Would you buy your next car on the internet instead of in person? Our poll results

September 27, 2016

Few questions have black and white answers:

  • Is wine really good for you? It depends.
  • Is Kanye West's fashion line as dumb as everyone says? Maybe.
  • Is everything bigger in Texas? No comment.

For the most part, we live a universe of gray.

But some things aren't up for debate. For example:

  • Do people hate haggling for cars? Yes. Yes, they do.
  • Do people like to shop on the web? Check your own Amazon order history.

Put those fact together, and you'd assume that today's consumers are ready and willing to buy their next ride online. But just to be sure, we conducted a short, completely unscientific poll on the matter. Here are the results:

As you can see, 58 percent said that yes, they'd be happy to buy a car online--though 35 percent said that they'd want to see it in person before signing on the dotted line.

Meanwhile, just 25 percent said that cars are so expensive, they only feel comfortable buying them in person. We don't know how the jokey 17 percent who answered "what's the internet?" really feel, since they were obviously using the internet to answer the survey.

These findings are roughly in keeping with more serious polls, which have found that 76 percent of shoppers would consider skipping the showroom and buying their next car online, and up to 41 percent said they'd make the purchase on their smartphone.

So how are dealerships supposed to remain relevant? It won't be easy. In fact, the National Automobile Dealers Association launched a charm offensive two years ago, trying to persuade consumers that they weren't as bad as everyone thought. (So far, it hasn't worked.)

In the short term, dealers will be protected by franchise laws, which prevent automakers from selling directly to consumers. However, a lawsuit from Tesla could change that--and even if it doesn't, it's possible that protections for dealers will loosen over time due to consumer demand.

Automakers are preparing for that eventuality. Companies like General Motors have improved their digital storefronts, allowing consumers to conduct nearly all of their purchases online. Heck, Nissan has even conducted a sale almost entirely through Twitter

If you missed our survey and want to share your thoughts about online shopping, please do so in the comments below. Dealers and sales personnel, we'd love to hear from you, too: how will you ensure that you remain relevant in the looming era of online sales and potentially plummeting demand?

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