Augmented Reality for Car Shopping

Augmented reality and virtual reality are elevating the online experience and amplifying the mundane habits that were once not so exciting or even maybe a hit-or-miss experience. Like trying to find the perfect paint hue for a wall, the ideal lipstick for a complexion…or even the perfect car. Now all of these shopping experiences are augmented with excitement…thanks to augmented reality.

Yes, consumers can shop for a new vehicle by previewing it anywhere. Drop a 3D augmented reality into the garden. Plop it on the table. Augmented reality for car shopping is easy to use and so much fun!

Here’s how consumers can use augmented reality for car shopping, immerse in technology…and enjoy the augmented journey!

All About Augmented Reality

Some consumers might be unfamiliar with augmented reality. This technology is considered part of extended reality (or XR) along with virtual reality. However, while virtual reality is viewed in a virtual realm with or without a headset, augmented reality projects graphic elements over a real-life environment.

Augmented reality is present in everyday life, and it’s included in newer cars via features like the backup camera. The camera projects the scene behind the car while graphic gridlines detail the turning radius of the vehicle. The grid is augmented reality. GPS devices may also use augmented reality.

According to Statista, the mobile global augmented reality market hit nearly $9 billion in 2021.The site also reported that 410,000 augmented reality glasses were sold in 2021.

However, glasses aren’t a necessary tool for augmented reality. Unlike many virtual reality games and platforms where headsets may be a requirement for stepping into the virtual space, augmented reality sometimes only requires a camera.

How does it work? Many apps and augmented reality tools use the camera from a device like a smartphone or tablet to show the real environment and project a graphic element into that space.

So while an expensive headset isn’t a necessity, some type of device is needed to enjoy augmented reality experiences. However, smartphones have now become the standard phone for many users; in fact, Pew Research reported back in 2018 that 95 percent of teens have access to one.

This means that for many consumers augmented reality is quite accessible. And owning a phone can open up a unique and extremely entertaining way to shop online and preview many different products from the comfort of home.

Augmented Reality for Car Shopping

Navigating Augmented Reality

For consumers new to using augmented reality, the technology is fairly simple to navigate and explore. When using the technology to simplify shopping online, augmented reality experiences are usually downloaded either via the business’ web site or app.

Not every store or business offers augmented reality experiences but many do. One of the easiest ways to find out if a business uses augmented reality for shopping is to search in either the App Store or Google Play. Just type in ‘augmented reality,’ and scroll through the options.

Need a cheat sheet on augmented reality shopping experiences? Here’s a list of some stores/businesses that offer augmented reality apps or online experiences as well as a few details about those offerings:


Use augmented reality to preview furniture or other products in a room. The app is called IKEA place and is available on both the App Store and Google Play!

Warby Parker

Try on those frames in augmented reality using Warby Parker’s app. This is available on Apple’s App Store (for iPhone X and newer models).


Sephora’s Virtual Artist experience recognizes your face and lets users try on different products…virtually. Or maybe, more accurately, augmentedly! Unfortunately, this app feature might not be available across the globe.


Ulta’s GlamLAB also lets users preview shade. And, yes, this feature works…at least in the U.S. Have fun trying out tons of products…including cheek tints, lipsticks, eyeshadow, eyeliner and even foundation. This is a great way to shop for cosmetics at home without the fear of buying the wrong shade. Thinking about that goth black lipstick? Shoppers can get an idea if that dark hue will flatter.


ColorSnap Visualizer lets shoppers preview paint hues right on their own walls. Try out a rainbow of hues to find the one that looks best in any room. This experience can get addicting, though. Shoppers might try out all different hues, because, really, who doesn’t want to see what their walls will look like when painted neon green?


Yes, augmented reality can help shoppers preview different car models, too! Download RelayCars’ augmented reality app via the App Store or Google Play and drop different cars into any place!

Augmented Reality for Car Shopping

How to Use Augmented Reality When Shopping for a Car

Using augmented reality to try on makeup products or even paint hues on walls seems pretty self-explanatory. Using augmented reality, though, when trying to find that perfect vehicle might sound foreign to some shoppers.

So how do you use augmented reality apps like RelayCars during the car shopping experience? Augmented reality can be incredibly helpful for shoppers who want to look at different cars without going to a dealership.

The benefit that augmented reality has over virtual reality is that it allows users to place items onto or into a real environment. When shopping for cosmetics, this means that the shopper can apply a lipstick hue onto their image even at home. Car shopping with augmented reality allows the shopper to explore the car at home…or anywhere.

With RelayCars and other augmented reality experiences, users place or drop the vehicle into a location. This can be the living room, garage, basement or maybe even the backyard. The camera shows the real environment but drops in the 3D image of the chosen vehicle.

However, this vehicle can appear nearly full-size (depending on the app or the technology). Augmented reality images allow the user to hold their phone or device to view the image in their space and then walk around this seemingly holographic image, exploring the interior and exterior of the vehicle. RelayCars even lets users swap out paint hues.

The ability to explore the vehicle—even digitally—might be able to help shoppers gain a better perspective of the vehicle and whether or not it’s a good choice for their lifestyle. While augmented reality doesn’t allow shoppers to physically touch or interact with the vehicle, the technology does let users get a close up view of their favorite models.

From there, shoppers can visit dealerships to see if their favorite vehicle is in stock and check out the price of the vehicle as well as other info.

Augmented reality also has an interesting edge over virtual reality apps for car shopping. With the augmented reality app, users can place the car in their garage or in their driveway. This can help the buyer really visualize the car as their own. Maybe the deciding factor over two vehicles comes down to how they look parked in the driveway! With virtual reality, though, previewing the car usually takes place in a virtual showroom.

Will Augmented Reality Be a Must-Have Tool for Car Shoppers?

Not all shoppers might be proficient in using augmented reality or virtual reality, but both types of technology are seemingly easy to navigate for shoppers willing to explore extended reality. Automotive News highlighted how some automotive companies are using Snapchat to deliver augmented reality experiences. Shane Dwyer, the head of automotive for Snap Inc., was interviewed for the story and envisioned the possibilities for this technology for car shopping.Interesting to note that Snapchat Spectacles allow Snapchat ‘creators’ to create unique augmented reality content.

Augmented reality experiences could become more prominent if/when more buyers head online for their purchases. Maybe these experiences are deployed via social media sites like Snapchat or on the stores’ or business’ website or apps.

When car shopping during Covid, consumers might have been forced online as dealerships might have been closed in their area. The hunt for a new car might have required shoppers to click through photo galleries to gather info about their favorite models. Or shoppers could have utilized sites like RelayCars to preview vehicles in augmented reality or virtual reality.

Covid also might have helped more buyers understand the comfortable convenience of online tools. Why waste gas visiting dealerships when you can go online and research cars in virtual and augmented reality? Plus, virtual or augmented reality showrooms don’t require a sales force. For buyers, this means that they can shop at their leisure. Without pressure.

Will augmented reality for car shopping be the future? Possibly. Of course, the preference could simply depend on the individual buyer. And popularity of extended reality experiences also might impact the tools offered by companies and dealerships. If buyers embrace the augmented and virtual experiences, then companies and dealerships might wish to increase these offerings.

Whether or not more dealerships or auto makers jump on augmented reality, sites like RelayCars will continue to offer these unique tools and experiences to shoppers. And, as COO, Evox Images Gina Callari points out in an article for WardsAuto, “As consumers continue to expect this elevated, online shopping experience, standard images or basic videos are no longer going to cut it.”