Just like everything else in the world of coronavirus, car buying is changing. Whether is how consumers can shop or the economics behind buying an automobile, COVID-19 has changed the way people are buying cars.
“Auto shopping in general has just been going through tremendous disruption,” said Chris Kleczynski, the director of direct auto lending at PenFed Credit Union, as part of Smart Auto Shopping and Financing sponsored by PenFed. “Even pre-pandemic things were changing; the pandemic has definitely escalated that and expedited it. But, you saw even before that new cars coming into the market, vendors like Carvana.”
Kleczynski said everything that was going toward the internet is getting even more of the virtual treatment during COVID-19. There is a proliferation of information on cars, financing and everything else anyone wants to know about car buying online.
“I have teenagers and now college age kids,” said Jay Fee, vice president of consumer banking at PenFed Credit Union. “I remember taking them car shopping there as they were turning 17 and 18 watching. I think they were horrified that it wasn’t as easy as going out on Amazon and clicking the buy button. They viewed it as a medieval process and wanted to know why it took four hours to buy a car.”
Dealerships and car companies are embracing that new method and trying to make things easier for buyers.
“Now you can pretty much find a lot of information out there that haven’t been able to for the last 10 years out on the internet,” Fee said. “Now you’re actually able to take that information and work remotely with the dealer, and actually drive the dealer to give you the car at the way that you want it.”
Kleczynski says buyers can use that quickness to protect themselves from COVID-19.
“We all have to take care and be cognizant these days of COVID,” he said. “You can save time by prearranging your pricing. If you’re pre-approved, you don’t have to spend more time in the dealership outside your home setting where you may be exposed or whatnot. Getting pre-approved and working with the lenders that you feel comfortable with helps. Those are all things that probably people should consider in their in their shopping process these days.”
While you’re staying safe from COVID-19 by staying at home, you may be taking risk in other areas by sharing your personal information online. When checking your credit score or applying for financing always make sure you trust the source.
“The first thing to consider is: who are you working with?” Kleczynski said. “You obviously have to trust these companies that you’re providing this very, very personal information to. I would say that step one is to consider who you’re working with and sharing this information with.”
Kleczynski said services like Credit Karma can be useful for checking credit scores and for keeping an eye out for anything strange that may be happening.
Kleczynski says it may be worth paying for a credit monitoring service. He added that if anything does happen that you should take action immediately.
“Consider freezing your credit,” he said. “You can contact Equifax, or TransUnion or all three and say, ‘Hey, I want to freeze put on my account.’ It’s not necessarily something I would always recommend, because anytime you do want to apply for credit it becomes a roadblock. You then have to contact the reporting agency and let them know you are trying to apply for a car loan with PenFed or whomever. And please allow them access to my credit report so they can approve my loan.”