The User Experience of Buying a Car

This weekend we bought a car — a 2010 plate VW Golf 1.6 TDI S (S as in Standard, not Sport). Every car I’ve bought previously has been a labour of love or an emergency vehicle — I owned seven Peugeot 306’s which generally ran until they died or I killed them. This however was a serious purchase, the “I’m starting a family” car. As such I needed something reliable and safe to get from A — B on a regular basis. I’m pretty sure not many people have ever revelled in the thought of buying a six year old, German, diesel hatchback on a Sunday afternoon with a bit of a hangover, but it got me thinking as we looked. How could the experience of buying a car being improved?

The Car Shop

Let’s approach this from the point of view of how the world works right now — people search for things online. We don’t have time to be driving from a — b — c — d through to z, we want the instant gratification of entering some information and then being able to drive a car. Which is where I thought we were onto a winner with the Car Shop. We were met by a helpful sales rep, who asked around 20 questions, entering each one into the computer before finding us three potential vehicles. Great, we’ve cut out the tireless hours of wondering around different car lots. We were almost onto a winner here, when we found an Astra that ticked all the boxes — but quite sensibly we (mostly Carol) wanted to go and have a think about it.

Trade Centre Wales

We left and went to Trade Centre Wales, of which the Neath branch is as close to Cardiff as the Cardiff branch. On the drive I started thinking about how little I actually liked the Astra — I mean it ticked all the boxes but it was just dull. We arrived at TCW and, as we walked through the doors saw the horde of car sales guys waiting to pounce as we approached. Instant put off. If I want to wonder, I don’t want to see people hanging around in the doorway waiting to sell me a car — I’ll come find you if I want anything. As it happens, they had nothing in our price range, but we saw a Golf that looked good. A quick look on the Car Shop website showed a Golf that had been excluded from our search results because it was 2,000 miles over the upper limit we set.

A rapid dash back down the M4 and a phone call later, we were back in the Car Shop. Took it for a test drive, lovely. Finally convinced Kyle to take the GardX off the sale and paid our deposit.

What did we learn?

So after all of this, how can the user experience of buying a car be improved?

Remove the horde of sales people at the door and replace them with iPads on pedestals. Imagine you could just wonder into a garage and through a screen search for the car you wanted. Then when you saw a car you liked the look of — tap a button and call over a sales person. This would get more people into garages, save sales people’s time and generally make people feel more comfortable.

Also don’t just add GardX onto an order, show me the video and let me decide if I want it.

Originally published at on July 18, 2016.