How to buy a car online
Internet sales of cars are booming. Here's how to securely buy a car online.
Need a new set of wheels but not looking forward to the high-pressure environment of a dealership? While including the added benefit of social distancing for higher-risk shoppers, a (mostly) virtual buying experience can often save you time, money and unwanted stress.
Buying cars online vs dealership
When it comes to buying cars online versus at a dealership, it's not an all-or-nothing situation. Of course, there is the traditional method of visiting a dealership and completing your purchase there, from start to finish, as well as the opposite practice of completing the purchasing process from your office chair at home. There are, however, many variations that fall between those two extremes. You could shop dealerships first, and ultimately find a specific car online, or you could do your research and dealing online and ultimately purchase your car at a dealership. Here are steps you should follow no matter where you fall on the spectrum.
Do your research
Choose a model, trim level and your must-have features. Be sure to check car safety ratings and car insurance rates for your chosen model. You can change your mind at any time, but knowing what you want will help you narrow your search.
Set your budget
Establish your budget before you inquire about pricing. Determine whether it makes sense to look for a new or used car, which can significantly affect pricing. When you land on a car budget you feel comfortable with, you can look for funding.
Get a pre approved auto loan
Whether this car purchase is your first or your fourteenth, it's always important to brush up on auto loan basics before purchasing a new vehicle. Familiarize yourself with the process and secure your funding before you reach out to dealerships for pricing.
Go for a test drive
Visit a dealership to take your preferred make and model vehicle for a spin. Once you've located the specific car you want, make sure to test drive it to make sure everything is running smoothly. But don't get caught up in the moment — wait until you're back in front of your computer to get down to brass tacks.
After you've found the car you want, you can contact dealerships about pricing. Ask them for their best out-the-door price (inclusive of taxes and fees).
Email each dealership again and ask them to beat the lowest quote you've received. Then keep circulating the new lowest quote until the dealerships stop coming down on their price. A few extra emails could save you hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars.
Protect your investment
Purchasing a car is a significant investment — make sure you take the proper steps to ensure a secure transaction. Ask to see the title before you make the purchase and, if the car is used, make sure to ask for a car history report. Take time to review the purchasing and loan contracts, and if possible, have them reviewed by a lawyer.