In an era in which we are more concerned about the use of our time than anything else, the traditional car-buying process seems archaic. Undoubtedly, you've asked yourself this question: "How can I buy a car online?"
After all, we can purchase almost anything else we want online, and we can do it from the comfort of our family rooms in just minutes with a few clicks. So the idea of going to a massive balloon-bedecked dealership on a traffic-choked commercial street to spend several hours hashing out a vehicle purchase has all the appeal of do-it-yourself heart surgery.
By concentrating on available online processes and resources, it will tell you how to make all the critical steps in your online purchase process from the research and shopping process through financing and negotiating techniques.
Turning your back on the traditional car-buying approach might seem too good to be true, but thousands of car buyers do it every day. That said, there are some disadvantages to the online buying process, and we will reveal those to you in addition to pointing out the many advantages.
During the research phase of the online car-buying journey, what is necessary is to access and leverage the helpful information that is available to you to narrow your choices until you land on the one car that will fulfill your expectations. Learn more in our How to Research a Car Online article.
After you determine what you can afford to spend on a vehicle, you need to decide if you're going to pay cash, finance using a loan, or sign a lease. If you need a loan, you should arrange one before you shop for the actual car you might buy, and definitely before you start negotiating with a dealer.
For most Americans, the internet has become the chosen path for car shopping. Its breadth and reach allow you to see hundreds of vehicles in a matter of minutes. It is available to you at any hour of any day of any week, even when dealerships are shut tighter than a drum, enabling you to shop for a new or used car whenever it is convenient for you.
Of course, just because online car shopping is simple and available to you doesn't mean that you shouldn't apply some discipline to find the best car and the best deal. If you hope to land on the vehicle that will best suit your needs, your finances, and your lifestyle, you should approach the process with the idea of accomplishing tasks in a logical way.
Negotiating the price of a new car is painful for many of us. Bargaining, haggling, and negotiating are alien and uncomfortable processes we just aren't used to. The happy news is buying a car online can relieve you of those uncomfortable tasks.
Some online car purchases involve no negotiating at all, and perhaps that's the tack you want to take. On the other hand, to get the very best price and the very best deal, you might feel you have to negotiate.
By this point, you are very well-positioned and well-armed to negotiate your online purchase. You've decided which car you are going to buy. You know what consumers like you are paying for it. You've seen what deals are available in your area. And you've already arranged your financing.
Car manufacturers, auto dealers, car rental companies, and internet startups have launched various car subscription services and apps. All are trying to figure out how to serve customers best and at the same time profit from the subscribe-to-a-car idea. That last thing has proven difficult for many of them.
If you like the idea of buying a car without going to a dealership, you should know that alternatives exist. Each will enable you to do all of your vehicle searches online, and each will offer you ways to complete the entire deal online. But before you turn your back on car dealers forever, you need to know that while online car-buying alternatives offer potential advantages over the local dealer, they also have drawbacks.
A private party purchase offers you a fantastic variety of used vehicles. And cars purchased from individuals can be much lower-priced than cars purchased from a dealer. But there are several disadvantages to buying your car from a private party that could be off-putting.
Auctions are another car-buying alternative, and they can provide many of the benefits of purchasing from an individual private party. Online public auctions are open to everyone, and some websites enable non-dealers to participate in dealer auctions. But there are challenges associated with buying a car online through an auction.
Purchasing a former rental vehicle from a car rental company is another alternative to buying from a car dealer. Prices tend to be low, and no-haggle prices are typically posted online. Often you can pick up the vehicle at a local outlet of the rental car company so you can test drive it for as long as a couple of days before deciding to purchase it. But there are both pros and cons to this alternative.
Buying a car online is convenient and time-efficient, and these days many consumers are comfortable with the process. The future points toward online car-buying as the go-to method of auto retailing. But what are the pros and cons of buying a car online?
Deciding whether to buy a vehicle online or not depends on what you want and need. If you seek speed, convenience, and lack of hassle, buying online could suit you very well. But if you want to see, touch, and drive the car before you buy it, you would still be well-served by using the conventional car-buying process.
Jack R. Nerad has covered car buying, auto retailing, and the automotive industry for more than three decades. He has held editorial director posts at dealership, consumer, enthusiast, and market research publications; appeared on television as a car-buying expert; and hosts a popular podcast. He is the author of several books, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car.
Buying a preowned or new car online has many advantages over the traditional process. Few consumers will tell you they enjoy the face-to-face negotiations that still occur on car lots every day. The back-and-forth between car buyers, salespeople, and sales managers is one of the last vestiges of free-wheeling price negotiation, but its days may be numbered.
Fortunately, nearly every step in the car-buying process can be completed online with much less stress. In most cases, though, a final trip to a dealership is still needed to go for a thorough test drive, to sign the paperwork, and to take delivery of the car. Even that part of the process is changing, however, with more dealers willing to bring the car right to your home. Moreover, electronic signatures are beginning to take the place of signing paper documents.
In this guide, we'll look at eight easy steps to follow when buying a car online. We'll mainly be looking at purchasing new or used vehicles online from dealerships in this article. Check out our guide to buying a used car for information about buying from a private seller.
Smart consumers know never to approach a local dealership, whether in person or online, without having a preapproved financing deal in hand. Not only does getting a preapproved loan help you set a reasonable price range, but it also gives dealers a benchmark deal they must beat if they want to be the ones providing the financing for your new or used car.
You can save some time by contacting multiple local dealers with one inquiry through the U.S. News Best Price Program. The program connects buyers and lease customers with local dealers offering prenegotiated prices. Buyers save an average of more than $3,000 when they use the Best Price Program.
The next step in an online vehicle purchase is to email or chat with a dealership's Internet sales department or Internet sales manager. Dealerships frequently assign experienced people to these departments, as they understand the potential sales boost the Internet offers and know that consumers buying online tend to be more knowledgeable and savvy than those walking through the front door. You have a better chance of a no-haggle buying experience on the Internet than you do in a face-to-face purchase at a dealer.
The final thing you'll need to do at the dealership is to sign the purchase paperwork. It is crucial that you read each document before you sign to ensure it is accurate and complete. Make sure the papers match the deal you agreed to online and no spaces are left blank. Never sign documents that are incomplete or incorrect, even if you are told they'll be corrected later. It's easy to change the paperwork before your signature is on it, but it's much harder once you've signed.
If a dealership changes any price quotes when you show up in person and refuses to honor the online agreement you came to, politely decline and find another dealer. Your most powerful negotiating tool is your ability to walk away, though few buyers take advantage of it.
While you are signing the paperwork, the dealer will likely try to sell you several add-on products, such as extended warranties, protection products, or gap insurance. Before you purchase any expensive add-ons, it's important to research both the product and the company behind them. Most dealer add-ons are also available from third parties outside of the dealership, where they can be much less expensive. Many lenders and insurance companies sell extended warranties, and you should compare them to the dealer's offer before you buy one. Before purchasing gap insurance from a car dealer, you should check with your auto insurer to see what they offer.
MSRP excludes freight charges, tax, title, and license fees. Freight charges and actual dealer prices may vary. Vehicles displayed may contain optional equipment at additional cost. Accessory items shown may vary according to model and illustration. 781b155fdc