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For my ten year wedding anniversary present, my husband treated me to a brand new car! The best part? I got to pick it out myself. After much research and plenty of hours spent online, I made my choice. Below is an account of my car-shopping journey. Spoiler alert: yes, I ended up buying a completely different model than the one I originally had my heart set on. Here’s how it happened.
First of all, I was very new to the modern car-shopping experience. The last car I bought was in 2005. I didn’t do any research before buying, and I ended up swearing I would never go to that dealer again after a couple bad service experiences there. This time was definitely going to be different.
I started my search by scouting the roads. What do I like, what will best suit my family of three, and what will I love to drive? The GMC Terrain was my top pick so I went online to start my research.
I did most of my research on my iPhone or Kindle, either while commuting on the train or at home on my couch. I started out on the GMC site, and then searched for a dealer in my area by zip code. I wasn’t convinced I needed a new car so I looked at both new and used and found a used Terrain that I wanted to look at first. The dealership had a lot of great photos of the Terrain and I really liked the CARFAX History report tool that they had on their site.
Next, I visited Edmunds.com to check reviews of the Terrain and found that it had great reviews. On Edmunds.com, I discovered a few more attractive models that fell into the same class and had positive reviews. After over a week of online research, it was time to take a test drive. I found the hours and directions to the dealership and stopped in to finally test drive.
My experience at the first dealership wasn’t impressive. The salesman wasn’t sure he had the Terrain I just saw online in stock. I remember wondering if this was some type of bait and switch technique but he eventually found the Terrain and we went out on the road. I drove two cars at that dealership, and then saw another dealership across the street that was open later than the others so I popped in.
The saleswoman there informed me of her below-retail rates and her Costco price discount. She created a sense of urgency around her offer. Her mention of this discount made me curious about Costco discounts online and about the dealership itself. However, after reading this dealership’s reviews on DealerRater.com, I decided that I would never buy a car there. I didn’t realize how influential the customer testimonials would be but from my past service experience, these bad reviews led me elsewhere.
I was feeling a little hesitant about the car shopping process. I felt uncomfortable test driving cars with sales people and with the big sticker prices; I was worried about my monthly payment. Luckily for my nerves, my big break was just around the corner. My family knew we were in market for a new car and my dad referred us to a salesman that he said would get us the best deal. I really liked the idea of going to someone that had a trusted reference and knowing he would get us the best price, it felt like it took that pressure off. His dealership was 45 minutes from our home. We had about 3 or 4 other GMC dealerships that were closer to our home, but we felt a good experience was worth the distance.
I contacted the salesman and told him about the vehicles I was considering. He assured me that new was the way to go. I trusted him. He emailed quotes for 4 models and told me that if my husband and I stop into his dealership and don’t like those models, he would drive us to his sister dealership which was another half hour away to check out more models. We really felt like he was taking care of us.
At the dealership, our salesman just gave us the keys to the models we were interested in. He didn’t come along on our test drive. This was nice. We were able to get in, relax and found ourselves having fun in the experience. With this freedom, we test drove a few models that weren’t included in our research and, to our surprise, we test drove a car and fell in love. Yes, a car that we never considered in our hours of research, a shiny red 2013 Malibu Eco. We spent more money than we planned to as well, and never felt any pressure from our salesman. We are very happy with our purchase and with the journey itself.
Each consumer will experience a unique journey in the process to buying their new car or truck. In order to stand out in my journey, the dealerships that stood out were those that could be found from the OEM site. They maintained my interest with unique vehicles images as opposed to stock images in their inventory. They also offered special pricing which they displayed on their website. I relied on consumer reviews to help direct me along the way. If I saw 4 or more negative reviews on Dealer Rater, I put that dealership out of consideration. Edmunds reviews gave me confidence in my original selection but bottom-line, we chose our dealership based on positive word of mouth and confidence we felt in our salesman to give us the best price.
My car-buying experience has definitely changed the way I advise my dealers at Cobalt, especially about specials and reputation management. The Costco offer really peaked my interest so now; I always ask my dealers if they offer a special discount or an after sale perk. If they do, I encourage them to feature it on the Vehicle Inventory Page, where they get the most page views. As for their reputation, I always recommend that my dealers look at Yelp, DealerRater or other sites that customers might post reviews about their experience at the dealership. I encourage them to either promote those reviews, or if negative, I talk to them about Cobalt’s Reputation Management solution and remind tell them of a journey that I once took and how a few bad reviews moved me into sale elsewhere.