Buying a Car Online: What You Need to Know

In recent years, the world of eCommerce has shifted dramatically. Cars and trucks are becoming increasingly available for purchase through the Internet.

Traditionally, purchasing a vehicle consisted of going to your local car dealer, browsing around the lot, meeting a sales person, test driving some of your favorite choices, and then negotiating hours for a deal.

Fast forward to 2018, and now you can research, compare prices, apply for a loan, get quotes, and even purchase your next vehicle all without leaving your house! The statistics are in, and over 51 percent of Americans prefer online shopping over traditional methods. Believe it or not, there are some great advantages of purchasing a vehicle online as opposed to the traditional method of shopping at a car dealership.

It is important to remember that buying a vehicle is an investment, and purchasing a vehicle online isn’t foolproof. You definitely have to be careful, and there are some important things you need to consider before making your purchase. We will go over everything you need to know to make an informed decision in your next online car purchase.

Research

One benefit of online car shopping is the ability to expand your car search beyond local dealers. That being said, don’t make the mistake of finding the cheapest price and purchasing it right off the bat. The internet is filled with information. Make sure you take full advantage of what’s available to you!

Checking with the Better Business Bureau is a great way to find out if your dealership is a reputable company and in good standing. Find out how long the dealership been conducting business and be sure to read any complaints. Reviews found on Google and social media pages are also great ways to get a firsthand account from customers. It doesn’t take very long to figure out whether the dealer you are attempting to do business with is trustworthy or sketchy.

Researching the company is important but doing your homework on the vehicle is equally just as important. Know what kind of features you want in a car and how much you want to spend. For example, if you have a toddler that will be riding in the back seat, you will most likely want to look at a vehicle that has advanced safety features. High fuel economy is a feature that you will want to consider if you have a 45-minute commute to and from work every day.

When you find a vehicle you are interested in, be sure to look up what the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is. Consulting Kelley Blue Book will help you get a better perspective on what the car is worth. The quotes you receive on a vehicle may not match what Kelley Blue Book says exactly, but at least you will understand what is considered high- and low-end values.

It’s almost guaranteed that buying online will result in a lower quote than buying in person, but you can still get blind sided with fees. Make sure that you ask for the out-the-door price. When you are speaking to the representative, they will know exactly what this means. Taxes and fees are not always disclosed in the quote that you are about to make a deal on. This means that you could end up paying thousands more than what you initially thought. The out-the-door price should be your final total including taxes and fees, as well as any other hidden costs.

Financing

Unless you have a lot of cash to drop on a new vehicle, it is likely that you will have to obtain financing. Many Americans make the mistake of going with the first financing option without shopping around. It is important to be aware that just a one percent reduction in financing could mean saving thousands of dollars over the course of a loan. Buying online is often preferred because the process is much quicker, but make sure that you are investing the time to find the right financing for you and your needs.

Get it in Writing

Typically, the online car buying process results in talking to someone in the dealership’s Internet department on the phone, through email, or even via text message. These people have different incentives than the typical car lot salesman, so you typically will see a cheaper quote than what you would get in person. Make sure you get any quotes in writing so there is no miscommunication.

Test Drive

If the dealership is local, make an appointment with the online department to come in and perform a test drive. This will give you the peace of mind that the car is everything you wanted. This doesn’t change the fact that you are purchasing online, and you don’t have to deal with the salesman other than the test drive.

Keep in mind that buying a vehicle out of state means that you won’t be able to test drive your vehicle before purchasing. This is a risk that you will have to take, which is why it is so important to research who you are doing business with.

Ask for Delivery

The last step of purchasing your car is signing the contract. They will most likely ask you to come in and sign the paperwork. This means you will have to come in and deal with a salesman, and if you are not careful, it could result in higher fees being negotiated into the contract. Having to come into the dealership and deal with salespeople and paperwork somewhat defeats the convenience of purchasing a vehicle online. But there are ways to get around it.

Request that the vehicle be delivered directly to your house. This is a courtesy that many dealerships will offer if they know it will seal the deal. This also means that the contract will be drawn up prior to delivery, and you will sign for it on pickup.

Buying a car online isn’t just for the rich or the tech savvy. You, too, can compare online quotes and save time and money on your next car purchase.

Helder Almeida / Shutterstock

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