Online Car Buying: Love it or Hate it, it’s Where the Money is

Online Car Buying: Love it or Hate it, it’s Where the Money is

A few days before Tesla unveiled the new Model Y, they announced their decision to shut down brick and mortar showrooms and move to online-only sales and delivery. This caused a mixed reaction of both praise and criticism from industry analysts, and a couple of weeks after the announcement Tesla quietly released an update stating that while 20% of their locations are under review, they will only be closing about half of their stores. This shift seemed to satisfy the experts, and everyone returned to the focus on the Model Y launch.

The conversation around buying used and new cars online isn’t new, but the industry has been slow to respond. People have been using the online platforms Ebay and Craigslist since the mid-90’s to sell cars, both used and new. Amazon is selling used cars online, and Dave Smith Dodge – a pioneer in using the internet to promote its inventory – dominates the turn-to-earn game from Idaho. Buying and selling cars online will soon feel as normal as buying or selling a Peloton exercise bike or new dining room set on Wayfair.

There are so many online vehicle shoppingsites out there, consumers are able to triple their research in half the time. According to the 2018 Car Buyer Journey report by Cox Automotive, car buyers spend 60% of their time online. The same study reveals that 78% of car shoppers use third party sites. The Millennial generation are driving the shift to online sales. This generation is bigger than the Baby Boomers – as of 2016 they are our country’s largest living generation.

Ford Motor Company’s smart mobility subsidiary, Ford X, recently announced the launch of a new online used-car sales platform, selling used Ford cars and trucks online, from local Ford dealer lots, directly to consumers. And while this is a great entrée into online sales for an OEM, Ford now joins the ranks of dozens of online sites selling used cars. But what about new vehicles? When will the industry accept the same online model to help dealers move new inventory?

My family has been in the car dealership business in Detroit for over 50 years. My uncle, Hoot McInerney, believed in building customer relationships and treating everyone like family. That’s what kept generations of families coming back to the dealerships. But times have changed. Brand loyalty isn’t what it once was. Today’s consumers are only loyal to their wallets, it seems. The audience for quick and painless online car buying is growing – and it’s growing so fast the industry can’t keep up.  

Buying a car is stressful. In the 2016 Accenture report Digital Hits the Road, car buyers are looking to online options for convenience and better pricing. There is an entire generation of buyers out there who have grown up with a smart phone in their hand.  The next generation doesn’t interface and build relationships the way we did. They certainly don’t have the patience to deal with salespeople. They do their homework – they research, they bounce from site to site comparing pricing and options. They know what they want and they procure their purchases in the quickest and most convenient way.

In every article I read about online car buying, the same phrase comes up over and over again: “…without ever setting foot in a dealership.” That’s the hook. For the millions of people who need to take a Xanax before walking into a dealership, online car buying is the answer to their prayers. A 2016 survey by CDK revealed that 21% of Americans would purchase a car completely online – and that report was based on data from surveys taken over three years ago.

There will alwaysbe consumers out there who want to go to the dealership. Dealers will always have a place in the process. There are plenty of car buyers who want to test drive cars, kick the tires, ask questions, and get to know their local dealer and service staff.  But the migration toward online car buying will likely reduce the number of dealerships necessary in a similar way that shopping malls are shuttering across the country.

What online car buying will do is redefine the role of the dealership and push the culture into reinventing the value they bring to the car ownership experience. The Chicago Tribune recently ran a story about another multi-generational, family-owned dealer group in the Chicago area, Packey Webb. They built a brand new, 54,000 square foot facility on 10 acres in a suburb of Chicago, with a very small showroom. With online car sales becoming a reality, dealer groups like Packey Webb are investing in state-of-the-art service centers. Consumers may buy their cars online, but they’ll always bring their cars in for service.

Manufacturers and dealers are still trying to figure out how this will work in the future. There are state franchise laws that protect dealers from manufacturers selling directly to consumers. Manufacturers invest millions of marketing dollars into their retail strategy through their dealer franchises, and dealers worry that moving to online sales will render dealerships obsolete.

While manufacturers and dealers struggle to find their place in the eCommerce world, large national dealer networks are starting to move in that direction. A recent article ran in the Houston Chronicle about Group 1 Automotive, the third largest dealer group in the country. Group 1 has been testing online sales in 28 of their dealerships nationwide, and plans to implement it across all 117 U.S. dealerships by the end of 2019.

The auto industry is changing and evolving faster every year and this is all part of that transformation. The burden of change doesn’t fall with any one group or industry. Manufacturers, dealers, online third-party sites and consumers – we’re all in this together.


Editor’s Note:  Mike McInerney is the Founder and President of® and has spent over 30 years in the automotive retail industry.

Online Car Buying: Love it or Hate it, it’s Where the Money is

20 Best Choices for a New Car

What makes an ideal first new car? It can depend on your financial situation, where you live, or even your lifestyle. You might even be looking for the new state-of-the-art tech features, fuel efficiency, vehicle’s safety, reliability, or eye-catching. There are so many factors that are involved in buying or leasing a new vehicle.

Here are some of the top rated new cars this year.


Small Cars

2019 Mazda Mazda3 

“The 2019 Mazda3 earns a top spot among compact cars because of it’s well-rounded performance, upscale interior, and user-friendly technology.”

Luxury Cars

2019 Audi A4

“The 2019 Audi A4 ranks the top of the luxury small car class, thanks in part to its dynamic performance, elegant cabin, and lengthy list of features.”


2019 Mazda Mazda3

“The 2019 Mazda3 earns a top spot among compact cars because of it’s well-rounded performance, upscale interior, and user-friendly technology.”


Midsize Cars

2019 Toyota Camry

“This is one of the most well-rounded cars in the class. It’s easy to drive, fuel-efficient, and loaded with technology. It also boasts an impressive predicted reliability rating. Not to mention it was the winner of 2019 Best Midsize for the Money.” 

Luxury Midsize Car

2019 Lexus ES

“Excellent predicted reliability rating, cabin is superbly comfortable, quiet and spacious, smooth, well-controlled ride and handling.”


Large Cars

2019 Buick LaCrosse

“Comfortable ride, roomy cabin, lot of standard and available technology, and excellent predicted reliability rating.”

Sports Cars

2019 Dodge Challenger

“Beastly-yet-polished engine lineup, outstanding infotainment system, comfortable, quiet cabin, class-leading back-seat and trunk space and good predicted reliability rating.”

Luxury Sports Car

2019 Chevrolet Corvette

“It’s a well-rounded sportster that delivers tremendous performance and a quality interior. Obscenely good handling, comfortable, supportive seats, and large trunk.”


2019 Volkswagen Golf SportsWagen

“Enjoyable to drive, highly practical, great predicted reliability rating, upscale interior, and energetic engine and solid handling”


Compact SUV

2019 Honda CR-V

“Generous passenger space, immense cargo hold, comfortable ride, great fuel economy estimates and great safety scores. Winner of 2019 Best Compact SUV for the Money

Luxury SUV

2019 Audi Q5

“Agile handling, comfortable ride, power engine choices and lot of standard features.”


Midsize SUV

2019 Honda Passport

“Capable on- and off- road, spacious seats, ample engine power, handsome cabin and abundance of safety features.”

Luxury Midsize SUV

2019 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid

“Fully redesigned for 2019, excellent handling, lots of power, posh interior, user-friendly infotainment system.”


Large SUV

2019 Ford Expedition

“Strong engine, spacious cabin, tremendous cargo space, and good predicted reliability rating. Winner of 2019 Best Large SUV for Families” 

Luxury Large SUV

2019 Lincoln Navigator 

“Relaxed ride, above-average towing capacity, exceptional passenger and cargo space, long standard features list.” 


Compact Pickup Truck

2019 Toyota Tacoma

“One of the best off-roaders, high payload capacity, user-friendly infotainment system and class-leading predicted reliability rating.”

Full Size Pickup Truck

2019 Ram 1500

“The redesigned 2019 Ram 1500 is one of the highest-rated trucks in the class. Superb ride quality, higher towing and hauling capacities than most rivals, luxurious cabin, spacious and comfortable seats.” 



2019 Honda Odyssey

“High-quality interior, intuitive infotainment system, good driving dynamics, well-built interior and spacious, comfortable seats in all rows. Winner of 2019 Best Minivan for the Money and 2019 Best Minivan for Families

2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

“Ranks highly in its class because of it’s quality interior, user-friendly features, balanced handling, and quick acceleration.” 

2019 Chrysler Pacifica

“Smooth ride and nimble handling, upscale features, good fuel economy, and tons of features.”

There are other great, new vehicles on the market today. If none of these above spark your interest, browse for other options at today!


 See how the cars are ranked here


Online Car Buying: Love it or Hate it, it’s Where the Money is

7 Ways to “Go Green” With Your Vehicle

We can all do things large and small to reduce our carbon footprint. Whether your car is new or old, big or small, there are preventative maintenance steps every vehicle owner can take to “go green” with your car . Here are some vehicle related tips that you can use to help protect our planet.

  • Keep your tires properly inflated and get better gas mileage. Reduce your carbon footprint 20 pounds for each gallon of gas saved.
  • Change your car’s air filter regularly. When your air filter is clogged, replacing it could save you as much as 10% on your car’s gas mileage.
  • When you top off your gas tank past the automatic shutoff warning “click,” you release unnecessary gas fumes into the environment and risk the possibility of wasting fuel through spillage. A loose, cracked or damaged gas cap also allows gas to escape from your tank as a vapor, wasting fuel and increasing vehicle emissions. It’s also waiting your gas money!
  • Recycle or properly dispose motor oil, tires, batteries, fluids and other vehicle components to help protect the planet when performing vehicle maintenence or repairs. 
  • Have spark plugs checked and replaced if necessary. A vehicle can have four, six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as three million times every 1,000 miles. This results in a lot of heat, electrical, and chemical erosion. A dirty spark plug also causes misfiring, which wastes fuel.
  • Get the junk out of the trunk and other items out of your car (with exception of emergency items such as a spare tire, first-aid kit, and car safety kit). Extra items weigh the vehicle down and cause an increase in gas usage. 
  • When possible, use your vehicles cruise control features. Speeding, rapid acceleration and braked can reduce gas mileage – as much as 33% on the highway and 5% on city streets.

These are just a few simple, yet highly effective, ideas that will help you go green with your car. Happy Earth Day from your friends at

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