A car is the second largest purchase most people make in their lifetime. Regardless of the particulars, whether it’s pre-owned or fresh off the assembly line, whether it’s bought or leased, a car will be expensive. Even if a customer gets the most modestly priced vehicle for their lifestyle, they’re going to be paying a significant sum. How much they can afford each and every month, especially with the uncertainty we are facing in the world right now, has never been so important. So what should you do to make the car buying experience even MORE consumer friendly in a time where Americans aren’t assured their next paycheck?
The monthly payment has long been the ubiquitous solution to this problem. And while I’m not going to be arguing against it—quite the contrary—sometimes it’s worth examining a long-held practice to see if it’s still useful. Spoiler alert: it is.
The economic landscape at the beginning of 2020 wasn’t great, and the long-term effects of COVID-19 have yet to be determined. Here’s where we were before the pandemic: Fully 27% of all adults would need financial help to cover an unexpected $400 expense and 25% of Americans have no savings at all. Regardless of other indicators (which, again, aren’t great, but we’ll get there), this points to a consumer base grappling with extreme uncertainty. It goes without saying that if a $400 expense is too much to handle, they can’t drop $20,000 on a new car all in a lump sum. Turn that into $100 a month, though, and that might just work in a budget.
As of 2017, the average person had about $4,436 in their bank account, with 62% having less than $1,000. While that’s enough for a down payment on a car, understanding how that purchase can be spread out monthly to fit within your budget is a wholly different challenge. This is where we look to the solution of online payments to focus on the “how much can I afford” moment every one of your customers faces.
And of course, all these figures are in flux. While understanding what they can afford today is vitally important, it’s probably safe to assume that after COVID-19 is gone, your average American will be financially stretched and are going to be even more price conscious than ever before.
The final major point is that economic indicators are strongly pointing in the direction of a recession, and that was before the pandemic. So as poorly as the average consumer is doing, there are good reasons to believe that it’s going to get worse before it gets any better. Once again, understanding what they can afford on a monthly basis prior to making a purchasing decision will be critical to the buying process.
When you add all of this information together—low cash on hand, an inability to cover a relatively modest expense, and a looming recession—you have a customer base who is actively looking for ways to feel more secure in their financial decisions. That’s why it’s not only important to focus on the transparency surrounding monthly payments in your business model, but to allow your customers to get the details on those payments as far in advance as possible, customized to their budget and personal requirements.
If a customer walks into your dealership with a number in hand, whatever anxiety they will be feeling is already alleviated. They’ll know whether or not the payments are something they can handle on their budget. It also helps you, as you’re no longer spending time figuring out what a customer can truly afford. And in these increasingly uncertain times, that’s exactly what you need.
To help you meet the demands of this ever-changing market, DealerOn has a new product called APEX that allows a customer to not only view lease and finance payments, but also personalize them. It’s FREE through May 31st, while we try to help our dealers work through the current crisis. Rapidly configuring trade, incentives, down payments, credit score, and other terms your customers can get a near penny-perfect payment complete with tax, tag, and title calculated in. They’ll be able to see if a car is within their monthly budget, and so if they choose to engage with you, they’ll do so with a purpose. And if they have to choose between a dealership with APEX and one without? They’ll pick the one that can help them.