Online car shopping has made the process of purchasing a vehicle exponentially easier.What was once a lengthy process that required shoppers to visit multiple dealerships and fight off sales personnel has turned into a comparatively quick and simple process that involves not much more than browsing an online gallery of options.
Although this convenience is fantastic for shoppers, it’s still important to incorporate guidelines from traditional car buying as you search for the perfect vehicle online to ensure you get the best car for your money.
Here are 6 essential tips for purchasing a car online.
1. Know which features you need
One important variable in determining the cost of a car is the features is provides. Things like sound systems, 4WD, exterior accessories and lift kits can contribute pretty significantly to the overall cost of the vehicle you’re interested in purchasing. Before you start shopping, take note of the features you need and the features you want. What will you compromise on in terms of features to get a better price? The features listed above might be easy to leave out if you can get a better deal, however, safety features will be key - especially if you plan to purchase a used car.
2. Check the title status
As you browse an online gallery of used cars, you might notice that some of the prices seem too good to be true. In most cases, that’s because they have a compromised title which means this is probably not the car for you.
If you’re looking for a car you can build up, you might be fine with purchasing a car with a bad track record. However, for most car shoppers who are looking for something that’s ready to drive with as few potential issues as possible, a car with a compromised title is not the ideal option.
3. Ask for the current mileage
Although more and more buyers are gravitating toward an online platform to purchase their cars, there are still some cars that sit on the market for quite some time until they are finally sold. If the seller uses the car as his or her primary car, this will mean that the vehicle is racking up additional miles which could make the overall mileage number grow quite a bit.
Before you agree to test drive a car from an online seller, ask for the current mileage. This will help you avoid checking out high mile cars and compromising on one that is above your ideal mileage after a test drive.
4. Notice if it’s listed by a private seller or a dealer
Both private sellers and dealerships are allowed to post ads to sell their vehicles on most online classifieds. Although either one is a safe bet so long as you play your cards right in the purchasing process, you’ll want to make sure to ask a few additional questions if you’re working with a dealership. One of these is how much your car will cost after additional dealership fees. Prices often differ pretty significantly from the advertised price at dealerships once you factor in additional fees that are unique to their selling processes.
Another tip that experts recommend when you work with dealerships is to research the price of your trade-in before you head to the dealership. You can use a site like Auto Trader to find an estimated value to guide your decision on whether you should trade your car in at the dealership or try to sell it on your own.
5. Check local inventory
Demand for a given vehicle in your area could potentially affect its perceived value among local dealerships and private sellers. Once you have an idea of the car make, model, year, etc. that you’d like to purchase, try to get an idea of how available it is in your city. If the car is widely available in your area, you could use this as leverage during the negotiation process, or at least know that you have plenty of options and don’t need to jump on the first one you see. You can use an inventory calculator to pull an inventory of cars in your city.
6. Don’t make any purchasing promises online
In most car searches, you’ll find a car that you absolutely love during your search. Even if you’ve had positive communication with the owner of the car and have a really good feeling about this particular vehicle, it will be important not to make any purchasing promises online. This is because you’ll want to have room to negotiate once you’ve actually seen the car in person and taken it for a test drive.
If you’re planning on buying new, Forbes offers up some great tips for negotiating for a new car. If you’re looking into a used option, I’d recommend checking out Auto Trader’s tips for negotiating a good price on a used car. Now that you’ve got the tips, it’s time to start shopping.