When you publish a news story the Friday before a long holiday weekend, conventional wisdom suggests that you might not get much back — no matter how interesting the subject matter.
On June 30, AuSM published such a story, and as it turned out, conventional wisdom was wrong.
Sometimes the subject matter just strikes a chord. That was the case with this story I wrote from a study from CarGurus about why for some used-car shoppers, flying to buy makes more sense.
To recap, most of the time a used-car shopper isn’t going to stray far from home to buy a vehicle. But in certain cases, the company found, it actually makes more financial sense for them to take a flight to a city where car prices are considerably less expensive.
CarGurus found that because of the way used-car prices differ across the country, flying to a city with significantly lower used-car prices can sometimes be a cheaper option for the consumer — even when travel costs are considered.
After seeing back from our readers, I had a few follow-up questions, so I connected with Matt Smith, an editor at CarGurus.
Reached by phone, I asked Smith if there were cost savings to having a vehicle shipped instead of flying to buy.
“It definitely depends on the distance and the cost of the flight,” Smith said. “Generally, what our research has shown is that you can ship a car cross-country on an open truck for anywhere between $600 and $1,000. And if you opt for a closed truck, that number is going to go up double, possibly triple, in costs.
“But of all the most popular Fly to Buy scenarios that we looked at, you’re still saving over $1,000,” Smith said. “So, sure, you could opt to, instead of flying out there at all, just buy the car remotely and then have it shipped to you.
“You’re still going to save some money. But we identified this scenario of flying out there, picking up the car, driving it home as a great option for the more adventurous deal-seeker,” he said.
And perhaps some of those “adventurous” are some of the same folks who are willing to try their hand at buying a car completely online.
In fact, Smith said that years ago, he and his father flew out to Springfield, Mo., to pick up a Chevrolet Suburban that his dad had purchased sight-unseen.
At any rate, Smith said CarGurus has received back from consumers who have tried the “Fly to Buy” method before and dealers who were playing around with this option.
“With websites like CarGurus focusing on transparent pricing, shoppers have a better understanding of a car’s value,” Smith said. “And that serves them better when they do look to shop nationwide.”
Along those lines, I asked Smith if he sees this having marketing potential for dealers or automakers to reach consumers across the country.
“I haven’t really considered it as a marketing opportunity, but more of a just another customer service opportunity, another opportunity for dealers to expand their existing audience,” he said. “Sure, you’re always going to have those guy down the street who are going to buy cars from you, they’re going to service their cars with you, they’re going to buy their next car from you.
“But now if you have higher inventory numbers than usual, you can still extend your marketing push outside your specific region and you could capture some of these Fly to Buy shoppers.”
As a side note, there are obviously food, hotel and incidental costs when one travels. Smith said these costs were not factored in, as they can vary greatly.
He gave a great example: Lodging accommodations could range from sleeping in the car you just bought or staying at every Ritz-Carlton along the route back. Of course, either of those would obviously be the exception and not the rule.
“Considering that the longer trips that might require a night or two, such as our Orlando back to Albany trip, you’re still going to save over $1,000,” Smith said. “And with a low-rate hotel, keeping food to a budget, you’re still going to save money.”
Related: Below is a podcast recorded at CarGurus headquarters in June, where Smith talks about the company’s Best Used Car Awards.