The path to same day car buying

Today’s customer expects same-day service from every business they interact with, including the auto finance industry. It’s imperative to offer a fast and painless digital experience to keep up with the expectations of their customer base.

Step 1: Offer a seamless and fast loan application

Car loan applications are not known for their simplicity. While most lenders are moving this process online, they still ask customers to complete lengthy, multi-page forms. Capturing only the minimal information upfront to make a credit decision speeds up the process and enhances the customer experience. To make this step even faster, offer borrowers the option to automatically complete the forms using open banking technology.

Step 2: Let the borrower build their ideal loan

Customers like the flexibility of tailoring a deal to match their needs. For example, if they have a monthly budget in mind, it’s very convenient for the consumer to view the loan options as they experiment with different cars and back-end product options. Additionally, some borrowers are concerned with the upfront cost (i.e., cash down), or they may simply want to pay off the loan as quickly as possible. A modern user experience should allow customers to explore these different finance options digitally away from the pressure of doing it in person at the dealership.

Step 3: Use digital contracts and signatures

While eSignatures have been around for years, the pandemic accelerated their adoption. Common challenges often cited as a barrier to adoption were complexity and cost. This may have been true in the past, but it is no longer the case. Several options exist at a wide range of price points, offering a variety of services such as DocuSign to support the transition.

Step 4: Digitize and streamline verifications

For an auto loan, lenders typically conduct several verifications for the borrower. Depending on the credit segment and line of business, they may verify the borrower’s identity, residence, income, and employment. From the borrower’s perspective, making copies or taking pictures of multiple documents is a painful process.

Digitizing verifications is one of the greatest (untapped) sources of efficiency and customer service for an auto loan. Lenders can choose from numerous providers to automate the verification of identity (e.g., LexisNexis, Onfido, Lightico), residence (e.g., Neustar), and income (e.g., The Work Number, Plaid).

If a lender still finds itself requesting documents from the borrower, allowing them to directly upload them to a portal (with a convenient text) is preferable over traditional methods. Once the document is in-house, machine-learning can verify its legitimacy, which is more efficient than an employee confirming manually.

Step 5: Offer convenient vehicle pick-up options

The pandemic changed this step of the car-buying process dramatically. Many buyers are opting for a painless curbside pick-up option like the one offered by CarMax. Deliveries are more common now, with increased adoption driven by direct-to-consumer retailers like Carvana, Vroom, and Shift.

In-person, contact-free, and delivery options should not be seen as either/or – providing buyers with all these options is the best way to ensure a positive customer experience.

Step 6: Flexibility

According to Cox Automotive, consumers are making it clear that digital retailing is here to stay. Reports indicate 64% of shoppers want to move toward an online purchase process the next time they buy a vehicle. However, amid the excitement for digitization, the majority of buyers today are not completing their purchases online.

Customers expect the ability to complete their purchase online, yet they also want the flexibility to take it offline at any point during the process. As an example, Toyota offers this flexibility with their SmartPath digital suite.


While consumers like the idea of buying a car completely online, the industry is not fully equipped. The same-day digital car buying process is the new standard for our industry that every auto finance lender should aspire to in today’s market. By offering digital options at each step of the car-buying journey, buyers can purchase a car in a matter of hours. It’s time to re-think the online application process to enhance the lender-to-consumer journey.


Shim Mannan, Global Head of Services Sales Enablement, IDS Group

Next steps

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