A woman is shown searching cars for sales online.

How to Buy a Car Online

You’re not the first person to seek help about how to buy a car online. After all, the concept of obtaining daily commodities through this magical network box called the internet may be taking the masses by storm year after year, but some customers remain wary of making a massive purchase online. Purchases that can exceed $10,000 or more aren’t easy to swallow whether you’re buying in-person or online. Understandably at first, you may lack confidence in the online listing, or you simply don’t want to buy before you try. We’re not only here to tell you that online vehicle shopping may very well be the way of the future, but we’re going to teach you how it’s done. We’ve also gathered some of the best tips and tricks to consider when you’re starting your online shopping journey. Let’s begin.

Step 1: Narrow Down Your Needs

The first, and perhaps one of the most important steps of the entire process is obtaining a basic understanding of which kind of vehicle you’re looking to drive. This correlates directly with the first main advantage to purchasing a car online, and that’s the expanded choice as you aren’t restricted to a singular lot. Nowadays, we have the ability to search through inventories nationwide, so you can scan through hundreds of available listings every day. If your dream car is out there, it’s tools like these that’ll help you bring it home.

To narrow down your needs, you need to ask yourself a few questions first. These questions are, how many people are you going to be transporting? Do you require a vehicle for long commutes to and from the office and need a car with top-tier fuel efficiency? Or, do you need an automobile to power through the work shift with unparalleled towing performance? Identifying the answer to these questions is a great starting point, and it’s from here where we can start asking the more serious questions.

A man is sitting in the drivers seat of a car as a salesman passes him a key.

Step 2: Throw Some Wants in There

Online vehicle shopping can be a beautiful thing with the sheer variety of vehicles that you can buy. You don’t always have to settle for what a lot has in stock at the time, and this allows you to get rather fancy with your purchase. By this, we mean that you can and absolutely should consider your wants along with the needs that we’ve mentioned earlier. For example, why purchase a vehicle if you generally find it uncomfortable to operate?

Comfort within a vehicle is something that some may take for granted, but it’s crucial for many drivers, especially those behind the wheel for multiple hours a day. Maybe you want 8-way power-adjustable heated seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, or maybe something more tech-oriented like a large infotainment center packed with the latest tech. With online vehicle shopping, the best way to describe it would be the legendary saying of having your cake and eating it too.

Step 3: Research Time

Once you’ve figured out which vehicle you want, it’s important to begin researching the model and brand information. Why would you want to do this? Truth be told, it isn’t a one-sided answer, but it’s important to ensure the model you’re looking at or its predecessors weren’t prone to recalls or other negative points. On a positive note, studying up on the vehicle you’re interested in is an ideal opportunity to learn about all of the neat features that you can acquire, and by doing some in-depth research, you can learn which model years added which new features so that you don’t accidentally miss out on something that you may find useful. This is also a great way to learn more about the performance that you can expect from your powertrain, and you can even get a better understanding of the spaciousness of the cabin.

Step 4: Weigh the Pros and Cons

No vehicle is going to have a 100% rating score on various review sites. There’s always somebody who has had a negative experience of some kind. Even if the positive ratings greatly outweigh the negatives, it’s still important to hear what these critics or customers had to say because you never know if their gripe is something that will be of similar annoyance to you. Don’t just read the negative reviews, though, and don’t just read one or two positive ones either. Take the time to sit down and read through reviews on a reputable site or forum, and if you notice customers repeating what they liked and didn’t like, that can give you a good representation of the general day-to-day usage of the vehicle.

Another helpful tactic when it comes to weighing out the pros and cons of a vehicle is to compare it to a similar model found at a similar price point. When you do this, you can get actual data regarding how the vehicle you’re eyeing compared to its chief competitors in its hay-day. Put these two vehicles side by side, and start reading off the important details retaining to the class of vehicle it is. For example, if you’re buying a truck, compare things such as bed sizes, towing capacities, and torque, while commuter vehicles should be browsed for comfort and efficiency.

A close up shows a lot full of cars.

Step 5: Find Your Storefront

Just like there are many regular go-to dealerships, there isn’t just one online dealership either, and another part of the buying experience is finding the best one. Our recommendations include finding a reputable site based on average reviews, but most of all, we recommend that you only shop at dealerships that offer the nationwide search that we had mentioned earlier. Also, take the time to learn more about the dealership itself and explore the various services that they can provide – that includes before, during, and after the shopping experience.

Some online dealerships make the process of obtaining the vehicle rather straightforward. Typically you’ll be given a choice between delivery or pickup, and this is something that you’ll decide nearing the end of your transaction. Delivery is often quick and reliable, and picking up your vehicle gives you an excellent opportunity to check out the dealership location and ask any final questions that you have before your final signature. Online dealerships are designed with user-friendliness in mind, and this extends to the storefronts as well.

Step 6: Identifying Any Problems

It may go without saying, but an online dealership doesn’t offer you the ability to sit inside of a vehicle and test it out. From the way the seats feel to the way the car feels to operate, there’s always that chance that you may experience a bit of buyer’s remorse. This even happens with customers who have already test-driven their new vehicle beforehand because a test drive simply doesn’t give you enough time to make sure everything is up to your expectations.

Many online dealerships are equally aware as you are that test driving is not an option, so to compensate for this, some dealerships will allow you to return your vehicle within a certain time frame completely free of charge. Even if you weren’t satisfied with that first vehicle, for a mechanical reason or even a personal reason, the best part about an online dealership is that you can keep trying until you find that perfect fit. Take all of these tips into consideration, and you’ll be cruising in style in your next vehicle in no time. It all starts with opening a new tab on your browser and beginning the search.