Car shopping during the pandemic may lead consumers to begin their new car journey online, utilizing virtual or augmented reality car showrooms (like RelayCars). In some areas, however, dealerships may be open—although capacity may be limited.
Whether consumers are checking out new cars via virtual experiences or the old standard in-person visits, in the showroom, automotive features to check out during the new car hunt are vast. While many shoppers will inevitably review all the basic options, here are all the other features worth examining, asking questions about to a salesperson and researching online.
One of the major details customers will need to decide when choosing a new car is the interior color and material. Some buyers have a preference and will always choose leather over cloth. Depending on the model, cloth could be the standard feature with leather interior adding to the price.
Luxury cars may opt for leather as the standard. After all, if a buyer is going to spend the price of a home on a new car, that interior should be luxe! However, even budget friendlier brands like Kia offer leather interior as the standard feature on specific models. Buyers don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money on a new car to feel pampered in their ride!
When looking at cars online via augmented reality or virtual reality platforms, buyers might want to peek inside at the interior. Make note if it’s cloth or leather—yes, even virtually this should be identifiable.
During the research phase of the car buying process, consumers might look into if what is shown virtually is the standard interior or an upgrade. If leather is the upgrade, typically shoppers can inquire online about the price of this feature.
Of course, cloth and leather interiors may include color options, too. However, the color that the buyer selects for the interior may depend on the paint hue of the vehicle.
Exterior Paint Options
The Drive reported that white was the top color (or perhaps non-color) for cars in 2020. Black and grey came rounded out the top three most popular hues. Perhaps many consumers like their vehicles to be neutral.
Red is often cited as being a more expensive color, with many consumers surmising that choosing the flame-hot hue will boost insurance bills. However, Insure.com explains that this is a myth. Car insurance companies don’t look at a car’s hue when quoting insurance.
Previewing different paint hues on a car is how virtual and augmented reality automotive showrooms may have an edge over their in-person counterparts. While dealerships may offer car models in many different hues on the floor, not every car color may be on the floor.
Yet, many new makes/models are offered in an array of color choices. The Nissan Altima, for example, comes in nine different paint options, including Sunset Drift Chroma Flare (a hot orange). Nissan’s site lets shoppers preview the car in every color wave, but not all manufacturers may offer this option.
Again, if shoppers are visiting the dealership to see a model in person, the color options on the floor may or may not include the full-color spectrum of choices. Online virtual and augmented reality showrooms like RelayCars could be a great resource for shoppers to swap out paint hues to find the color that fits their personality and lifestyle.
When using online platforms, consumers may be able to swap out the interior colors to find the best combinations of interior and exterior hues. A black interior may look too intense when paired with a black exterior hue. Or some shoppers may love the black-on-black appeal. Virtual and augmented reality experiences may let shoppers experiment with different options to find the best pairings.
Virtual experiences often let consumers peek inside the interior of the car to get an idea about the basic features. This includes visualizing the navigation screen and instrument panel. Virtual experiences might not let consumers fully interact with these features, but they can provide a basic context about what the vehicle offers.
Shoppers can use the virtual experiences to gather information about the basic features of a particular model. While virtual or augmented reality experiences can offer a glance at the inside offerings, the manufacturers sites often provide more detailed specs on the basic features of each model.
Today’s new models may offer backup cameras as a standard feature, while front cameras or more advanced navigation features may be an upgrade (bumping up the cost). However, luxury models may offer advanced navigation systems as a standard feature.
When researching online, shoppers can gain more information about what is standard and the cost of upgrades via dealership sites. Many dealerships offer a virtual assistant (online) or virtual customer salesperson who can provide more information about a particular vehicle. They may be able to clarify the price of upgrades or specs on particular models.
Shoppers also can keep in mind that buying a new car is often a negotiation process. If the buyer has a trade-in, this can lower the sale price of the new car. Rebates and other dealership offers also can bump the price down.
Wheels and Rims
The look of the car also is affected by the wheels and rims. Upgraded rims can seriously add to the appeal of a vehicle. And these upgrades can get expensive.
Virtual and augmented platforms may let buyers play around with different wheel looks. Don’t assume that the standard look is the best! Upgrades can transform the appearance of even a basic car. Ask about upgrades—like alloy wheels–for larger models like SUVs.
While some manufacturers may offer rim or tire options and upgrades, others might simply have one standard option. Some car owners pursue their own upgrades, but opting for bigger wheels is something that owners need to research. Popular Mechanics explains why and how the size of the tires matters and notes that “Bigger is not always better.”
Accessories & More!
Interior material and color as well as wheels and the outside paint hue might be the big features that many shoppers find most notable during their shopping experience. The interior features, however, can be vast…and those upgrades may seriously bump the price tag.
High-end stereo systems may be an upgrade that buyers are willing to invest in if they drive long distances consistently. If drivers are stuck in the car for hours each day, the quality and clarity of the entertainment system may be something to consider. Some buyers may without question invest in audio or entertainment upgrades.
Parents with the extra budget might add television screens to the backseat for children. These entertainment features come in handy during both long and short trips! Turn on a favorite movie or television show and let the kids snack and relax while parents battle those after-school pick up traffic jams.
Upgrades and accessories also include weatherproof floor mats, emergency kits and even netting for the back storage area. Toyota even offers a Glass Breakage Sensor that triggers an alert when the vehicle’s glass is compromised.
Add-ons can simply add to the owner’s feeling of security. An emergency kit, for example, may include jumper cables and other necessities an owner might need if they are stranded or broken down.
Luxury auto manufacturers like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce and others may include far more extensive offerings for their clientele. Customization options could be nearly endless. The Ferrari Atelier is a design studio where clients create their own ‘bespoke’ vehicle. Rolls Royce offers the Starlight Headliner feature, which clients can customize in their own celestial patterns of choice. Want a specific zodiac constellation featured on the ceiling? It can happen!
One Bugatti owner went so custom that the company almost didn’t think the requested paint specs for the body could be mastered. After two years, however, the tiny diamond pattern was completed on the Bugatti Divo, which, per TopGear, costs more than $4 million…before any custom features or options.
Online Virtual Experiences vs. In-Store
When shopping for a new car and perusing all the add-ons, features and options available for the model, virtual experiences online may offer a way for shoppers to play around and experiment with colors and other options. However, visiting the dealership in person may let shoppers physically experience some of these features. Virtual experiences cannot necessarily allow shoppers to turn up a stereo system or explore the touch screen entertainment system.
The dealership showroom also allows shoppers to sit in a vehicle and understand the tactile differences between different interior options. However, during Covid, these visits may be limited or require appointments. Mandates may vary per state.
Both virtual/augmented reality and physical vehicle showrooms amplify the user experience when shopping for a new car. The online tools offered by virtual/augmented reality showrooms provide an easy way for shoppers to research different cars and preview these models. Paint hues can be changed, and consumers can virtually look inside the vehicles.
When the new car wish list has been whittled down to a few favorites, the in-person experience allows shoppers to feel out their options. Test drives can let possible buyers decide if they love that stereo upgrade, if the heated seats are worthwhile and to fully experience other major features. Smaller upgrades or accessories also may be worth asking about at the dealership. Many manufacturers offer an array of add-ons that can further customize the vehicle. As for luxury vehicles, the available features may be completely customizable and quite extensive.