We are searching for

Please wait. This should take only a few seconds.

Should You Buy a Car Online?

Should You Buy a Car Online?

Going to a dealership can be a hassle; with varying levels of expertise, high-pressure sales tactics, and inconsistent pricing, buying a car in person can be stressful. With more and more options providing car-buyers with ways to purchase vehicles online, there has never been a better time to explore your options. Of course, like any method of buying a car, there are advantages and disadvantages to using online services.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Car Online

Pros and Cons of Buying a Car Online


  • No Sales Pressure: No one likes being in a high-pressure sales situation, and salespeople will use any tactic at their disposal to help guide you towards a fast purchase. This can mean overlooking certain negative aspects of a car, exaggerating the vehicle's features, and neglecting to clarify certain extra costs and fees. This is because most car salespeople work on commission, meaning they get a percentage of the sale when they successfully offload a vehicle.

    When you shop online, no salesmen are pushing you towards making a rash decision. You can look through several different sites, perusing their inventory with no external pressure to choose a vehicle fast. This can give you the time you need to make a more informed car-buying decision, so you can ensure you get the best deal and vehicle possible.

  • Convenience: Going to a physical car lot means finding and comparing dealerships, finding time within their hours of operation where you are free, getting transportation to the dealership, walking through their showroom or lot, and many other cumbersome activities. You can eat up several days' worth of time in your pursuit of a car and sometimes come up empty-handed.

    Online car buying offers a way to look through vehicle inventories from the comfort of your own home. You can save pages of cars you believe fit your needs, returning to your search whenever you have time. You can also see pictures of vehicles and their equipment from several different angles. This makes inspecting a car much easier, as sellers tend to be comprehensive with the photos they take.

  • Easy Price Comparison: The prices at various dealerships in your town may be different, with many trying to sell vehicles above their actual value. Remember, the higher the sale, the higher the commission, and what dealership wouldn't want a greater return on their initial investment? This wide range of prices makes it more difficult to accurately assess and compare your potential purchase's worth. While some may relish the opportunity to haggle and lower prices, this process can also be stressful. It's much easier when the prices are clear and straightforward to compare.

    By purchasing online, you can see clearly listed prices for each vehicle you research. This transparency makes it easier to compare these prices to your budget and allows you to eliminate options outside of your price range. You can also see the cost of specific add-ons and features; many sites will make this as simple as clicking a button, and you can swap out different equipment combinations to see what you can afford.



  • No Test Drive: Because there is no physical dealership to visit, there is usually no opportunity for you to test drive a vehicle you find online. This is a huge downside for many car buyers; if you are someone who needs to try something before you buy, the lack of a test drive may be a dealbreaker. Test drives, especially with used cars, can help you see if a vehicle is the right fit for you. It can also reveal hidden faults that a seller may try to hide; a test drive could indicate that a car is well below the advertised condition and will save you thousands in the process.

    That being said, many online marketplaces and car sellers are beginning to offer test drives, usually at a time and place of your choosing. If a test drive is something you need to feel more comfortable about an online purchase, it's best to look for a service that offers them. That way, you can get the benefits of driving the car before you buy it, combined with the convenience of shopping online.

  • Can't See the Actual Vehicle: Not being able to see the vehicle in person can make some car buyers uncomfortable, especially if they aren't sure whether a seller is entirely trustworthy. While almost every online selling site will include a series of photos showing each part of a vehicle, it's always possible that the photographs have been falsified. This isn't a common problem with big-name sites, as they have strict policies and inspection guidelines for the cars they post. But with private sellers or off-brand car marketplaces, what you see might not be what you get.

    Not being able to see and feel a car can also make it hard to determine whether it works best for you. It's one thing to see a vehicle in photos and another thing entirely to sit behind the wheel. You may find that the photographs of a car are perfect, but after the purchase, you find yourself disappointed once you get on the road.

  • No Negotiation on Terms or Price: This is a positive for some; many don't enjoy the high-pressure haggling or uncertain term negotiations you'll have to go through at a dealership. These situations can make the car buying process even more stressful than it has to be, forcing you to enter a scenario where you have to identify and argue certain points to help lower the price of your car. But for those who want to haggle, they may find their options lacking online.

    If you are someone who prefers to negotiate on pricing and terms, online marketplaces will not give you the same opportunity that an in-person dealership will. Many online car providers have set pricing and term agreements to eliminate the traditional "dealership haggling session".

How Does Buying a Car Online Work?

Online car buying is a simple process that can be broken down into a few distinct steps:

1. Research the Car You Want

You'll want to pick out a list of features you want in a car and decide what purpose you will commonly use it for. Once you have your ideal vehicle in mind, look through your available options online. You can get a vehicle history report if you want more information about an individual car. These will help you find out more details on any available vehicle, helping you get a better price and avoid scams.

2. Decide How You'll Pay

Once you have chosen a car, you'll need to decide how to finance the purchase. This can be done by buying the car outright, or you could get a lease or loan. You can even calculate your lease or loan monthly payments with a free tool, like the one provided by GoodCar. This can help you decide whether a vehicle fits within your budget to ensure your payments are made on time.

3. Choose a Service

You'll want to compare different online car buying services to see what best fits your needs, ensuring that they carry the type of car you picked out in the previous steps. You'll also want to check these services' reviews to ensure they are high-quality. A low-rated service may be rife with scams or terrible user interfaces and will likely just waste your time.

4. Purchase Your Car

Once you've researched a car, decided how you will finance the vehicle, and chosen your online car-buying service, it's time to make your purchase. Make sure you are 100% certain the vehicle you have chosen is what you want before finalizing any transactions. While most online services offer a way to get your money back shortly after a deal, others may not offer a guaranteed refund.

Buying a Car Online is Easy and Convenient

While some will always prefer the traditional car-buying experience, online options have never been more robust and plentiful. If you prefer to car shop in leisure and don't want to take the time to make a trip to a physical dealership, purchasing a car online is the right choice.