up paying for it.
They say that knowledge is power. If so, we might be living in the most powerful era that has ever existed. But it might get worse…
How It Might Become
Imagine for a second that it’s 2030.
Newspapers are completely obsolete, someone has found a cure for the common cold, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have just won their 10th straight Stanley Cup (It’s called fantasy for a reason, ok?).
You decide that you need a new car, but you’re stuck between the new 2031 Toyota Camry and 2030 Honda Civic. So you put on your Virtual Reality Smart-Headset™ and “walk” into a virtual showroom to look at the cars. You talk to a Virtual Salesbeing and hop in the Virtual Camry to go on a Virtual Test-drive. You do the same thing with the Civic.
You decide then and there to purchase the Camry, mostly because the 22″ touchscreen connects to your iPhone 50 much better than the Civic does. You press a couple of Virtual buttons, and the car is bought with delivery promised the next day. You go back to watching season 41 of The Simpsons and the next day your vehicle is brought right to your door.
Seems pretty ridiculous right? Well, it’s coming. There’s a Honda dealership in Montreal that has been working with an online agency to sell new cars 100% online. The same idea with a site like Amazon, you pick the car you want, place an order, and the car is delivered to you. This is happening now.
The virtual reality ideas aren’t too far off either. VR headsets are becoming a lot more common now, and it’s only a matter of time before you’re able to look at a car through a headset. In fact, many dealerships already use 360-degree photography in their cars, so it’s coming sooner than you may think.
The Internet is a blessing and a curse. While it is handy having access to all of human history in your pocket, we do suffer from an oversaturation of knowledge. If you’ve already decided which car you want, great. You can look up everything about it and go to a dealership ready. If you don’t know what you want, it will be a lot more challenging. There is so much information out there that what you’re looking for might end up getting lost in the vastness of the information.
The world has changed a lot over the last 50 years, and buying a car has been able to keep up with the evolution of technology. It will be interesting to see what the next 50 years will bring.