How Long Does It Take To Buy A Car?

How Long Will It Take You To Buy A Car

How Long Is the Car Buying Process?

If you believe the studies and you are buying from the dealership, you can expect it to take 3-6 hours to buy a car from the time you walk into the moment you actually drive away. 

If you believe the person ranting in a video online or leaving a negative review on a Car Shopping Service, it might take you all weekend to buy a car

But I’m going to ask you to throw “Most” of that out.  

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 car buying time 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

How Long Does It Take To Buy A Car If You Have No Trade In?

Trading in a car at the Car Dealership can take as much time as buying a car, and that’s because the dealer is essentially buying the car from you, and they want to haggle too!  So, to be safe, add in just a little under twice as long, unless of course you are going to accept whatever number they throw at you.

Why Does It Take That Long To Buy A Car With A Trade In?

The dealership is going to want to inspect the vehicle, something most car buyers don’t do but should for used cars, and of course, definitely wouldn’t be doing if you are buying a New Car (Something to Consider)

TIP:  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 hiccup can extend your vehicle purchase time by hours or even days.

How long is the car buying process

Why does it take so long to buy a car in 2023?

This question has some simple answers really.  It takes so long to buy a car because:

  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, and neither does the buyer who intentionally misleads the dealership assuming that if they have bad information things will get better. 

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 either completely unprepared, OR, looking for a fight.  

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

Tip: The key to saving time at the dealership isn't what you do there, it's what you get taken care of before you go.

How long does it take to buy a new 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 a new 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 Used Car?

Used cars are somewhat of a different process (Obvious statement I know), but you can probably expect to spend anywhere from only an hour to the full 6 hours or more buying a used car.  Why?

  • Inspecting or Ordering an inspection on the car you intend to purchase can extend the time it takes to buy a used car vs a new car because new cars require no (Thorough)  inspection
  • Used cars are typically cheaper and therefore easier to finance or buy outright with cash.  (Not for everyone, but these are averages we are talking about)
  • The search for a used car can be complex.  You may think you found something great online then upon the visit find out there are issues with the vehicle.  (New Cars don’t usually have mechanical or physical damage)

How long does it take to buy a car with cash?

Cash buyers,

don’t actually have to be rolling in with a bag full of bills.  

Bottom Line:

If you are not financing through the dealership- You are a cash buyer

The obvious benefit this has in the time you spend on the dealers lot is that a cash buyer can be in and out of a dealership in as little as an hour or two, obviously giving or taking a bit on Trades/Price Negotiation. 

Simply put, if you don’t have to go into the finance office, you have eliminated a BULK of your time spent at the car dealership.  “Wait, What?!?!”  Yes, if you are not financing through the dealership you are not mandated to sit with the finance manager.  They will most likely not admit to that, but why would they?

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. 

3 Quick Tips For Cash Car Buyers

  • You are not special- A dealership who cares about your business will not treat you differently however you plan to pay for a car.  The truth is:  A buyer financing can earn the dealership more in profit!
  • Do not Hide Your Cash- The old advice was that you should simply focus on the price of the car and not how you might pay, however, that could keep you from potential incentives that could save you thousands.  Tell the dealership you were planning on using your own financing but that you could finance through the dealer if the offers are too good to pass up.
  • Financing doesn’t really mean Financing- If the dealership or the manufacturer are going to give you thousands of dollars to finance the car, then finance the car, and pay it off quickly with your cash.  (Free Money People)

How long does a car dealership financing take?

Financing at the dealership, or actually being approved for a car loan from a dealer, can take anywhere from a few minutes to several weeks (Depending on your creditworthiness) 

In most cases, and I do mean “MOST”, you should avoid any offers to take the vehicle before actually having financing in place and completed, especially if you have a trade-in.

You are opening yourself up to what is typically referred to as a Yo-Yo scam, or the same outcome by complete accident.

Essentially,  you drive the vehicle home then several days or weeks later the dealership wants the car back either because you cannot be approved at all, or because you need to agree to a higher cost/price for the car.

Again, this can happen by mistake, but it’s a mess either way, so if the dealership says they cannot secure financing right away then you should explain that you will not be driving that car off the lot until they do.

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.

Before 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:  

–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-Title.  

What is an E-Title?  

Well, just as the name suggests- It’s 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).

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
  • 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.

Conclusion: Time spent in the car dealership

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.

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