By: Sean Stansell, Senior Product Manager
My wife and I bought a new car recently. Like most people, this is something we do every few years. Unlike most, I work in the automotive industry, so I have experience, tools, and contacts that can help me with the car buying process. So I should have a “best-case” scenario. Right? Wrong. The whole process was fairly miserable. If it was this bad for me, how bad is it for the average car shopper?
I realized when we started this car buying process that it was a great opportunity to see things from the shopper’s perspective. I spend a lot of time focused on the shopper, anticipating what they want, and trying to develop tools to make their lives easier. But that effort can’t replace the process of actually shopping. Unfortunately, I’m too deep in the industry to be a “normal” shopper, so I did what any good husband would do: I used my wife as a guinea pig. She’s bought a couple of cars in her life, has a pretty good idea of what she needs out of a car, but doesn’t really know who makes what, or what’s currently on the road.
Let me explain why we needed a new car. My lovely wife is 6 months pregnant with our second child, and her Mazda 3 simply isn’t big enough to haul two kids around. My CX-5 is great, and will fit both kids, but we wanted something with a little more room so we can take other people with us, haul all of the kids’ stuff, etc. Typical reason to shop for a new car, right?
Being deeply attached to the online dealer world, I’d love to tell you that we started out with online research, but that wouldn’t be true. We started with what I’d call “parking lot and road trip” research. We had been talking about getting a new car, so when we went places my wife would keep her eyes open to the cars around us. For several weeks there was a lot of “That looks pretty nice”, “Why would anyone buy THAT?”, “That’s not bad, but looks too big”, and “That’s perfect! What do you mean they don’t make it anymore?”.
Early Online Research
During this process, we talked through what we really wanted from a car. We wanted three rows of seats and good cargo room, but NO MINIVANS. Safety was a key factor with two kids. Since this is a car we plan on having for a long time, durability and warranty were important. Finally, my wife has always had small, sporty cars, so we wanted something that was big enough without feeling too “big” to drive. With our requirements in hand, we started researching what might fit our needs. We used a combination of some Dominion tools, such as My Payment and ShopMyWay, and publicly available tools (OEM sites, Edmunds.com, good old fashioned Google searches, etc) to come up with a list of 5 or 6 models we wanted to research more. This process took 3-4 hours, and honestly, without tools such as ShopMyWay, it would have taken far longer.
Stay tuned for Parts two and three of What It’s Like to Buy a Car.
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