A digital tool to help you shop for & finance a new car

All of us want to get the best deal on our next car purchase -- the vehicle of our dreams, features of our choice and monthly payments within our budget. However, without the resources to prioritize our wish-list, fully understand implications on end price, know our financing options upfront, and determine how it all translates into monthly payments, we often end up feeling like we might have missed out on it.

A survey commissioned by Capital One revealed that 94 percent of Americans don’t find the car buying process to be completely transparent, with 80 percent not feeling very confident when shopping for a car. Only 16 percent believe they are “a boss” when it comes to negotiating during car buying.

Car dealers also play a very important role in car buying. They are always looking for ways to meaningfully connect with customers during their car-buying journeys, whether it’s by investing in digital marketing capabilities or enhancing their customer service experience.

A journey to bring transparency to car buying

“Capital One has long been in the auto finance industry, and we could understand the challenges faced by both consumers and dealers,” said Jeffrey Rabinowitz, Managing Vice President, Auto Navigator, Capital One. “A few years ago, we set out to address the state of transparency in car buying, and in 2015, rolled out the first version of Auto Navigator.”

This allowed consumers to pre-qualify for financing even before stepping into a dealership. “Though the product was still in early stages, it accomplished one critical thing -- bringing transparency to the financing process,” said Rabinowitz. “But we realized we could solve for more than just financing, and bring simplicity to multiple pain points experienced by consumers and dealers in the car buying process.”

A way to shop confidently

Fast forward to today, here’s what Auto Navigator offers: You can see if you pre-qualify for financing without impacting your credit score. You can browse almost four million cars from over 13,000 participating dealers across the country. Once pre-qualified for financing, you can view your estimated APR and monthly payment information for each car. With the work done ahead of time, you can walk into a dealership equipped to shop confidently for your next car.

Recently, the company piloted an augmented reality experience through its mobile app. By simply scanning a car, Capital One customers can view individualized information related to a particular vehicle, such as their pre-qualified financing, estimated monthly payment, nearby dealerships where they could buy the car, and more.

“Historically, lenders have been involved only at the end of car purchasing,” said Rabinowitz. “With Auto Navigator, we have been able to create an ecosystem that helps both consumers and dealers, who oftentimes face the same challenges. We’re in lock-step with them throughout the process of buying a car, by giving consumers the transparency they need, and helping dealers engage with consumers.”

The road ahead: Personalization and proactivity

The auto industry has become increasingly focused on leveraging emerging technology to solve challenges they were not able to address previously. This is resulting in more sophisticated digital products.

Auto Navigator is a cloud-based web application built on a microservices architecture and powered by a suite of technologies, including machine learning. According to Rabinowitz, a multi-functional team made up of designers, technologists, data scientists, product managers, auto industry experts and financing gurus have come together to iteratively solve real user problems to reimagine car buying.

“To me, the next generation of car buying is centered around innovating to enhance the customer experience by applying human-centered design and forward-leaning, immersive technology,” said Rabinowitz. “It’s all about proactivity and personalization – developing tools that can relieve consumers’ mental workloads so they can be more confident about their decisions and save more money.”

Checklist for next time you’re in the market for a car

The Capital One Auto Finance team shared three key insights based on their research into consumers’ car-buying pain points:

  1. Start with a budget in mind and focus on cars that help you stick to it. Yes, really. It’s easy to shop with your heart, so understanding the total cost of ownership is critical. Determine and prioritize your car buying goals to land on a decision that works best for you. It’s always a good idea to separate your must-haves from good-to-haves to help with making trade-offs.

  2. Research your financing options. This includes understanding what determines APR, estimating monthly payments, and seeing if you pre-qualify for financing.

  3. Research the dealer. When you’re narrowing down your car choices, make sure you also research the dealer, and feel confident that you will get the experience you want. Understand what you should bring to a dealership and what to expect when you arrive. Also know what you will be signing when you buy a car.


Auto Navigator is featured at this year’s Capital One House at SXSW -- to learn more, visit Capital.One/SXSW.

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