I always try to help my daughter and son-in-law buy a new car. What I thought was fun made me realize that buying a car today is different. Last week I wrote about electric versus gas or a hybrid. This week, I’m going to talk about buying online.
I have never bought a car online. My kids who buy everything online immediately started sending me links to cars they liked online. This is what I discovered about buying online.
While including the added benefit of social distancing for high-risk shoppers, a (mostly) virtual shopping experience can often save you time, money and unwanted stress.
When it comes to buying cars online rather than at a dealership, it’s not an all-or-nothing situation. Of course, there’s the traditional method of visiting a dealership and competing your purchase there, start to finish, as well as the reverse practice of completing the buying process from your office chair at home. There are, however, many variations that fall between these two extremes. You can shop at dealerships first and eventually find a specific car online, or you can do your research and transactions online and ultimately buy your car from a dealership. Here are the steps to follow, no matter where you are on the spectrum.
Choose a model, trim level and your must-have features. Be sure to check car safety ratings and car insurance rates for the model you have chosen. You can change your mind at any time, but knowing what you want will help you narrow down your search.
Establish your budget before inquiring about prices. Determine whether it makes sense to shop for a new or used car, which can significantly affect prices. When you come across an automotive budget that you feel comfortable with, you can seek financing. Most experts recommend a cap of 25% of your monthly income for all cars in your household. Use online calculators to determine if your monthly car payments are within your budget.
Whether this car purchase is your first or your 14th, it’s always important to brush up on auto loan basics before purchasing a new vehicle. Familiarize yourself with the process and secure your financing before going online or to a dealership for pricing.
In my mind, test driving a vehicle is the most important step in buying a vehicle. Not all vehicles are suitable for everyone. I happen to be tall and need leg room. The rear and side mirrors don’t always adjust for me. The seats in some vehicles are too small for me and uncomfortable. Low cars are not always easy to get in and out of. If you’re buying a used vehicle, it’s important to make sure everything is working properly. The test drive is an advantage that dealerships have over buying online.
If you’ve tested the vehicle or have a similar experience with the model you like, don’t let this fool you yet. Go home, sit down at your computer, and get down to business.
Email businesses and online dealers. Ask for their best price outside (taxes and fees included). Once you have your lowest price, don’t be afraid to go back to other bidders and see if they want to match or lower their price.
Buying a car is a big investment – make sure you take the right steps to ensure a secure transaction. Ask to see the title before making the purchase and, if the car is used, be sure to ask for a car history report. Take the time to review purchase and loan agreements.