Buying a car online is generally faster and cheaper than buying a car at a dealership. However, buying your car online may seem like a risky bet compared to seeing a vehicle in person. After, you’re making a major investment on something that is potentially 100 miles away. The only information about the car you know is what you can infer from the pictures and what the seller tells you.
On the flipside, it’s often much more expensive to purchase a car from a dealership, and you have to haggle with a dealer. Your car also loses value as soon as you drive it off the lot, especially with new cars.
1. Buy locally rather than out of town
Unless you find the deal of a lifetime out of town, your best bet is to buy locally. Otherwise, it’s not worth the risk of buying a car out of town and encountering problems on the way back home. If the car ends up being disappointing, then you’ve got a long drive back home. The money and effort you spend going out of town is better spent on getting a car close by.
2. Research the seller
Always thoroughly research seller’s profiles. Most websites will have detailed profiles with feedback from past transactions left from buyers. The more positive feedback a seller has, the more likely it is you’ll have a smooth transaction ahead of you. Avoid websites where sellers do not have a profile or sites where you cannot view their feedback.
3. Don’t shop and buy on the same day
When you’re met with an enticing opportunity, don’t forget to remember that you’re in a vulnerable state. It’s easy to be reeled in when faced with the possibility of finally having a car. However, you must keep in mind that you don’t know all of the downsides of the car. Purchasing a vehicle is also a large investment, and such a decision should be made with careful thought over time.
4. Use multiple sites to compare prices
Not all car sites are equal. What may appear to be a great deal initially may later turn out to be a ripoff. Many sellers like to be sneaky or simply overestimate the value of their car. When you see a vehicle you like, be sure to check the price it is selling for on another site.
5. Be specific with what you want
Again, a vehicle is a big investment. Therefore, you should try your best to get exactly what you want. Specify your model and any special features you may want. You may have to make some tradeoffs, but being specific will help prevent regrets.
6. Get a history report
Getting a history report can save you a whole world of trouble. By obtaining one in advance, you have access to information on past owners, repairs, and accidents. Knowing about a past issue can alert you to a potential future one.
7. Have a mechanic look at the vehicle
Unless you’re a mechanic yourself, you can’t pick out any potential problems just by looking. A trained mechanic or inspector can pick out serious issues you may have never noticed. A car can seem like a good deal on the outside, yet it could be a disaster on the inside.
8. Find out about insurance rates beforehand
That fancy sports car make seem like a great score, yet the insurance rates could sour the deal. Certain vehicles have higher insurance rates than others, giving you a nasty surprise if you aren’t aware prior to your purchase. The higher-end the vehicle, the more it usually costs to insure.
9. Make sure your deposit is refundable
If you plan on making a deposit for a vehicle, be sure it can be refunded in the event another buyer purchases it. For extra security, print out any records of payment, such as emails and receipts.
10. Pay securely
Whether you’re buying online or just making the initial deposit, protect yourself with a secure payment method. If the buyer doesn’t give you the car or provides a different one, using a credit card can give you limited liability.