Customers who are out looking to skip the usual dealership visit and buy themselves a car online are beginning to discover more options available to them.
More auto dealers, as well as startups, are offering direct sales through their websites, latching onto the click-to-buy culture of online retailing.
Many car shoppers say they loathe visiting dealerships, unsettled by the pushy sales tactics, haggling over price and lengthy process it takes to close a purchase. With online sales, much of that aggravation can be avoided, say dealers offering the service, although in most cases customers don't get to test drive the specific vehicle they want to purchase before it arrives.
The shift to more online sales could change the dynamics of automotive retail, allowing dealers to expand their geographic reach, and make it easier for customers to cross-shop stores based on price, retailers and industry analysts say.
Most of the growth in online sales today is from used vehicles marketed through new startups like Carvana and Shift Technologies Inc. Used vehicles, unlike new vehicles, don't have to be sold through franchised car dealers, allowing for a more-open market. These startups let customers browse and purchase preowned cars on their websites and arrange to have them delivered to their home or business in many markets across the U.S.
Carvana, which was founded in 2012, is now delivering cars in 85 U.S. markets. The Phoenix-based company says it sold nearly 66,400 vehicles this year through the third quarter, up from about 44,000 for all of 2017 and roughly 230 vehicles five years ago.
As customers become more comfortable with buying big-ticket items online, from furniture to large electronics, more dealerships are introducing direct-delivery service for new vehicles. Some will deliver a car anywhere free, while others charge by distance after a certain number of miles.
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