Jeffrey Schwartz – President, SureSale
Let’s talk about trust. Or, rather, a lack of it – and the long-term ramifications of losing the trust of consumers. In our soon-to-be published, “Solving the Used Vehicle Trust Gap” white paper, which surveyed several hundred pre-owned vehicle shoppers and buyers, we discovered that 70% believe that buying a pre-owned car is always a risk in quality. We also discovered that vehicle inspections are key to building trust.
The underpinnings of these feelings of risk were clear in our findings. Over 30% of pre-owned vehicle purchasers have been disappointed in their purchase, and 71% continue to worry about the quality of the vehicle after it’s driven off the lot. That generally means that consumer purchase anxiety is high, and satisfaction low. The pre-owned experience is, at least somewhat, “tarred with the same brush.” The point? In our survey, the majority of buyers said they had questionable trust in the car sales process.
Third Party Inspections Can Help
Such a skeptical view of pre-owned vehicles isn’t surprising. In fact, it’s fair to say that it is among the primary reasons that challenger models such as Carvana, CarMax, and others have thrived. The Pre-COVID-19 days saw a shift to higher quality used vehicles, with buyers gravitating to sales models where quality was a known commodity backed up by effective guarantees built into the sales model. The proof is in the sales numbers: Carvana sales were up over 400% since 2016, and CarMax over 20% during the same time period (while franchise dealer used car sales growing at a small fraction of that rate). Arguably, these models have also bounced back more quickly than many other dealerships. And with high used vehicle demand looking to be the new COVID-normal, gaining the pre-owned vehicle buyer’s trust has never been more important.
Ultimately, CarMax and Carvana provide transparency about their inspections process throughout their marketing and online experience. One can’t go far down the funnel without getting a consistent and clear picture of how they inspect cars. Doing this helps define what “quality” means, which gives buyers an anchor and begins to establish trust in a standard of excellence. It seems simple, and it is – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Transparency about a vehicle’s true condition creates trust, which helps lead to more transactions, and this is particularly the case with the hyper-digital world we live in today.
Showing the consumer how quality is measured – and then backing it up – is an effective way to build trust. And if that verification can come via a third party, better still. The vast majority (90%) of used car buyers, according to our survey, are more likely to purchase if the vehicle’s quality is verified by a reliable third-party, with nearly two-thirds saying that would make the vehicle worth more.
SureSale offers dealers that third party boost with its 170-point independent inspection conducted by certified mechanics, including road test, powertrain and chassis inspections, and checks on all interior and safety functions. It also includes reports on tire and brake condition, with a vehicle report for consumers to keep. Providing access to inspection and history content every step of the way reassures skeptical buyers that the quality of the vehicle meets a high standard of excellence – and that this standard is consistently defined and clearly communicated.
Knowledge is Power
Anyone who buys a vehicle wants reassurance that they’re making the right decision, one based on the best available research and knowledge. In fact, our survey found that 80% of pre-owned vehicle buyers would love to have an automotive technician friend help them out with their decision. But here’s the interesting part: Most don’t. Almost half don’t even involve a third-party professional to validate the quality of the vehicle at all. More surprising, only about 50% check the vehicle history report – even though it’s often provided as a courtesy. Getting what they want is either too hard, too much of a hassle, or just too confusing and intimidating.
It’s an opportunity for dealerships. If knowledge helps car buyers feel in control – but they lack the will to educate themselves – facilitating this knowledge goes a long way to improving trust and furthering the transaction. And that starts with inspections – and the drive to boost the perceived quality of the vehicle. Case in point: Our survey found that mechanical systems under the hood (84%) and under the body (63%) of the vehicle were most important to consumers. It also happens to be the most complex and least understood part of the vehicle, and the areas where inspection can shine a light on a very complex and confusing part of buying a car.
The importance of inspections can’t be overstated. Our survey found that when we asked used car buyers what they would change about how they feel regarding the process of buying a pre-owned vehicle, 33% said they would want to feel like they were making the “right” decision. Similarly, 32% also said they just wanted to feel more knowledgeable throughout the process. A thorough and transparent inspection can help solve both of these consumer needs. Buyers feel like they’ve made the right decision because they have clearly and consistently been shown the value of a comprehensive inspection, before, during, and after the sale.
It’s not easy. Consumers are used to being skeptical and distrustful of pre-owned vehicles and the dealerships which sell them. That’s the trust gap – and you can help close it by focusing on validating the vehicle to build trust in the quality of the cars and trucks you sell.