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Would You Buy A Car Without Driving It First?

Handing over car keys

Handing over car keys

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The idea of buying a car over the Internet is nothing new, but recent data shows that the trend is increasing as manufacturers offer consumers more tools to design specific models and even evaluate performance from behind a keyboard. Even sight-unseen lease takeovers are on the rise, growing from three percent of all lease takeovers in 2007 to nearly seven percent today.

Why the change? The quality of vehicles is up, from both domestic and import manufacturers, so consumers are less likely to experience a significant issue with a new (or used) vehicle than they were in decades past. The Internet provides a wealth of year-make-and-model-specific information for car shoppers, so known issues with a particular model can be addressed before cash changes hands.

In terms of lease acquisitions, there’s less risk than with buying a car outright. Most lease take-overs are for relatively short durations, so minor annoyances (squeaks, rattles, etc.) can be overlooked if the price is right. Since leased vehicles are generally covered under a manufacturer’s warranty, the risk of getting stuck with an expensive repair is particularly low.

Still, we drive enough cars from every manufacturer to know that there are cars built on a Monday and there are cars built on a Friday. We’ve experienced significant differences even between “identical” cars of the same year, make and model. Perhaps it’s because we’re car guys (and gals), but we’d have a hard time signing on any dotted line without first going over the car from front to back and top to bottom, then climbing behind the wheel for a test drive.

No one would consider buying a house sight unseen, and we feel the same way about our vehicles. What’s your take on this? Would you assume a lease without driving the car first? Would you buy a car sight unseen?

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