There’s never been a better time to buy a new car – online.
In this new era of social distancing, automotive buyers are increasingly moving online, and several brands are accommodating this shift with the implementation of so-called ‘virtual showrooms’.
Although plenty of manufacturers already allow buyers to configure their car online, some brands are taking this further by permitting customers to book a test drive, place an order and even purchase a car without even setting foot in a dealership.
In fact, a recent study out of the United Kingdom found almost 25 per cent of people said they would "be confident in buying a car without seeing it, if it was protected by guarantees and a warranty".
From Tesla’s ordering process – which can remove human interaction entirely – to Subaru’s ‘Build and Buy’ tool – which allows you to skip a visit to a dealer when required – here are the car brands offering a socially-distanced purchase model.
Models: All Audi models.
How it works: Audi’s online purchase process allows selection and configuration of a dealer stocked model, a ‘virtual walkaround’, payment of a refundable $500 deposit to reserve a car, and home delivery of the new vehicle when the transaction is complete.
Remote test drives are also able to be arranged online, with a dealer representative bringing the car to a buyer’s home, while people wishing to trade-in their old vehicle can arrange to have a dealer appraise the car in person and then have it towed to a dealer if required.
Essentially, an Audi Australia representative explained, “buyers can make as much of the process remote as they wish”.
Where: Fill in the ‘stock availability’ section of the Audi Australia homepage and follow the prompts.
Models: The BMW 530e plug-in hybrid.
How it works: It’s a four-step process – you select your model (only the 530e is available for now), choose your paint and trim and then select your preferred dealer.
You will then be asked to supply your contact details and pay a minimum deposit of $500. From there, if the vehicle selected via the online tool matches models currently in stock and does not need to be ordered from the factory, the vehicle can be fast-tracked for delivery within days.
Where: Head to BMW’s online store here.
Models: All Hyundai models.
How it works: Hyundai's Click to Buy system allows you to either configure your perfect car or browse existing dealer stock online and organise a contactless home delivery via your closest dealership.
The process is conducted via the individual websites of Click to Buy-equipped dealerships. You can either configure your perfect car online or select from a dealer's existing stock and add to cart, and from there you'll be prompted to make an obligation-free offer which, if approved, will allow you to secure your car with an online deposit.
A dealer will then be in touch to arrange delivery.
Where: Head here for a list of Hyundai dealers with Click to Buy capabilities and then click the link to the individual dealer site that suits you best.
Models: All Kia models.
How it works: Kia asks you to build your model online, select your closest dealer, put down a fully refundable $100 deposit to reserve the car and then wait for a dealer to get in contact with you within one business day.
They'll arrange a delivery date, which will be dependent on the stock availability of your chosen model, grade and colour.
Where: Start by building your Kia model here.
Models: The electric Mercedes-Benz EQC is the only model that can be fully purchased online, but all models can be configured online.
How it works: You can either configure your EQC through the online configurator and then submit this to be made in Germany and shipped, or you can search through existing inventory on Mercedes’ online store and place an order.
Through the online store, you can choose outright payment or opt for a finance option, then you’ll be asked to pay a deposit and your nearest dealer will handle the delivery.
Where: You can find the Mercedes-Benz online store here.
Models: Currently only the Mini Electric – but with more models to be added in future.
How it works: You can option your chosen car online and then pay a deposit ($2000) with a dealer of your choice, who will then contact you to arrange next steps.
Contactless test drives, where the dealer will drop the car to your home, are also being offered.
Where: Mini Electric models for 2020 delivery have sold out, but Mini is accepting 2021 delivery orders here.
Models: All Skoda models.
How it works: Skoda allows you to locate existing dealer stock in your state. Once you find the model you’re after, you’ll be asked to complete an online form and pay a $500 refundable reservation fee.
The dealer will then be in contact to handle next steps, which can be conducted face to face or remotely – whichever is preferred. They can also help you arrange any finance or trade-in requirements.
Where: Head to Skoda’s stock locator to get started.
Models: All Subaru models.
How it works: Choose your model and any options and accessories you want, place a fully refundable minimum deposit of $1000 and then wait for a Subaru dealer to contact you to arrange delivery either at home or at your closest dealership.
Where: Head here to start configuring your car.
Models: All Tesla models.
How it works: Tesla allows you to see new and used inventory of the model you’re after online, or alternatively, you can custom-design your new car through the online design studio. Once you’ve made your choices, you will be required to pay the full amount to place the order.
From there, Tesla will notify you of your delivery date and schedule a delivery pick-up appointment at your nearest Tesla Service Centre. If you live more than 250 km from the closest Service Centre, your vehicle can be shipped directly to your home or office.
Prior to your appointment, Tesla will send you through a number of resources via email or text to help you prepare, including a virtual walk-through tutorial.
When you arrive at the service centre, you will be pointed to your vehicle, given the keys and encouraged to ask any further questions over the phone or via email. Test drives can be arranged online and Tesla provides trade-in estimates entirely online too.
Models: All Toyota models.
How it works: Select and configure the vehicle you want, put down a refundable holding deposit of $100 and then Toyota will be in touch within 24 hours to discuss delivery options.
Where: Put your postcode into Toyota's 'find a dealer' page here and look for dealers that have the 'order and collect' functionality listed. The rest is done through the individual dealer website.
Models: All Volkswagen passenger and commercial models.
How it works: Customers can configure and personalise their vehicle online, select their closest dealer and pay a $500 deposit to reserve their chosen car.
The buyer’s designated dealership will then contact the customer within two days of a deposit being placed. Delivery timing depends on whether the car is existing dealer stock, incoming stock, or a special order from the factory.
Where: Read VW’s comprehensive guide to online ordering here and follow the prompts.