Why the Dream of Buying a Car in an Hour Might Never Be Reality

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We live in a time when cars drive themselves, people can buy stuff by tapping their phones, voice-controlled virtual assistants can save your life, and when even the U.S. Postal Service is pushing the boundaries of what once seemed possible by shipping groceries and offering same-day delivery

Yet despite our whiz-bang, one-click-purchase times, buying a car still takes forever. OK, it only feels like forever. Research from Edmunds indicates purchasing a car eats up 4.3 hours, on average, or more than half of a standard work day.

That’s probably four times longer than it should take, according to many consumers—75% of whom said in a recent survey that they’d happily conduct the entire purchase online if only it was feasible. There have been efforts to speed things up and appease customers. One car dealership has an ongoing campaign to seal each deal in 45 minutes or less. The Toyota brand Scion is embarking on an experiment to allow purchases to be handled entirely online or be completed in less than an hour at the dealership.

These examples are anomalies, however, and the standard process remains slow, confusing, and antiquated in light of modern-day consumer expectations.

The industry publication Wards Auto recently gathered several industry insider opinions on the pros and cons of car sales taking one hour or less, and if there’s a consensus, it’s that completing such a speedy sale is impossible—and even if it were possible it would be bad for business.

The logistics make it extremely difficult to get the deal done in an hour, one dealership owner said: “In the state of California, it can’t be done because there are too many regulations to cover (at the closing). Two or three hours, that’s where we want to be.”

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“To have a proper experience, buying a car is not done in an hour,” another dealership owner said flatly. “There are clear pitfalls in a 1-hour deal,” yet another explained. “People don’t want to feel rushed. That’s not a collaborative effort.”

Based on these responses, it seems pretty clear that many dealerships simply aren’t bending over backwards to get customers speedily on their way. It’s just not their priority, so it’s a virtual impossibility for their customers. So if there’s one more industry consensus, it’s that dealerships think they know what’s best for consumers more so than consumers themselves—who, remember, would at least like the option of not needing an entire afternoon to complete a car purchase.

Read next: 23 Tricks to Save Thousands on Your Car



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