How Long Will It Take You To Buy A Car? | Answers


How Long Can You Expect Your Car Buying Process To Last?

Well, if you believe the studies and you are buying from the dealership, you can expect to spend around 3-6 hours from the time you walk into the moment you actually drive away.  If you believe the person ranting in a blog online, or leaving a negative review on a car buying website, you might be spending all weekend at the dealership.  But I’m going to ask you to throw “Most” of that out.  Why?  Because when it comes to buying a car, averages are usually more distracting than they are helpful.  Here are just a few examples of what could extend or shorten your visit by hours or days:

  • You are financing your car purchase at the dealership vs your own bank
  • You are buying your car with cash
  • You have a vehicle to trade in or sell

For example:  If you have a vehicle to trade and the dealership doesn’t give you what you feel is a fair offer it may be necessary to leave and try your luck at Carmax or another Car Buying Service.  This type of hickup can extend your vehicle purchase time by hours or even days.

Why Does It Take So Long To Buy A Car In 2018?

  1. Buyers still not adequately prepared for every aspect of the car buying process
  2. Dealers continued reliance on a traditional sales strategy designed to wear down the consumer

The public may give car dealers the bad rap when it comes to a long buying process, but the unprepared buyer doesn’t always help matters.  What many of us probably aren’t aware of, but realize quickly, is that the dealerships process, among many other things, is designed to drag everything out and wear the customer down.  The idea is to get you to the point where you say whatever it is that you think might speed things up, which is- “Yea Sure”. So, if you want to guarantee a long car buying process then you will go in completely unprepared and reliant on whatever steps the dealership has in place.  However, if you want to trim some of the fat and speed things up substantially you could, for example:

  • Secure your own outside financing
  • Line up which additional add-on products (Warranties, Insurance, etc) you are interested in before heading to the dealership
  • Shop several local dealerships for their best offers and pre-negotiate your deal

How Long Does It Take To Buy A New Or A Used Car?

The best estimates, which are only based on averages, is that if you have zero of the steps completed when arriving at the dealership, you can expect to spend around 5-6 hours buying EITHER a new or used car.  If you line up some of the steps such as securing financing, pre-negotiating your price, and understanding your trade-in, you can probably knock that down to around 2 hours.

How Long Does It Take To Get A New Car From The Factory?

If you have narrowed down your car search for something you simply can’t find on any lot, you can choose to special order a vehicle directly from the manufacturer.  This process can take anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks in the United States and about several months for a foreign made vehicle.  If time is a problem you should know that dealerships do have the ability to search and trade with other dealerships within their brand and that they can find vehicles in places you can’t with websites like Autotrader or Cargurus.  For more information on dealer-trades check out this article at Edmunds.

How Long Does It Take To Buy A Car With Cash?

Cash buyers, very much like someone paying for a car with a check from their bank or outside lender, can be in and out of a dealership in as little as an hour or two depending on if there is a trade-in involved or a drawn-out price negotiation.  The reason for cash vehicle purchases being shorter is in part due to the obvious lack of dealership financing, but what many may miss is that without discussions over financing the dealership doesn’t truly get an opportunity to pitch add-on products as well or for any length of time.  Knocking the visit to the Finance Office out can and will save a bulk of your time at the dealership.  Tip:  If you are not financing with the dealership you can elect to pass on sitting with the finance manager for the purpose of hearing about add-on products- It is not required. 

How Long Can You Test Drive A Car?

For new cars, test drives usually last about 30 minutes but can be permitted to last anywhere from overnight all the way up to several days.  When I think about Carmax’s 5-day money back guarantee, you could actually consider that a sort of 5-day test drive.  However, don’t expect every dealership to offer these multi-day test drives, and if they do, I’m sure there will be a few stipulations, but in general, dealers that offer longer test drive periods tend to do so because it gives the customer (You) time to bond with the car.

The idea here being obvious:  If you bond with the car you are more likely to buy it and less likely to be a tough negotiator.  Besides the long test drive, there was actually a ploy that accomplished the same trick-  Someone buying a car was sent off with the car under the understanding that the financing was “In the works”.  The problem was: It wasn’t.  The idea was the same, right?-  You tell everyone about the car,  fall in love with it, then they whip out a story about having to take it back unless you agreed to a higher price.  The moral of the story here is that once the purchase of a car becomes emotional the dealer/seller has the advantage.  So, as fun as long test drives seem, consider their potential consequences.

After I Buy A Car How Long Does It Take To Get The Title?

This is actually a super important question to answer because as of 2018 when you purchase a vehicle from a dealership you are going to get an E-TitleWhat is an E-Title?  Well, just as the name suggests its a title that is stored within the DMV electronically rather than on paper.  So, you won’t actually be receiving a title in the mail, you will be receiving a notice that your E-Title has been established (Essentially).  Tip: If you are selling your car and you have an E-Title you MUST request a paper copy which will come by mail to complete your ownership transfer.  You cannot sell a car electronically (Yet).

Which States Offer An E-Title?

Currently, as of August 2018, if you live in one of these states you can/will receive an E-Title when you purchase from a dealership: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

How Long Does It Take To Get License Plates From The Dealer?

These days you can usually expect to get your plates within two weeks, or 7-10 business days from the date you purchased your car.  There are many occasions where you can actually get your plates the same day thanks to companies that have established protocols with state DMV’s.  These wait times used to vary because you had to factor in when a dealer may submit their work to the DMV, or how long the mailing process took between the DMV satellite office and their main office in the capital, but with all of the E-Filing systems now it’s becoming less and less of a hassle to get that metal tag on your car sooner rather than later.


Not many of us want to spend more time in the dealership than we have to but thankfully there are steps that most of us can take to significantly cut down on our visit.  It will take some work in and of itself to do the proper research and be a more well-prepared car buyer, but your goal shouldn’t be to try and eliminate a majority of the time it takes to buy a car, it should be to reduce the overall stress associated with car buying by completing as much of the process from the comfort of your own home as possible.

Autohitch Q&A

Although I try my best to answer any and all questions you may have, I leave room for the fact that I may have missed something.  If that is the case, please feel free to ask your questions in the comment section below and I will personally answer them at my earliest convenience.  If they are truly relevant to the article I may actually add our exchange to the post listing you as the contributor!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *