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As more of our lives move to the web, it's only natural that we'll spend more time getting information there, too. And as we acquire that information -- as a growing number of consumers are doing-- more purchases will be made online, too. In fact, one research firm has estimated that within five years, up to 20% of all vehicle sales will be made online (at least in the U.K.).
The news comes from web management firm GForces, based on an assessment of shopping and buying trends it's witnessed over the past few years. That projection is backed up by a study from worldwide consulting firm Capgemini, which recently polled some 8,000 shoppers and found that roughly 25% were either "likely" or "very likely" to buy a car online in the future. It's also a trend that's been indicated by the growing number of people buying cars on eBay -- a trend that may ramp up when the eBay Motors app launches next month.
(Interestingly, a separate poll found that dealers -- at least those in the U.K. -- weren't so enthusiastic, with nearly 89% saying that they weren't making online sales a part of their website or marketing plans this year. That would seem like a golden opportunity for the other 11%.)
On the one hand, growth in online car sales could be a boon for shoppers by eliminating the sometimes-daunting prospect of visiting a dealership in person. Don't get us wrong -- we have many friends who sell cars for a living -- but even we can get intimidated in showrooms from time to time. Browsing online should put some shoppers at ease.
Even better: online car buying has the potential to make financing much faster, clearer, and hassle-free. If you're going to have to wait for an answer from the finance department, wouldn't you rather do that in the comfort of our living room?
On the other hand, vehicles are a major investment, and it's hard to believe that many people would shell out thousands of dollars for a ride they haven't even seen. We're firm believers in test drives because we know that quality varies -- not just from brand to brand, but from model to model, even from vehicle to vehicle. As online sales become more commonplace, we hope a system of standards will develop that allow shoppers to put a vehicle through its paces before they take it home. Despite jaw-dropping advances in web technology, there's still only so much you can learn from a remote test drive.