After the pandemic, the traditional car-buying process experienced a major shift to accommodate stay-at-home orders that prevented shoppers from heading to the dealership.

The shopping process could shift once again as artificial intelligence (AI) enters the space. Proponents encourage buyers to rely on text-generating software’s help to get behind the wheel of their perfect vehicle.

However, AI may not be the perfect fit for every type of driver. It requires the same kind of consideration as weighing an online financing experience versus an in-person dealership one. Consider the AI experience and how to potentially take advantage of it when shopping for your next vehicle.

Why the auto industry thinks AI-aided shopping is the future

Edmunds’ chief innovation officer Nick Gorton proposes two major benefits to the use of AI in the car buying space: a helping hand when haggling and a more personalized shopping experience. The online automotive company recently rolled out a ChatGPT plugin that enables drivers to take advantage of Edmunds’ expert advice, inventory data and shopping reviews powered by AI technology.

The plug-in uses real-time data directly from Edmunds to build upon the predictive text generator’s advice. Along with this, the plug-in fills in a large gap of knowledge the AI product alone doesn’t have access to — as ChatGPT only has information through 2021.

According to Edmunds, the tool can:

  • Check vehicle listings and ratings
  • Summarize vehicle reviews
  • Give guidance to shoppers
  • Search local inventory

The new platform differs from simply shopping online, says Gorton.

“You can start with a conversational query, even add a little bit of background, and then get that advice tailored to you,” he says.

This is especially helpful for the buyers that are entering the car buying process completely blind and need some hand-holding to even decide what type of vehicle they might want to purchase.

AI may level the bargaining playing field

Today, many drivers bring their most argumentative friend to the dealership to ensure negotiation goes seamlessly. But with AI’s help, even drivers who hate haggling may have a better chance of walking away with a good deal.

With the use of advanced tooling, drivers can get a look behind the curtain and better grasp expected costs, available vehicles and what car is best for them. No longer is what the dealership says gospel. When trying to get prices down, you can have AI use public consumer info to construct a script that will make negotiation a cakewalk.

While it is possible to scour the internet for this information, AI can find and summarize it for you, cutting down on research.

Drivers from “all experience levels in negotiating, all background levels, are getting the same experience and hopefully for the better,” Gorton explains.

Bankrate tip
If you aren’t completely sold on using AI when shopping, consider brushing up on negotiation tactics ahead of heading to the dealer lot.

Gorton positions this AI assistance as a way to reduce bias in the buying process.  Let’s say you’re a female shopper that has felt taken advantage of in previous car-buying experiences. You might start your shopping journey using AI to get an unbiased view of the right vehicle for you.

However, the approach doesn’t fully solve the problem of bias. To close the deal, you will have to visit the dealership in person and undergo a credit pull, which will reveal your full identity. The only way there would be true removal of biases would be if you were researching, shopping and buying all through an AI program.

Shoppers can receive personalized advice

When setting out to buy a car, it is impossible to enter a dealership and expect advice perfectly tailored to you and your needs. Dealers have profit-driven ulterior motives.

Chatting with an AI, buyers can instead get very granular and specific with their needs.

Gorton referenced an example of the type of driver that might reach for the AI plug-in. “I’m a mother of three with this budget in the Northwest who likes to ski,” he poses, “What do you recommend?”

For some, like this hypothetical mother of three, the ease of asking a simple query and getting tailored advice sounds like a dream. But others might prefer going from dealer to dealer to learn their options or hear from fellow drivers by checking online forums like Reddit.

Shopping with traditional resources vs. AI

One of the major perks supporters say AI offers is personalization. You can ask dealers for advice on what car they would recommend, but their potential to earn commissions may bias their answers.

The primary difference between shopping with traditional sources and using AI comes down to the initial search process. When shopping in the not-so-long-ago past, drivers simply explored vehicle options by setting out to dealerships, chatting with friends and digging through online databases.

While this route won’t disappear anytime soon, it does fit some drivers better than others. Those who, for example, have their sights set on a vehicle from a specific brand can easily head to the dealership with their request.

Drivers who are entering the process without that information, on the other hand, might not know which car they’re even shopping for — which makes finding it hard.

This makes shopping for a car with the help of AI a perfect option for someone looking for an outside perspective on the right car.

My experience using AI to shop for my car

In order to take advantage of tailored advice based on Edmunds’ extensive back catalog of reviews and articles, plus the ability to view local inventory, borrowers can add the ChatGPT plug-in to their account. But you’ll need an OpenAI Plus membership to add plug-ins, a cost of $20 per month, which I couldn’t access.

Still, I took some time to explore ChatGPT’s perspective on the best vehicle to get for a young person living in a city who wants to drive an EV. I asked it the following question: What type of car should I get as a young person interested in driving an EV?

Here’s what my experience looked like.

  1. Ask a question. First I asked the tool a simple question based on my wants and needs. In this case, I was coming in somewhat blind — all I knew was that I wanted to purchase an EV. The tool first recommended that I consider what I am looking for in the vehicle, aspects such as price, size and safety features.
  2. Talk back and forth. I was presented with a list of five different EV options, including the Tesla Model 3 and the Kia Niro EV. I then requested the benefits and drawbacks of the two mentioned vehicles. Outside the tool, I checked the claims against information from real drivers and found that it was all accurate. This, again, is a much more seamless and transparent approach than asking a dealer for the same advice. Once presented with the in-depth pros and cons of each, I determined that, based on my needs, the Kia Niro was a better choice. It held a much less expensive price compared to the Tesla and boasted very positive reviews, based on the tool’s recommendation.
  3. Use new information to make in-person purchases. Now that I had a firm grasp on the type of vehicle that I wanted to purchase, the Kia Niro EV, I was able to start the purchasing process. To do this, I decided to close out ChatGPT and find the closest Kia dealership. At that point, I would be able to speak to a dealer fully equipped with the necessary knowledge and confidence in the vehicle that I wanted to get.

Next steps

New technology, like conversational AI, can feel intimidating and mysterious. But when used correctly, it can help certain drivers grasp the right vehicle for their needs and better approach negotiations, possibly even saving you money. If you plan on purchasing a new or used vehicle this summer, consider how AI can help expedite the process.