Today most customers know what vehicle they want to buy before they leave their house. They typically know what price is fair. And they'll head straight to the relevant dealership to buy it.
Or, increasingly, they can just buy it online, perhaps not even from a dealership. The fragmented used-vehicle market is chock full of online startups, non-traditional retailers and old-school dealerships all vying for a piece of the pie, and everyone is focused on meeting car shoppers in their comfort zone.
"It's getting closer and closer to the point where [customers] can hopefully buy a car from us and never step foot in the dealership," said Ohio dealer John Yark, president of Toledo-based Yark Automotive Group.
That's also the promise of online upstarts such as Carvana or Vroom — a quick, hassle-free shopping experience with the vehicle delivered to the customer's door. More and more, the newcomers are influencing how franchised dealers approach the used-vehicle market with traditional retailers more aggressively pursuing digital transactions or adjusting policies — offering return guarantees, for instance.