Augmented Reality in the Car Buying Process

Augmented Reality in the Car Buying Process

The car buying process has changed drastically over the years. In the past, the average consumer visited five dealerships before making a purchase decision, but now, 41% of automotive consumers only visit one dealership. Instead of traveling from dealership to dealership, automotive consumers now make more decisions online ahead of time. In fact, many consumers are ready to purchase a specific vehicle once they arrive at a dealership.

This shift in the automotive consumer’s car buying process was made possible in large part due to augmented reality technology. Over the last several years, a growing number of automotive companies have started to use augmented reality to digitize the process of buying a car. How is augmented reality used in the car buying process? How can using this technology benefit automotive companies and consumers? Here’s what you should know:

Augmented Reality in the Car Buying Process

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is a technology that allows users to superimpose elements from the digital world into their real world environment. Using this technology, users can project digital images, sounds, videos, and other elements directly onto their surroundings. In other words, it blends the digital world and real world together.

Users may need to wear a special headset or pair of glasses in order to experience augmented reality technology. However, in some cases, an augmented reality experience can be accessed using just a smartphone or tablet. 

Perhaps the most famous use of augmented reality is Pokemon Go, which is an app that launched in 2016. The app superimposes Pokemon characters directly onto the user’s real world environment so they can “catch” as many characters as possible.

How is Augmented Reality Used in the Car Buying Process?

The automotive industry is currently using augmented reality in several different steps of the car buying process. Some of its many uses include:

  • Explore Cars
  • Access Important Information
  • Post-Purchase Support

Explore Cars

Before the introduction of augmented reality technology, consumers used to have to travel to multiple dealerships to see cars in person, explore their features, compare different models, and decide which car was right for them before making a purchase. These were all important steps in the car buying process. But now, consumers can complete all of these steps from the comfort of their home thanks to augmented reality technology.

Many automotive companies now offer consumers the opportunity to explore vehicles with augmented reality technology. Using this technology, consumers can project different vehicles into their real world environment. This gives consumers a chance to get up close and personal with different vehicles so they can learn more about their features and tour their interiors and exteriors. They can explore vehicles just like they would inside a real showroom, except they won’t need to step foot inside a dealer. 

Consumers can also use this technology to see how a specific vehicle would look in their driveway or garage. This feature is especially useful for consumers who aren’t sure whether a specific vehicle will fit in a tight space in their garage. 

Because of this technology, consumers can research all of their options from home so they won’t need to spend as much time at the dealership once they’re ready to make a purchase.

Augmented Reality in the Car Buying Process

Access Important Information

Sometimes, a consumer’s car buying journey may begin when they spot a car that they like in a parking lot or driving on the street. In cases like these, augmented reality technology is used to help consumers quickly access important information on the vehicle they have their eye on.

One company that is using augmented reality in this manner is USAA. In 2019, USAA launched an app that allows users to point their smartphone at any vehicle located nearby in order to pull up information on the car.

The app will provide the user with important information such as the average purchase price and cost of insurance. It will also provide the user with a list of local dealerships that currently have the vehicle in stock. All of this information will be superimposed onto the user’s real world environment using augmented reality technology. 

This app makes it easy for consumers to quickly get information on vehicles they are interested in purchasing. It also provides them with the information they need to determine if they can afford the car and if so, where they should go to purchase it. As a result, consumers won’t need to conduct this research on their own, which speeds up their car buying journey.

Post-Purchase Support

The car buying journey is not over once the consumer purchases a vehicle. The last stage in the car buying journey is the post-purchase experience, which is the stage where automotive companies try to convert consumers into loyal customers.

A number of automotive companies are using augmented reality to transform the post-purchase experience for consumers. 

For example, some automotive companies use augmented reality to educate consumers on how to care for and maintain their vehicles. Automotive consumers can use their smartphone to scan their vehicles, which will launch virtual animations projected onto their real world environment that walk them through the steps of checking their oil, changing their tire, or diagnosing a fluid leak. The animations will be projected directly onto their vehicle so they can easily reference the information.

After-market car parts suppliers are also using augmented reality to appeal to consumers in the post-purchase stage of their car buying journey. One company, Delphi, uses augmented reality technology to show consumers a full list of products that are available for the specific make and model of their vehicle.

Augmented Reality in the Car Buying Process

What Are the Benefits of Using Augmented Reality in the Car Buying Process?

There are many benefits to using augmented reality to change the car buying process, including:

  • Enhanced Shopping Experience
  • Convenience
  • Realistic Assets

Enhanced Shopping Experience

Augmented reality technology has taken the automotive shopping experience to a whole new level for consumers. Today’s consumers expect a high quality, unforgettable shopping experience regardless of whether they are shopping in person or online. By using augmented reality, automotive companies can provide a unique experience that fulfills this need. 

Using augmented reality to research vehicles early on in the car buying process helps automotive consumers save time at the dealership, too. Research shows that automotive consumers are unhappy with the current process of buying a new car. Their least favorite part of the process is the amount of time they are forced to spend at the dealership to complete the transaction. In fact, research shows that the less time a consumer spends at a dealership to purchase a car, the higher the consumer will rate the car buying process as a whole. 

To improve the consumer’s shopping experience, automotive companies must focus on helping them complete as many steps of the car buying process online as possible. This is where augmented reality technology comes in. Now, consumers can use this technology to narrow down their options and make a purchase decision at home. They don’t need to visit a dealer until they are actually ready to make a purchase, so they won’t need to spend as much time inside.

Furthermore, using augmented reality technology allows consumers to take their time when it comes to researching vehicles. They won’t feel pressured by the presence of a sales representative since they can conduct this research on their own at home. 

For these reasons, augmented reality has led to significant improvements in the car buying process.

Augmented Reality in the Car Buying Process


The use of augmented reality technology has made the process of buying a car far more convenient for consumers. Automotive consumers no longer need to spend hours or days visiting different dealerships to explore their options. They also don’t have to wait until a dealership opens in order to start conducting research. Now, they can get the showroom experience from the comfort of their home at any time.  

Using augmented reality in this manner makes the car buying process more convenient for auto dealers, too. Because consumers can use this technology to virtually tour a wide range of vehicles, auto dealers won’t need to keep as many vehicles on their lots. This can reduce the cost of transporting, storing, and maintaining dozens of vehicles on a dealer’s lot.

Realistic Assets

The vast majority of automotive consumers start the car buying process online. During these early stages of the buying cycle, automotive consumers expect to find a wealth of information  on their options. This includes detailed information on each vehicle’s features in addition to high quality, realistic photos and videos.

Automotive companies can no longer get by with standard still photographs of their inventory. Now, consumers expect to see realistic, three-dimensional assets of each vehicle they are thinking about purchasing. The use of augmented reality technology helps automotive companies exceed these consumers’ expectations.

Augmented reality technology gives automotive consumers the chance to take 360-degree tours of different vehicles. They can walk around a car and see it from every angle just like they would if they were standing inside a dealership. Because augmented reality assets are so realistic, they allow consumers to get a real sense of what the vehicle looks like without ever seeing it in person.

Augmented reality has helped the automotive industry enter a new age of car buying. As more companies begin to adopt this technology, it’s safe to say that the industry will continue to find new and exciting ways to use augmented reality to gain a competitive edge.

Categories: Augmented Reality