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What I learned from buying my car

The real estate industry isn't as backward as some would have us believe
  • It was amazing to me that the dealership I called had the car from the website in stock. I think our industry could learn from that.
  • The salesperson I worked with gets paid on a 100 percent commission basis. I had no problem with him getting paid a commission even though I found the car on the Internet first.
  • Anyone who thinks the real estate industry is backward hasn't bought a car in a while. The actual car buying process has not changed since I bought my last car more than a decade ago, and it will likely be the same when I go back in 2022 or so to buy another.

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I just bought a car, which probably makes me an expert on cars — or maybe not. I’m pretty sure I could go forth and teach the automotive world what they need to do to provide a better experience for car buyers everywhere. It all seems so simple from where I sit, and the room for improvement is pretty obvious.

Initial search

I shopped for my car on the Internet. I worked from a list of models that my son gave me after I told him what I wanted and my budget.

The whole car-buying experience is intimidating to me, and I didn’t want to be sold. I wanted to find the right car and buy it. I certainly did not want to be a lead, and I avoided sharing contact information until I had to.

I started with a broad Google search to familiarize myself with the cars my son recommended and compare prices and options. I even read some reviews. It took all of six hours. When I had it narrowed down to a couple of cars, I got off the Internet and on my phone.

Off-line contact

It was amazing to me that the dealership I called had the car from the website in stock. I think our industry could learn from that.

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They didn’t use the car as bait to try and sell me another car; they actually had the car on the lot. When I asked if I could test drive it, they asked me for a time and told me they would have it ready.

There were salespeople milling around the car lot when I arrived, but I asked for Mike because he was the person who answered the phone when I called. It’s so rare that it impressed the hell out of me.

I asked questions about the car as I drove it but discovered that the salesperson did not have all the answers and his answers were not always accurate. That is exactly why I did my homework before I went to the dealership.

The purchase and paperwork

I bought the car the next day for slightly less than the sticker price, which based on my research, was a fair price. I knew that I didn’t have to pay it.

Mike answered the phone when I called, found the car on the lot and let me drive it. He was there for me. No one could pay me enough to sit in the back seat of a car I’m driving.

The reason it took me a day to buy the car is because the salesperson wanted me to sit and wait for paperwork, and I didn’t allow enough time to test drive and to go through their buying process. The salesperson told me that the automotive industry is highly regulated, and the paperwork takes time.

If I can do an entire 25-page purchase agreement to buy a house in less than 15 minutes without ever printing anything or making anyone wait, the automotive industry should be able to do the same thing with a car. But, of course, it can’t — and salespeople use that word too often.

Telling me that the industry is regulated is just an excuse. Any of the following reasons would have been better:

  • They have always done it that way, and there isn’t any reason for them to change
  • It would cost money for them to upgrade their systems
  • They could never teach their salespeople how to use tablets
  • The boss has never even heard of electronic documents and signatures

I came back the next day with my checkbook because they only take old-school paper checks. I thought I could write a check, sign something and drive my car home.

It wasn’t that easy.

I had to wait an hour while they did whatever it is they do. To me, an hour is a long time, and I will never get it back.

To the car salesman, an hour is a short period of time compared with how long it could have taken. My husband and I signed a few pieces of paper and saw multi-part carbonless forms for the first time in years. No, they don’t have an app for that.

Comparison shopping

The salesperson I worked with gets paid on a 100-percent-commission basis. I had no problem with him getting paid a commission even though I found the car on the Internet first.

Anyone who thinks the real estate industry is backward hasn’t bought a car in a while. The actual car-buying process has not changed since I bought my last car more than a decade ago, and it will likely be the same when I go back in 2022 or so to buy another.  Maybe car-buying is local, and it is different where you live.

However, the car-shopping process has much improved because of all the information and photos on the Internet. I didn’t have to click on anyone’s face to get my questions answered, and I didn’t have to leave my email address on any of the sites so that someone could drip on me long after I bought my car.

The cars that were listed on the websites as being for sale were for sale in reality, and each of them had so many high-quality pictures that I learned a lot about the cars just by zooming in.

As for choosing websites, dealers, brands or salespeople, I really didn’t. I used Google to find the cars I wanted, and it didn’t matter to me which site they were on or which company was selling the car.

There are apps I could have used, but because I did most of my shopping from my office on a large screen, I couldn’t see any advantage in using my phone and looking at tiny pictures.

It’s easy to see how the car-buying experience can be improved. At the same time, I can imagine a better online shopping experience for homebuyers — and I can see that the real estate industry is not as backward as some would have us believe.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman.