'Shift' occurs in online car-buying, including finance

CARY, N.C. - 

The willingness of the car shopper to buy a vehicle entirely online is starting to grow, including the often complicated financing piece of the transaction.

According to survey data from Chase Auto Finance, 47 percent of Americans said they’d be willing to take care of the entire car-buying process online.  The survey referenced above was commissioned by Chase Auto Finance among more than 3,500 Americans in September, Chase said.

As for those who are still leery about buying online? 

The biggest hurdle, not surprisingly, is that they want to test-drive the car first. In fact, 76 percent of those who were uncomfortable buying online cited this as a reason.

Also cited quite often was the fact that a car is such a large purchase, they were not comfortable buying one online (68 percent).  Half would rather go to the dealership, 47 percent say online doesn’t give them the chance to negotiate and 38 percent want a guide to help them with the app.

That said, in addition to the aforementioned 47 percent who are willing to buy online, 88 percent of respondents have familiarity with online auto finance services and a fifth said they have already secured financing online.

So, as Chase points out, there’s a “shift” that’s happening.

“We know Americans spend significant time researching the make and model of their next vehicle purchase, but not necessarily the financing options,” Chase Auto Finance chief executive Mark O’Donovan said in a news release.

“That’s starting to shift, which is why we launched Chase Auto Direct last year,” he said.

Chase Auto Direct allows consumers to research vehicles and apply for financing online and receive an interest rate quote. There is also a payment calculator that lets consumers research finance options.

Perhaps underscoring this shifting online car financing and buying landscape was move this week by online used-car marketplace Instamotor.

The company announced Tuesday that financing is now available through its platform. Instamotor is working with direct-to-consumer auto finance companies to secure the financing for its customers, who now will be able to buy a vehicle and apply for/receive financing for the purchase through the same platform, the company said.

“We want to provide that end-to-end experience for consumers, end-to-end experience for dealers to make the whole process much easier, and that includes financing,” Instamotor co-founder and chief operating officer Val Gui said during a presentation at last month’s Used Car Week conference, where the financing option was first announced. 

“Because consumers need financing, and traditionally, it’s been really hard to do online.”

Likewise, additional companies in this space, such as AutoGravity, are cropping up. AutoGravity’s platform, for instance, allows consumers to use the smartphone to connect with auto finance companies and dealers based on their needs.

Shoppers use the platform to select a vehicle (by make, model and trim), find a nearby dealer that has that car and apply for financing. They receive up to four personalized finance offers from which to choose, then take that to the dealership to close the deal.

In a news release Tuesday announcing her appointment as AutoGravity chief technology officer, Sheng Wang said: “As mobile technology matures and mobile usage continues to surge, more and more people are looking to shop and buy their cars online.

“Car shoppers want an easy way to find the right car, check affordability, secure their financing and get the car delivered to them in a few simple steps.”

And more are seemingly willing to go that route these days. 

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