Automotive Safety

Car-buying trends during the coronavirus pandemic

A masked woman disinfects a car steering wheel

The coronavirus pandemic has greatly impacted how companies do business, and auto dealerships are no exception.

Many showrooms are closed by government order. Likewise, there’s no way to maintain social distance while on a test drive with a sales representative. So how are dealers selling vehicles? We run through recent trends in new and used car sales.

1. Dealerships are mostly open

As of June 1, 2020, all states allow online vehicle sales and deliveries. Some states, including Texas and Indiana, are letting in-person showrooms operate statewide, while others, such as California and Pennsylvania, are allowing showrooms to open on a county-by-county basis.

Not sure what dealerships are allowed to do in your area? Check your county and state government websites for up-to-date information.

2. Online research is more important & more advanced than ever

Even car-buyers who eventually want to shop at a dealership can narrow down the number of showrooms they visit and vehicles they need to look at in-person.

For new cars, automaker websites offer high-res video and images of each model. Some dealers even have online tours of their showrooms where shoppers can browse the models for sale and even virtually step into the cars they’re interested in. Those looking for a particular trim or color will find that dealer websites are also a good place to check inventory.

For used cars, online listings remain hit-and-miss, with some (but not all) dealers increasingly including exterior and interior photos from different angles. 

3. Dealerships taking steps to social distance 

In addition to steps adopted by most businesses, like sanitizing commonly touched surfaces and marking off where sales reps and customers stand, many dealers have also moved to an appointment system to limit the number of people on-site at any one time. Dealers have also been offering remote credit applications, price quotes, home vehicle delivery, and even home test-drives to reduce the amount of in-person interaction. In many cases, though, it's impossible to eliminate all contact—for example, some states require signatures to take place in person, even for remote sales.

4. Some dealers expand home test-drives 

One of the innovations dealers have been offering is the socially distanced home test-drive. A sales representative drives the vehicle to the customer's home, wipes down the interior, and steps aside while they take a short solo drive. When the customer is done, the sales rep answers questions and returns the car to the dealer. 

5. Used vehicle prices on the decline

A drop in auto sales, along with an influx of excess rental cars, is pushing down the price of used cars and will likely do so for the foreseeable future. That’s good news for buyers, although those looking to trade in their current vehicle should be aware those falling prices will hurt the value of their trade, too. Shoppers should carefully weigh whether a trade-in works out in their financial favor.

6. Automakers & dealers boost incentives

The decline in car sales has prompted manufacturers and dealerships to sweeten buyer incentives. On top of lowered asking prices, the other incentives look to be deferred payments and lower interest rates. Toyota, for example, is now offering eligible customers the option to defer their first loan payment for up to 90 days, while Chevy is offering 0% financing for 84 months to "very well-qualified" buyers on select models. 

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Looking for a dealer you can trust?

AAA members can enjoy a great car buying experience with AAA Car Buying Service. Find the car you want from a certified dealer and feel confident in the price you’re paying. 

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AAA Car Buying Service is only available to AAA members. Outside of Southern California, AAA Car Buying Service is managed by TrueCar, Inc. Only car buying research tools are available in Hawai‘i.

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