The Daytona-Orlando area is the top destination for Internet car buyers.
For some car shoppers, car-buying has become an adventure with a tourism twist. When they’ve found the perfect car on the Internet, they’re coming to get it themselves — and sticking around a few days to see the sights.
About 38% of lease transfers take place between people who live in different regions, according to LeaseTrader.com, which arranges transfers of vehicle leases between private parties. That’s up from 31% just five years ago.
More than half of those buyers, some 54%, travel to where the vehicle is located to pick it up rather than having it shipped, says Sergio Stiberman, CEO of Miami-based Lease Trader.
It often is cheaper to fly in and drive back than to have a vehicle shipped, which can cost from 70 cents to $1 a mile. There is evidence that sometimes, with all other factors being mostly equal, people are choosing specific vehicles just because they’re in a place the buyers would like to visit.
“Part of the trend we’re tracking is that cities like Nashville and Orlando are places that people don’t mind traveling to,” Stiberman said. “I think the consumer overall is looking to save money, but going to Orlando, Nashville or New York to pick up a car is just a bonus.”
“If you were to ask my wife, if we had an option of going to New York or Atlanta to pick up our new vehicle, I guarantee New York is going to be the winner,” Stiberman said. “But for me, Nashville would be high on the list. I’ve been there, and it was lots of fun with a nice nightlife.”
Auto tourism isn’t limited to those trading leases. Car dealers also play a role in online sales.
At Smyrna (Tenn.) Automotive Group, a former Team Chevrolet dealership that now specializes in late-model, low-mileage used cars and specialty vehicles, consumers often fly in and drive out with their purchases, says Chuck Hanes, the general manager.
“This trend has been made possible by the Internet, which has opened up the whole country to us as our market,” he said. “Many of the vehicles we put in our inventory are hard-to-find models that people will go online and scour the country for.”
“Airfares are pretty low right now, so that’s helping, but what we hear people say is that they’re going to make a mini-vacation out of it, stay a night or two in Nashville, maybe go to the Grand Ole Opry, then head on home,” Hanes said.
Before the Internet and its burgeoning array of vehicle search options, “such a thing was unheard of,” Hanes said. “I’ve been in this business a long time, and in the past it was rare to have customers come from more than 50 miles away to buy a vehicle.”
Ben Freeland, who owns the Freeland Chevrolet Superstore in Antioch, Tenn., sees some of that at his dealership as well. But his Auto2Auto.com used-car operation benefited more frequently from the auto-tourism concept, he said.
“When we had that, we sold used vehicles all over the country, and people had the option of flying in to pick them up or having them shipped,” Freeland said. “Because this is Nashville, we had many customers who wanted to come here. As part of the deal, we paid for a one-way plane ticket to get them here.”
Since he moved Auto2Auto to the Freeland Chevrolet location in Antioch, the free plane ticket no longer is offered, but the company still sees out-of-town buyers who fly in for vehicle pickups.
“We sell a lot of everyday used cars out of town,” he said. “Some customers come because there are better deals in Nashville, but some come just to make a trip out of it.”
“Even with the cost of a plane ticket, they come home with large savings,” says Stiberman of LeaseTrader.com.
Top 10 auto tourism destinations
Los Angeles/Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Reston, Va./Washington, D.C.
Via USA Today