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Used cars become hot commodity during COVID-19

Bargain conscious Americans are lifting used-car sales in the coronavirus economy
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MINNEAPOLIS — Times are tough for millions of Americans since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the economy and created doubt about job security. 

It would make sense that buying a car is likely the last thing on people’s minds but for those with the financial means, it's a smart time to buy a vehicle.

It’s no joke. Chief Merchandising Officer for the Walser Automotive Group Colton Ray says sales are hot, “Used cars are in top demand right now.”

Although business was pretty much cut in half when COVID-19 initially hit, Ray says sales have started to ramp up, and at the Walser Auto Group they’ve exceeded pre-COVID levels in some cases.

So, what makes used cars so attractive? It comes down to pricing. Manufacturers are aware consumer confidence is fragile, so cash-back offers and deep discounts off the MSRP are common. Low-interest rates, zero-percent financing and attractive lease terms are plentiful, and many manufacturers are pushing deferred payment plans to move inventory.

Also, with health and safety top of mind, many car buyers don’t want to get into an Uber or sit on a dirty bus seat. Ray says many buyers, “Want their own vehicle, their own safe space rather than mass-transportation right now.”

Not only have buying habits shifted, the whole purchasing experience has changed. Fewer people are walking the lot, and serious buyers now make viewing appointments. Most business is being generated online, which is where the whole process is moving, “We facilitate the ability to start the transaction online and actually even finish it. We do not require our customers to come to our dealerships to sign out or finish the paperwork on their purchase and we will actually bring the vehicle to them.”

There’s a lot more sanitizing of the showroom, every night there’s a deep cleaning of the facility, and staff will greet you gloved and masked up. When it comes to the test-drive, there’s an option to have the car brought to you. 

Expect the vehicle to be fully sanitized before you hop in, and for the drive, there’s no sales rep ride-along, you’ll be going solo.