Five Quick Strategies for Buying a Car Online
The Internet has quickly become a one-stop-shop for those looking to buy a new or used vehicle. When buying a car online, you can quickly compare models and prices, buy auto insurance, and even secure financing. Here are five quick strategies to help you successfully navigate the online car shopping marketplace.
1. Know your budget
Before you begin the online car buying process, be sure to know your budget. Understand all costs associated with buying a new or used car, such as sales tax, title and registration, closing fees, and auto insurance. Also, decide how you want to finance the vehicle, whether it’s through cash, a loan, or lease, and how much money you want to use as a down payment.
2. Choose a reputable seller
From eBay Motors and CARmax to traditional dealership websites, there are many sources that sell cars directly online. To ensure you’re dealing with a reputable seller, read customer reviews and check their history with the Better Business Bureau. Also ask the seller for additional photos of the car and if you can see the car in person. If the seller seems hesitant to accommodate your requests throughout the online car buying process, beware. Reliable sellers are more than happy to give you any information you need and set up a time for you to see the vehicle before making the transaction.
3. Research the car
Similar to dealing with traditional dealerships, comparison shopping is the best way to get a good deal on a new or used vehicle. Once you find a model you like, check for similar vehicles on other online car sales websites. Request as much information as you can from the seller, such as additional photos and a test drive if you don’t live far from where the car is currently located. Be sure to get the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), so you can look up the vehicle’s history with reports from sites such as CARFAX and AutoCheck. These reports will alert you to any previous accidents, repair work, flood damage and odometer readings (to avoid odometer rollback fraud). Finally, to compare prices for the same model sold by multiple sellers, contact each seller to request a price quote.
4. Settle on a price and terms of sale
When it comes to online car buying, sellers understand you’re getting quotes from multiple online dealerships and usually offer more competitive pricing over a traditional dealership. Use resources like Kelley Blue Book to research the car’s fair market value – how much the car is worth based on its age, condition and other factors. You may want to consider sending the seller a commitment email stating you’ll buy the car for a specific price if they agree and respond within a certain time period. Offer a price that is a good deal for you, yet still allows the dealer to earn a small profit.
5. Ensure a safe transaction
When you pay your deposit, industry experts such as Bankrate advise you do not pay through methods like wire transfers, cash, or personal checks; requests to pay these ways may be scams and can make it more difficult to recover your money. However, if you opt to use your credit card, you may be protected against fraud through the credit card company’s protection plan. If a credit card isn’t feasible for you, other safe payment options include PayPal or choosing an online dealer that offers a purchase protection program such as eBay Motors.
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