Buying a car online might seem a little intimidating if you haven’t considered doing it before now. Usually buying a car involves a lot of in-person shopping and dealing with salespeople, but that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. Online car sales are increasingly popular. Depending on what kind of car shopping you’re doing, you can even customize your car right on the website.
Before you decide to make a car purchase online, it’s a good idea to understand how buying car online works, and have some tips in mind for how to get the best deal. Because your interaction with an actual dealership is going to be more limited, you’ll need to be really sure of the price you’re paying as the chance to haggle might be reduced with online purchases.
There are all kinds of options for buying a car online. Some buy here pay here dealerships offer online car purchase options, you can buy a brand new custom car directly from a manufacturer’s website, or even buy a car from a private seller on sites like eBay. Before you click that button though, here are five tips to get the best deal when you buy a car online.
1. Know Where To Look
Just like buying a car in person, some websites are better for buying a car online when you want a good deal. Sure, it’s fun to look at all the websites where you can buy straight from the factory and get every custom option you want, but that’s not going to give you the best deal. For good deals, you want to seek out sites like AutoTrader, Craigslist, or even CarGurus.
These sites often let you search by zip code and bring back results that you can filter by mileage, price, distance from your home, and many other options too. If you use these filters wisely, you can find a really good deal. Remember you can always sort the results to show you prices going from lowest to highest too.
You can also use Kelley Blue Book while you’re searching. Usually, people think of this site as helpful when trying to sell their cars, but it can help when you’re car shopping online too. KBB can tell you the average price of a used car in your state or your local area. You can use that info to get an idea of what a reasonable price in your area should look like.
2. Check The Reports
You should know what you’re buying before you finalize anything, especially when you’re shopping online where it’s sometimes easier to deceive someone about the car they’re looking at. Use your other online resources to find out what you’re really getting into before you buy.
You can check the Consumer Reports website to read about the reliability and reputation of a specific car brand and model. Use that information to help guide your purchase. If the model has known issues, ask if they’ve come up or been dealt with already before you buy the car. If they haven’t, then you may want to rethink. A good deal isn’t a good deal if you’re going to have to pay for major repairs.
You can also check the VIN to make sure that you’re not buying a car that has a salvage title or other similar issues. There are sites like CarFax where you can get the report pulled on a car and see the entire history, including accidents, but there are also sites that will do the same thing for free now.
Whichever site or set of sites you decide to use, just make sure you’re putting in some due diligence. You won’t be right there in front of the car while you’re making your decision so you’re going to have to make sure that you aren’t getting cheated. Not every person selling a car online will be trying to pull one over, but it’s good to be aware of what you’re really buying anyhow.
3. Look For Discounts
Manufacturer’s websites often list incentives for buying cars that you may not be aware of if you aren’t searching for them. This is especially true if dealerships in your area are trying to clear out year-end inventory to get ready for new models. You can search online for these incentives and then look at the inventory your local dealership has available online as well.
With this option, you’ll eventually have to show up at the dealership to finalize things, but you can get most of the deal done online so all you have to do is sign papers when you get there. Knowing about incentivized purchase options will make you a more informed consumer so you won’t have to wonder if the salesperson is hiding a good deal from you to get a better commission.
Spend a little extra time digging around online to make sure you’re getting the best deal if you do go with this option. Sometimes there are better deals on models that you may not have considered buying before, and sometimes there are better deals on models with various add-ons. Just like you did for any reports you were going to look up, spend the time researching so you get the best deal.
4. Know What’s Included
If you’re buying a car online and it’s not right in your immediate area be aware of what’s included in the price you’re seeing. Some sites won’t list the cost of shipping the car to you until after you’ve gotten pretty far into the process and that can be really frustrating.
To avoid that unpleasant surprise, you should be asking what the price includes from the beginning. When you start talking back and forth with the seller, ask if the shipping is included. Ask if any features the car might have are included. Sometimes you’ll be given a price that’s for a basic model when the only car available has upgrades already built-in.
As long as you’re aware of these possible hidden costs ahead of time, you’ll be okay. You just have to remember to ask about those prices before you agree to anything. You don’t want to be stuck with a sudden surprise shipping fee after you’ve finalized the sale. Ask upfront and make sure you’re getting a good overall deal by seeing what the all-inclusive price really is.
5. You Can Still Make An Offer
Just because you’re buying a car online doesn’t mean you can’t make an offer that’s lower than the asking price. If you’ve done your research and you know the asking price is higher than what is reasonable, make an offer. This is especially easy (and important) when you’re buying from a private seller online.
Private sellers can often be more open to a back and forth pricing negotiation until both parties are mostly happy with the result. Dealerships or online car sales sites (like Carvana) may not have the same amount of flexibility. You can still offer a lower price to these types of places, but you should be prepared to hear that their sticker price is their best offer.
Buying a car online doesn’t have to be a negative or extremely frustrating experience. In fact, it can sometimes be more enjoyable and easier than spending time on a car lot in person. If you keep these tips in mind you can make sure you’re still getting the best deal possible, and all without ever having to change out of your pajamas. Happy shopping!