Is Contactless Car Buying Our Future?

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Car buyers are defying the coronavirus crisis by turning to online car marketplaces as evidence mounts that demand for cars remains strong.

Analysis by a top online car marketplace has revealed an increase in conversions – the number of cars sold on the site compared with the number of website visitors – and that website traffic is higher than it was a year ago.

And BuyaCar.co.uk is already arranging ‘contactless handover’ of cars delivered to the homes of people with pre-existing medical conditions who cannot risk going out or meeting anyone.

It comes as emergency health measures, such as social isolation and reducing non-essential outside movement, kick in across the world, inevitably reducing the number of visits to dealerships.

The coronavirus crisis inevitably puts major pressure on all retail businesses and their suppliers as customers increasingly avoid travelling and visiting commercial premises. But the recent rapid expansion of online car-buying services, offering home delivery, means that motor retail trade is not grinding to a halt. Even if dealerships were forced to temporarily close their doors the growing online sales infrastructure is providing a lifeline to manufacturers, car dealers and their customers who still need to change their car.

BuyaCar.co.uk, which has sold more than 20,000 cars on behalf of dealers, Cazoo, which recently passed the 1,000 sales mark in its first three months, Cinch and Heycar are about to be joined in the online motor retail market by Carzam.

And the well-known motor industry figure Peter Vardy this week announced that he would make his online sales platform available at no cost to dealers who have so far not moved to selling on the internet.

It all means that consumers have more opportunity than ever before to shop online for a car and receive it at home, just as the world is being forced to spend more time online to continue working and shopping.

Meanwhile, dealers offline as well as online are stepping up to reassure the public that cars can be delivered safely to customers, demonstrating the strictest possible hygiene standards. Many are uploading videos to YouTube and social media channels to show the measures they are taking, inside and outside the cars, to assure anyone ordering a car for home delivery that it is safe to receive. And BuyaCar’s car delivery partner has also introduced ‘contactless handover’ at customers’ homes, with cars stringently cleaned before being handed on.

With reports of up to 50% fewer people visiting physical dealerships the evidence of continuing underlying consumer demand for cars will come as a relief to an industry facing unprecedented challenges.

Andy Oldham, Chief Executive of BuyaCar.co.uk, said: “While consumers, car makers and dealers all face the biggest challenge of our lifetimes it is fortunate that they are served by a rapidly expanding and innovative online car marketplace sector that has already been proven to work.

“The ability to buy cars from the comfort of your home and have them delivered has never been as valuable as it is today. We have already arranged contactless handovers to vulnerable customers who don’t want to risk meeting a delivery driver, in response to enquiries from people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“The flexibility of online car sales platforms, along with intelligent delivery solutions, will certainly help many businesses and their customers through the current crisis.

“It used to be that the pitch for buying a car online was that it’s simply easier and more convenient for many people, but in the current circumstances customers are also realising that it is safer too, during the current difficulties.

“I welcome the rapid expansion of Britain’s online car marketplace, including the increasing number of competitors, because we are all in this together for the good of our suppliers as well as our customers. We all have an important part to play in keeping the wheels of our industry turning, while also helping to keep everyone safe.”

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