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How to Buy a Car Online

Buying A Car Online

Trust us, you’re not alone. Many consumers dread the entire car-buying process, and some of these potential buyers are scared to even step into a dealership. After all, there are horror stories of faulty cars, bad deals, and bad service. Who wants to have to tolerate that?

While the majority of those assumptions regarding dealerships are generally unfounded, there's no denying that a trip to the dealership can be a pain. Luckily, buyers can now shop for cars from the comfort of their own couch!

We understand if you may have some doubt regarding the entire online car-buying process. However, when you're finished reading our guide, you'll be convinced that online car buying is the route for you!

So why would you decide to shop online? While there are certainly a handful of advantages for the seller, there are still a variety of incentives for why consumers should be eyeing an online market.

"The Internet department knows they are being shopped online by a very educated customer," said Carroll Lachnit, an editor at "You have much more control over the four most important aspects of the car deal this way: price, trade, financing and down payment."

So how do you go about starting this process? Read our guide to learn how to buy a car online, and you could be making your purchase by the end of the day...

Do Your Research

Do Your Online Car Research

There are several things you'll want to determine prior to starting your car search. Zero in on a specific type of car, or find several features that cater to your needs. For instance, if you have a large family, you'll probably want to opt for a car with more passenger room. On the flip side, if you're seeking a commuter car, you'll want to prioritize fuel economy.

Luckily, there are a number of online tools that will assist you as you're shopping for a car online. You may eventually whittle down your list to a particular brand, and these websites will show you the pros and cons of specific models. These expert opinions can be crucial, but it's also essential to refer to owner reviews, as well. A quick look at a blog or forum may give you some insight into how a particular vehicle is being perceived. With expert reviews, you may just be viewing all of the positives regarding a particular car.

Luckily, your options are practically endless when you're shopping online. While a particular dealership would be limited to selling what they have in stock, websites like source their vehicles, meaning you can get whatever car you desire. At a dealership, you may have to settle for not getting everything you wanted. Online, you can (practically) get whatever you desire.

Understand the Financial Implications

Once you've chosen your targeted car, you'll want to determine a fair price. While online marketplaces often offer consumers the best prices available and rarely allow for haggling, you can still get a better understanding of when you're getting a deal and when you aren't. If you're getting inconsistent and contradicting prices, use it your advantage.

"Use these differences to develop a good working price range when dealing with the Internet sales managers, and you will be able to spot the best deals you are offered," said Joe Webb, and automotive internet sales expert (via Naomi Mannino of

Furthermore, assure that you understand all of these accompanying fees and options when searching for a car online. If you're drawing close to your budget line, one of these unknown fees could throw you into financial turmoil. Understand all of the charges ahead of time, and then you can better anticipate how much money you'll be spending.

This also includes repair costs, a financial implication that car buyers rarely plan for. A particular vehicle may be more susceptible to issues, and if you can't live without that car, you'll want to make sure that you're saving some money each year for anticipated fixes.

Finally, if you're anticipating selling your newly-purchased car in a couple years, make sure you've researched the depreciation rate. Cars typically drop 20-percent the moment they're purchased, and they drop another 15-percent every year. It's important to understand what future payday you may be looking at, as this could help you determine which vehicle you want to purchase.

Test Drive the Car

Taking A Test Drive

Now, we understand that you want to shop for a vehicle online, but there's no reason why you can't still take advantage of dealerships. After all, how will you truly know if a car is right for you if you haven't actually gotten behind the wheel?

Test driving is an essential part of the car-buying process. It's tough to gauge a particular vehicle based on information alone, and you can’t truly determine if a car fits your needs until you're driving it. There's a chance that the driver's leg room isn’t sufficient enough for your long legs, or perhaps the engine growls too much for your liking. It'd be a bummer if you realized these qualms after having already purchased the vehicle.

That's why it's always a good idea to test out a targeted vehicle. Of course, when you head into a dealership, we wouldn't suggest making your intent clear. Just express interest in a particular vehicle, and see if you can schedule a drive around the block.

Buying online means you won't be receiving the same vehicle you took on a test drive. There's a chance you may receive a vehicle with faulty mechanics, or perhaps it doesn't include all the amenities you asked for. There's no reason to worry, as these online marketplaces protect you in these extraordinary circumstances.

Don't Feel Pressured

Often times, potential car buyers will feel pressured into making an immediate decision. When this happens, the consumer is often left feeling helpless and full of regret. While there's certainly no rush when buying from a dealership, there's absolutely zero rush when purchasing online.

If you're feeling even a little bit tentative about making the purchase, turn your computer off and walk away for a week. Some time away from the process can give you a bit of clarity, and this time off will hopefully guide you to choosing the correct vehicle.


Sure, you're not getting the complete car-buying experience, especially since you're making the purchase in your socks and pajamas. Still, you're making quite the financial investment, so you should embrace the situation and have as much fun as possible.

It can be fun checking out different types of cars, and if you have no reservations about test driving some vehicles, that can only add to the experience. On the flip side, being irritable and stressed won't make the situation any easier. Head into the process with a clear and reasonable head, and you'll ultimately make the right decision.. while also having a good time!

The anxiety that accompanies a trip to the dealership has disappeared with the advent of online car buying. It's easy, safe, and convenient, and there are hardly any advantages to going to a dealership anymore. Have we convinced you? Start your research and get to car-buying right away!