The car buying industry has been one of the most stagnant and slow to adapt markets in the consumer world. The traditional model of blindly visiting your local used car dealer and putting your fate in their hands remained the only car-buying option until recently. However, in the same way that the digital age has revolutionized so many other aspects of our lives, the used car buying experience is finally evolving. While this is almost entirely a positive change for the consumer, the process is not without its risks.
Arguably the most important aspect of any used car buying experience is research. This research covers a multitude of factors, including the reliability of certain models, the reputation of specific dealers, or even the price you should pay. In the past, conducting comprehensive research was extremely challenging, if not impossible. However, the power of knowledge is finally in the hands of the consumer. There are now countless websites that provide any amount of information a car shopper could buy. One of the most important pieces of research that a consumer can conduct is to review the reliability ratings of the models they are considering. These ratings often go beyond simple scores and instead function as highly in-depth analyses of the strengths and complications of any make and model. People can now know more about a car before buying it through the information available from vin reports, reviews, and other websites. Beyond researching the cars, themselves, the digital age has also empowered shoppers to research specific dealers. It is now effectively impossible for a dishonest dealer to hide behind a flashy facade; if they have earned a bad reputation, it is now trivial to find out why. Lastly but arguably most important is the ability to research the price to pay. Never before has a customer been more able to compare prices and thus walk into a dealership wielding a competitive offer.
Social media has also played a surprisingly powerful role in transforming the used car buying experience. Rather than heading directly to a dealership, more and more people are using options such as Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist to find their new car. These options not only broaden the choices available, but they reduce the cost associated with a needless middleman. Even if they choose to buy a car from a traditional dealer, social media is now serving as a powerful sounding board where people can ask and gather opinions of cars, dealers, or options.
The Consumer Is No Longer a Passive Observer
The amount of power and information available to a used car shopper can at times be overwhelming. However, the available websites do a fantastic job of organizing and categorizing information, making the process as easy as possible. While focus and a plan of attack are crucial in the car shopping experience, the playing field has never been more level. Thankfully, the changes seen so far have been almost universally positive.
It is likely true that the traditional dealership network will continue to go through various growing pains as the industry continues to evolve. However, the most likely outcome is a continued positive transformation for everyone involved.
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