Online Car Buying Guide

March 18, 2013

Many car shoppers still prefer brick-and-mortar dealerships due to unfamiliarity with the pros and cons of online car buying. Is online buying for you?

Online car buying is safe and easy when you follow some basic guidelines. The Internet has opened many doors for us and changed the way we do things. It's not uncommon for the entire purchasing process to take place online and over the phone. Buying a car online does present different challenges and opportunities than a traditional purchase.

Advantages of Online Car Buying Services

Using an online car buying service like CarsDirect can save you a lot of time when shopping for a new or used vehicle. CarsDirect has millions of vehicles available for sale on their website and makes browsing for particular vehicles quick and easy. Moreover, CarsDirect offers guaranteed low no-haggle pricing, so you don't have to and negotiate for a deal. Online car buying services are also able to help you with financing and finding insurance. In short, an online car buying service does a lot of the work in purchasing a new or used vehicle for you.

Disadvantages of an Online Car Buying Service

While there are certainly many benefits to using an online car buying service, there are potential drawbacks as well. For instance, if you feel it is of greater benefit to negotiate a new or used vehicle price, then an online car buying service is not for you. Also, if you need to physically inspect the vehicle, open doors, and check under the trunk or hood before you purchase it, then an online car buying service will make that hard to do.

Make the Online Car Buying Process Work for You

When you are shopping for a new or used vehicle, an online car buying service can make the process easier by acting as a middleman to handle the deals of the transaction, such as, locating a particular vehicle, negotiating a fair selling price and helping with financing. Some easy to follow tips will make the experience a positive and profitable one.

Increase Your Shopping Range
The name of the game with online car shopping is choosing from a huge selection of vehicles. Local options just can't match the diverse catalog you'll find on the Internet. The great thing about buying a car online is that you aren't limited to shopping for a car within a small radius. Obtain quotes from multiple dealers to find the best deal possible. A certain vehicle may be "hot" in your part of the country, but "cold" in another. This could allow you to get a better deal several states away. A service such as the one offered by CarsDirect does the legwork for you, making your online shopping experience even easier.

Research the Vehicle
Whether you are buying a new or used car, check out some user reviews. Find out what other owners like and dislike about their vehicle. Identify any potential concerns or trouble spots. For used vehicles, it's recommended to acquire a vehicle history report. A history report will tell you where the vehicle has been registered, if it's been in an accident, and in some cases, it will provide you with a service history. If you're financing, you can also keep a loan calculator on your desktop to see at a glance what a specific bargain will cost you over time.

Opt for an Independent Inspection
The biggest problem with Internet car shopping is that you can't do all of those very important things that you would do in a local sale. There's no test drive, and no opening the hood to peek inside. Even the detailed pictures that some sellers post don't give you the same knowledge as a thorough physical inspection of a vehicle. An independent inspection will verify the condition of the vehicle for you. Not only can you have the mechanical condition inspected, you can also have the physical condition inspected to uncover well-disguised paint work, touch-ups or dents. Arranging an independent inspection is easy, even if the vehicle is out-of-state.

Check the Reputation of the Dealer
Another problem with online car sales is that the buyer and seller can't meet. In some cases, meeting face-to-face is critical to go over vehicle history and ask the tough questions about what a car or truck is really worth. This is important with a new or used vehicle. A trustworthy dealer is much easier to complete a transaction with. Buying a car online from a dishonest dealer presents many risks, because it's easier for them to be dishonest about things when you aren't in front of them. Check their BBB (Better Business Bureau) rating and verify their status with the state's motor vehicle department.

Make Arrangements for Pickup or Delivery
Once you've found your vehicle and negotiated a price, the rest is a piece of cake. You can have the vehicle shipped to your door from anywhere in the continental United States. Compare shipping quotes from multiple agencies to find the best deal. Make sure your vehicle will be insured for any possible damage. If you don't feel comfortable having the vehicle shipped to you, you can make arrangements to pick it up. Some purchasers like to fly in and drive their vehicle back. This can be fairly economical and much quicker than driving both ways.

3 Major Online Car Buying Trends

While the economy is in recovery, online car buying has become a great alternative, as many people have avoided visiting new and used car dealerships. Vehicle sales on the Internet continue to be robust and strong. As gasoline and diesel costs continue to rise, some are looking for cost saving alternatives. On the other hand, some buyers are going to other extremes and purchasing gas guzzling classics.

The Hybrid Is Definitely the "In" Vehicle
Hybrid vehicles are ones that use a combination of conventional internal combustion engine technology along with an electric motor component to conserve fuel and emit lower levels of carbon-based emissions into the atmosphere. If recent activity on popular car ratings and reviews sites for automobiles is an accurate indicator, then hybrid vehicles have finally reached the mainstream.

Hardly a day goes by when popular car websites don't discuss the benefits and popularity of hybrid cars, SUVs and even trucks. More manufacturers are releasing hybrid vehicles to satisfy the demand of the public for more fuel-efficient vehicles that cause less harm to our environment. In fact, many websites claim that hybrid vehicles could be the most common type of vehicle on American highways and roads within 10 years. Although it is difficult to discern if this is an accurate statement, it is obvious that hybrid vehicles are gaining in popularity, and are one of the most researched topics on the Internet.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles
Because more people are becoming concerned with conserving fossil fuels and lowering global warming causing carbon-based emissions, many consumers are researching alternative vehicles that don't use gasoline or diesel at all. Purely electric driven vehicles that use standard electrical outlets are becoming quite popular not only in America, but across the world.

An ever increasing number of consumers are accepting the argument that electricity is a much cleaner and more viable energy alternative for powering vehicles. While producing electricity does, in some cases, result in pollution, using natural resources such as coal or oil, an electric vehicle does produce a lot less pollution than a normal gas engine powered vehicle. Also, it is usually cheaper to power a vehicle with electricity rather than gasoline. As a result, many people are searching for electric cars to save money on fuel costs.

Speed and Style over Fuel Economy
While many online car buyers are searching for ways to save money at the gas pump, some online shoppers are going to the other extreme. They are searching for classic muscle and sports cars that consume very large quantities of gasoline while traveling at very high speeds. While many industry analysts are at a loss as to why so many people are showing an increased interest in classic cars, there is no doubt that classic car sales have increased on the Internet. More and more websites are being developed that focus solely on classic cars and how to buy them. Many popular car websites that have online forums are full of member postings requesting information about where to find deals on classic cars and trucks. While classic cars certainly consume more gasoline, many buyers consider them an investment that can produce a considerable return in the future.

Related Questions and Answers

Can the USAA Car Buying Service Help Get You a Lower Price?

If you've thought about using the USAA car buying service, one common question is whether you can save money or not. They advertise that they can get you the lowest price, but you might wonder if that's just hype or not. According to their user provided ratings, 80% of their customers recommend the service. Many of their former customers give them the highest rating provided. So, it appears that they can help someone get a better price when buying a car. Of course, each individual situation could vary. In other words, results are probably not guaranteed.

Costco Car Buying Service: Do You Have to be a Member?

The Costco car buying service operates a network of car dealers and warehouses around the country. Costco uses their deals with the automobile dealers to provide special pricing to members. Even if a dealer is part of their network, in order to get the Costco pricing, a buyer has to go through the program. For that reason, a membership is required. As with all discount programs, though, individual results may vary. They don't offer all makes and models, either. So, while a membership in the Costco car buying program might save you money, it's not guaranteed.

How Much Money Can Online Car Buying Services Save You?

If you've been thinking about trying an online car buying service, it can be confusing. There are a lot of the services out there and each one promotes the fact that their service will save you big money. The truth is, individual results always vary. Different services have different networks of dealers. That means, depending on the make and model of car you are trying to buy, you'll have different success rates with different services. Check reviews and ratings from customers. Particularly try to find customers who purchased the same type of car you are looking to buy.

What Does Export Only Mean When You're Online Car Shopping?

For export only, when you are online shopping, means that the vehicle does not meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards and that it further may not even meet federal motor vehicle carrier standards. This means the vehicle is for sale for export only. It will cost too much money to put it into shape to make it drivable in the United States. Or, to put it another way, if you see a cheap Honda you like for sale on eBay and it says "for export only", you will want to let that vehicle head off to export because it will just cost you too much to put it into shape.

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