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Car Buying During COVID-19

Chris Kaiser

Still looking to buy a car? Good news, it’s easier than you think, despite social distancing. We break down the process step-by-step.

Even while some car buyers are putting their purchase plans on hold, others, including essential workers, still need a reliable form of transportation. In those cases that means pressing forward with buying a new car. Now, buying a car under normal circumstances can be an involved process, and stay-at-home orders and social distancing adds yet another layer, but I’m here to tell you don’t worry. Not only can buying a car be simple, it can be safe too.

Research & Compare Prices

A car shopper utilizing Carsforsale.com on his phone
A car shopper utilizing Carsforsale.com on his phone

The internet makes researching your next car purchase a lot easier than they used to be. Given current social distancing, the number of vehicles you’ll be test driving could be down to a handful. Therefore, having a good working knowledge of a vehicle’s strengths, weaknesses, and features goes a long way. Consumer car reviews, car blogs (like this one), and manufacturer websites are all good resources to help you narrow your search.

Once you’ve set your sites on a particular vehicle, the next step is to start comparing prices. Local dealership websites can be helpful to start out, but it’s third-party listing platforms like Carsforsale.com that come in especially handy. Not only can you search vehicles specific to your area, but search filters allow you to narrow down price and payment, trim levels, mileage, and more. Once you’ve found specific vehicles you’re interested in, you can also access vehicle history reports.

In addition to the usual search features, many third-party listing sites have recently added digital badging to their listings to indicate safe shopping options available from dealers. These make it easy for shoppers to identify when a dealer is offering things like video walkarounds, at-home test drives, and online paperwork.

Inspect & Test Drive

Car shoppers inspecting a dealership car at home
Car shoppers inspecting a dealership car at home

Even though most showrooms are closed to customers, that doesn’t mean you can’t get the information you need from dealers. Thanks to Facetime, Skype, and other video chat technologies, meeting virtually with a salesperson is easy. A virtual walkaround allows you to ask any initial questions you might have and get at least a preliminary look at vehicles you might be interested in.

When you’re buying a used vehicle, one with tens of thousands of miles on the odometer, it always makes sense to carefully inspect and test drive a vehicle. But, with social distancing in place, that means the usual trip to the dealership is largely out of the question. However, that doesn’t mean a test drive is impossible. Dealers are working hard to replicate the traditional showroom experience in the safest ways possible.

Why Did the PT Cruiser Succeed?
A couple taking a test drive from home
A couple taking a test drive from home

Now, many dealers are willing to drop a vehicle off at your residence (safely cleaned of course) for a solo test drive. It’s important to inspect any used vehicle inside and out, prior to purchase. Check the engine bay, undercarriage, and the ground underneath for any possible fluid leaks, listen carefully to how the engine runs (at idle and when accelerating), note the feel of the brakes, and give a thorough look to the undercarriage and all visible suspension parts for wear and rust. With the mechanical considerations out of the way, you’ll also want to note the condition of the interior and the body.

Following your home test drive, make a list of any questions you have for your salesperson.

Financing & Paperwork

Companies are working to provide the option to sign and finalize paperwork electronically - itechglobe.com
Companies are working to provide the option to sign and finalize paperwork electronically - itechglobe.com

Even before the COVID-19 restrictions, dealers and lenders had been shifting more and more vehicle financing paperwork online. These modern conveniences are coming in handy today, allowing car buyers to apply for financing digitally. In turn, buyers should make sure they can provide all the relevant documentation, like paystubs, insurance cards, and driver’s license information in a digital form.

Currently, dealers are offering genuinely unprecedented financing incentives for both new and used vehicles, including low or no interest loans and deferred payments. If you’re currently looking to buy, despite the logistical hurdles, you’ll probably find a really great deal on your next vehicle.

Closing the Deal & Taking Delivery

Closing the deal without a face-to-face can be a sticking point, depending on the state you live in. Some states still require a “wet” signature (rather than a digital one) for the completion of a vehicle purchase. Tesla’s home delivery accommodates this by allowing buyers to take delivery, leaving the final paperwork to be signed and dropped off at an offsite location. Many dealers have now adopted similar methods for contactless paperwork completion.

Vehicle delivery services are ready to work with customers to get them their new vehicle - montway.com
Vehicle delivery services are ready to work with customers to get them their new vehicle - montway.com

Just as with the home test drive, dealers can now make final delivery by dropping off your new vehicle at your home. Even if your next car purchase isn’t completed with smile and a handshake, dealers are working hard to make sure the car buying process is as simple and safe as possible.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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