Today purchasing a new vehicle can prove to be a stressful event for most people. Visiting your local dealers can take up a lot of your time, and it often proves to be a frustrating experience. Luckily, you can buy almost anything online these days, and a new or used car is no exception. What are some of the best practices for online car shopping? Let’s dive into the topic.
1. Window Shop
With the internet at your disposal, this is your obvious first step when planning to purchase a new vehicle. It should come as no surprise that the majority of car buyers perform initial research online before visiting a dealer. The difference here is that most or all of the transaction will take place without you having to step foot outside your home. You’ll need to narrow down your options to one or two models, as well as decide whether you want to buy or lease a new or pre-owned vehicle. Figure out what features are needed in your new car, as well as which cars provide those features. A couple websites consumers use for research include Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds, who offer information on most cars as well as the price you should be paying for them.
This brings up the next step, which is to set your budget. Think carefully, and whatever you do, don’t settle for anything outside of your price range. With proper research and negotiation, you can buy your dream car without going bankrupt.
You may have opted for an online car-buying experience because of a past mishap at a dealership. Maybe you despise high-pressure sales situations (as we all do), which almost certainly await you once you set foot on the lot. However, haggling online is much less stressful than attempting to make a deal in person, with your precious time ticking away while you wait for the back and forth between your car salesman and his boss. Instead, you can enjoy negotiating behind your screen, on your time, and take as much of it as you need.
It’s easier than you think, too. Once you’ve narrowed down the particular make and model of your dream car, the next step is to locate dealers in your area who have this car and find their websites online. Many dealers these days have dedicated internet sales departments. The website may list a contact email for online inquiries, or there may be a form you can fill out on the page. Make sure you contact more than one. You don’t have to send twenty emails to dealers, but send two or three at the minimum. Name the car you’ve set your heart on, and simply ask for their best price. Include any extra features you want included in your car at this stage, but don’t mention your trade-in, if you have one, or talk about financing options.
The dealers you’ve contacted should start discussing prices with you, but make sure they’re discussing the price of the vehicle and any fees associated. If you feel that any listed fee sounds fishy, do a quick search for legitimacy. Once you’ve received a few quotes, take the lowest quote you receive and send it to the others. Ask them if they can do better. Continue this process until one of them offers you a price within your budget and the estimated ranges you found for the vehicle online.
If you can’t stand the thought of back-and-forth even through text conversation, websites like Truecar and Vinadvisor negotiate with dealers for you, eliminating tiresome haggling from the experience. Just make sure the quoted price falls within the ranges you found through your initial research.
3. Order a Third-Party Inspection
If you opt to buy a used car, especially from an individual seller, you should hire a mechanic to perform an inspection on the vehicle. Contact local mechanics near your dream car, and arrange a time with the seller for the inspection to take place. Many will offer pre-buy car inspections for roughly $100, which is well worth the peace of mind. Use the report findings to negotiate with the seller, or look elsewhere if needed.
4. Ship Your car
If your dream car is too far for you to travel, consider having your car shipped to you. There are many reliable auto transport options, such as Montway Auto Transport and Central Dispatch, who can ship your new (or new to you) car from anywhere in the country. In most situations, having your new car shipped to you is safer and less stressful than picking up the car yourself. You don’t need to bring an extra driver or buy a plane ticket; simply schedule a pickup window and make sure someone is available when the car will be picked up. Choose a less expensive uncovered option or a secure covered transport option for more expensive vehicles.
5. Skip the Dealer
Several websites offer a unique experience: purchasing your car completely online, without ever leaving your home. Below is a list of websites who perform this service, as well as some of the features they offer:
- Vroom.com – Vroom offers certified used cars, which must pass a 126-point inspection before they go up for sale. You can browse their website and list of vehicles right away, although you need an account to start the purchasing process. Vroom offers free nationwide shipping to your door, as well as a 7-day or 250-mile test drive to make sure you love your new car. All cars also come with a 90-day/30,000-mile warranty and a free year of roadside assistance 24/7. Vroom also offers access to financing from over 30 different lenders, which you can apply to on their website.
- Carvana.com – Carvana is another used car vendor. Cars sold to Carvana must pass a 150-point inspection, and all cars are subject to an Experian auto check report. Customers can test drive their car for seven days and return if they’re not satisfied. Pickup is free in the Atlanta area, but delivery to further locations is more complex. Delivery is free if you’re within 100 miles of Carvana’s Atlanta, GA, Nashville, TN, Charlotte, NC, Birmingham, AL, or Dallas, TX hubs. If you are located between 100-250 miles of these hubs, delivery is quoted at $199, and beyond that range requires you to ship the car yourself.
- Nowcar.com – NowCar is a new vehicle seller in the state of Florida that claims to offer you a fixed price well below MSRP. Complete the entire transaction online, without negotiating, and have it delivered to your door for free. Customers have five days or 50 miles to exchange their vehicle for another car through the website, and a delivery fee is added to the second car delivered. Vehicles come with a full manufacturer warranty.
- Carsense.com – CarSense is a used car buying option in the Philadelphia/Pittsburg areas. Cars are delivered for free within 50 miles of their five Pennsylvania locations. Customers have five days or 500 miles to change their mind on their car. Each car comes with an AutoCheck report, and all vehicles undergo a 109-point inspection. CarSense also offers a 6-month or 6000-mile extended warranty for peace of mind.
- Beepi.com – Beepi is a used car buying option in the California and Nevada areas. Customers in neighboring states can have Beepi cars shipped to them for an extra $999. It works differently from other used car sellers online because the seller lists the car themselves, after it passes a 185-point inspection. All cars listed are less than six years old and have fewer than 60,000 miles. Customers have 10 days or 1000 miles to test drive their new car.
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