If you're in the market for a new car, online car buying might seem like a hassle-free (and haggle-free) way to put those wheels in your driveway.
But the reality is that buying a car online is much more complicated than purchasing a new TV, a toaster or some other consumer product via the internet.
However, it's certainly a good idea to do research when you’re contemplating a major purchase such as a vehicle, and the internet can be a good first step in the process even if you plan to complete a car purchase in person. Having explored your options online, you can head to the dealership equipped with information on features and prices.
If you like the convenience of buying a car online, here's some recommendations on how you can get your next ride entirely (or mostly) via the internet.
How Does Buying a Car Online Work?
The process of buying a car online varies depending on whether you want to buy a new or used car. State laws make it more difficult to buy a new car entirely online, though you can use the internet to do research and complete at least part of the vehicle buying process.
Buying a New Car Online Buying a new car online isn’t as simple as other online purchases we’ve grown accustomed to making. Because state vehicle franchise laws generally prohibit manufacturers from selling cars directly to consumers, you can’t simply visit a manufacturer’s website, choose the make, model, color and features you want, and then click "buy" to have your dream car delivered to your door. Instead, you typically must go through a licensed auto dealer to purchase a new car.
The good news is that most dealerships have an internet sales department to make it easy for consumers to go through most of the buying process online. You may be able to shop a dealer website to find the car you want, negotiate price via phone, email or text message and possibly even get the car delivered to your home.
Another way to harness the power of the internet to buy a new car is through a car buying service. You may have access to a car buying service through an alumni organization, your employer, a warehouse club store or even your auto insurer. Car buying services allow you to go online to type in information about your desired vehicle, then they search for the car, negotiate price with dealerships, and possibly even arrange to get the vehicle delivered to you. However, before you use a car buying service, first inquire with the service to find out exactly how it works. Some services provide your name and contact information to dealers, which can take you out of the driver's seat in the buying process.
Buying a Used Car Online It is much easier to buy a used car online. Online car buying websites allow you to shop online, pick out the car of your choice and then get it delivered to your door for a fee.
These services may offer features designed to mitigate the risk of online car buying, such as pre-purchase inspections and the ability to return a car within a certain period of time after purchase.
Pros and Cons of Buying Cars Online There are advantages and disadvantages to buying a new or used car mostly or entirely online. The main advantages of online car buying are:
However, online car shopping has its downsides, too. Here are some disadvantages of online car buying that you may want to consider:
Tips: How to Buy a Car Online If you're considering buying a car online, here are some suggestions to increase your chances of having a good experience:
Online car buying may sound quick and easy, but it may require even more legwork to increase the chances you'll be happy with your new car down the road.
To find the right auto insurance for your new car, check out Travelers car insurance products, including our new car replacement coverage.