If you’ve recently shopped for a car, you’ve probably wondered if there’s a way to avoid the standard auto dealership. In an effort to attract new clients, some vehicle manufacturers are making it easier to bypass the high-pressure sales methods of a showroom floor, while other businesses promise the simplicity and convenience of shopping for a car the same way you would buy for dog food — online.
We are not referring to purchasing from a conglomerate website like eBay Motors, which consists primarily of individuals selling automobiles in the same manner they sell other items on eBay. We refer to how shopping for and purchasing a car online differs from the usual dealership experience. But how can you feel okay about purchasing a car?
1. Research Is Still Key
This is where you must begin, just as if you were purchasing or leasing a vehicle from a dealer. Prior to thinking about a bright new automobile in your driveway, it’s crucial to determine the type of vehicle you need and can afford, especially if you have a limited budget. Research will help you maintain your expectations in line with reality, and then you can begin to narrow down the cars on the market that fulfill your objectives and are within your budget. Car makers want you to fall in love with their newest model and feel compelled to buy it, but a five-figure impulse purchase is not advisable.
2. Decide Whether to Work With a Dealership
You may have been attracted to the concept of buying a car online as a result of websites like TrueCar and Carvana, which allow you to purchase new or used cars without interacting with a dealership salesman. These websites can provide a range of vehicles from various manufacturers and at various prices. However, if you’ve done your research and narrowed your options down to one or two, it may be easier or less expensive to stick with a traditional dealership. Simply locate the internet sales department’s contact information (most dealerships have one) and send them an email requesting estimates on the automobiles you’re interested in.
Additionally, this is when your research will be useful. If the car you want is nearing the end of its model year and the dealership has a lot in stock, you’re in a stronger position than if it’s approaching summer and you want the hottest new sports car. You are not obligated to make a purchase regardless of the dealership’s response, and you have the option of comparing quotations from various dealerships, so it does not hurt to inquire.
3. Consider the Test Drive
Unless you’re ready to be flexible, it will be difficult to schedule a test drive if you intend to purchase your vehicle online in order to circumvent a dealership. If you’re dealing with a dealership’s internet salesman, you can plan a test drive of the desired vehicle (or a similar vehicle), but it will be difficult to avoid interacting with dealership workers while you’re there.
If a test drive is crucial to you and you choose a third-party service, you should be aware that not all online auto businesses offer these. In the case of a new car, you can still test-drive one at a local dealership, but it won’t be the car you’re purchasing, and it’s likely the kind of aggravation you’re trying to avoid by shopping online. In the event of a used car that you cannot inspect or test-drive, you will be assuming significant risks.
4. Get a Vehicle History Report, But Don’t Pay for It
CARFAX is the standard for car history records for used vehicles. The service gives a full summary of the number of owners and accidents a vehicle has had (however this might also include sales or transfers between dealerships). Due to administrative and insurance issues, CARFAX reports are not always accurate or exhaustive.
Most dealerships provide CARFAX reports for used automobiles to demonstrate the vehicle’s condition, so you typically do not need to purchase one separately. A good CARFAX record is not necessarily a green light to purchase a car, and a poor report does not automatically indicate that the vehicle may have issues. However, the dealer’s refusal to produce a copy of the report is usually always a red flag.
5. Have Used Cars Independently Inspected
This step is particularly critical if you are purchasing a used automobile online from a dealer or a private seller. Tom McParland, a car-buying consultant and columnist for Jalopnik, has advised that even a “certified pre-owned” car can have problems, so if you don’t have the mechanical knowledge to inspect a car yourself or if you’re not nearby, it’s advisable to have an independent mechanic inspect the vehicle for your peace of mind. If the seller does not wish to take the vehicle to a shop, there are services that will inspect the vehicle on-site.
6. Look for a Return Policy
Carvana is one online business for purchasing automobiles that provides a seven-day return policy. Carvana will not divulge the frequency with which customers utilize the return policy, but the business claims the provision provides customers with peace of mind. Amy O’Hara, associate director of communications for Carvana, states via email, “We call every customer on the sixth day to check in, see how things are going, and if they are satisfied, so are we.” If customers have questions, reservations, or wish to return the vehicle or exchange it for a different one on-site, we will work with them to guarantee a positive experience. If your online purchasing experience does not fulfill your expectations, this is a handy choice.
7. Decide How You’ll Get Your New Car
If you purchase a car through the internet sales department of a dealership or from a third-party service, they may deliver it directly to your home or place of business, which is really fantastic. You’ve already done the hard part, so you can now relax as the vendor literally goes the extra mile. However, not all dealerships offer this bonus, and although some third-party firms include delivery in the purchase of the vehicle, others demand an additional fee.
8. Consider Car Subscription Programs
If you appreciate the notion of controlling your automobile “ownership” experience entirely online, but you’re not very interested in owning a car, a subscription service may be for you. Subscription services for automobiles are relatively new and, thus far, most prevalent among luxury automakers like as Volvo and Porsche, as well as a variety of third-party businesses. The majority of these services are currently only available in select metropolitan regions, but if one is in your area, it can be a simple method to gain access to a fine, new car for a monthly price, as opposed to purchasing one outright. Some car subscription programs include maintenance and insurance coverage.