- People across the United States and the world are being urged to stay inside and limit physical contact with others to stop the spread of COVID-19. That’s bad news for car sales.
- But there are many ways to buy a car online, some of which either provide or facilitate shipping and no-contact pickups.
- There are also tools, like a platform from San Francisco–based Roadster, for dealerships looking to expand and improve their online offerings in a time when many customers are staying home.
Suppose you find yourself in need of a new (or new-to-you) car but also in the midst of the biggest global medical emergency in living memory. Meeting the guy from Craigslist, hopping in his car for a test drive, handing him a pile of grubby cash, and shaking his hand to close the deal suddenly doesn’t seem like such a good idea. Plus, depending on where you live, it might be in violation of a local order to shelter in place. Luckily, the internet is here to save the day. And not just with cat videos.
If your car needs replacing right now, or if you’re hoping to take advantage of pandemic-specific deals, you can turn to one of the many web-based car sales platforms that have sprung up in recent years. In many cases, the whole transaction can be accomplished from your couch.
If you’re looking for a used car, take a peek at Carvana, a platform that features an entire online-shopping experience, including financing and used-car trade-ins. When you find something you like, Carvana will deliver your vehicle of choice to your door and give you a seven-day grace period, during which you can change your mind and return the car for a refund or an exchange. It’s not as easy as buying a new pair of shoes online; Carvana will want to validate your income using pay stubs or tax documents, and it’ll send you a contract just like the one you’d have to peruse at a dealership. But there’s no need to be within breathing space of another human, and because the interactions take place online, you might feel less pressure to make a decision than you would in a showroom.
For dealers who are looking to mitigate their losses while customers are hunkered down at home, Roadster, a Silicon Valley startup, offers a platform that displays its car inventory online and allows customers who would prefer not to come into the dealership to connect easily with a dealership in their area. Roadster also has tools that can allow dealers to value a trade-in without seeing it in person and to facilitate mobile credit applications. Knowing an opportunity when it sees one, Roadster is currently advertising a COVID-19–inspired discount on its online shopping tools for dealers looking to serve customers who are staying home during the pandemic.
Car shoppers looking for something that can’t be found on the average used-car lot may want to take this opportunity to return to the welcoming embrace of Bring a Trailer. This auction site is the country-club version of Craigslist. Featured cars have to be accepted based on criteria like quality and rarity, and sellers pay a fee of at least $99 in order to list their vehicle for auction. Eventual ownership is less certain than many other used-car sales websites (because you might not win the auction), but also more fun because the cars are sometimes truly special and you can enjoy the suspense of watching the clock tick down. Once it’s all over, you arrange shipment and find your new-old car on your doorstep in as little as a few days.
If you’ve been looking for a new car, this could still be your chance to take advantage of aggressive incentives from automakers. General Motors and Ford both announced special financing deals on Monday. GM is offering four months of deferred payments and zero percent interest for seven years to buyers with qualifying credit scores through March 31. Buyers who don’t qualify for that deal may qualify for one that offers a higher interest rate but still provides four months of deferred payments. Depending on dealer, you are likely to be able to do most or all of the pre-sales paperwork and logistics by phone and online, to avoid unnecessary social contact.
Ford is allowing customers who buy a new car the option to defer their first payment for 90 days. The company is also encouraging customers with existing loans who will have trouble making payments as a result of the COVID-19 crisis to contact Ford’s credit arm to discuss relief options.
Hyundai is bringing back a Great Recession–era tactic to calm buyers’ nerves: If you buy a new Hyundai or Genesis between now and the end of April, finance your loan through the automaker at a zero percent interest rate, and then lose your job, you can defer your payments for up to six months. Hyundai and Genesis are also allowing buyers of certain models to defer payments for 90 days regardless of their employment status.
And there are more; we’re keeping track of all the customer support programs during the pandemic.