4 Tips to Buy Used Cars Online

November 13, 2013

Buying used cars online is sometimes considered risky, sight-unseen proposition, but consider the advantages. Learn why and how to buy used cars online.

Buying Car Online

Following some simple tips to buy used cars online, you can get a great negotiated price on a used car found right from the comfort of your own home.

Begin Your Search with the Right Websites

A number of search engines can be used to find the right vehicle for you. These include sites like eBay, Autos.com, and Craigslist, and a number of others, like your local newspapers' websites. Most sites provide very specific searches, all the way down to the vehicle's color, mileage, and distance from your home. Using one search site is usually not enough. Use at least two search sites to ensure you see as many different options as possible. If you are looking for a vehicle with very specific options, you may want to increase the distance you are willing to travel for the car, which will add more vehicles to your search results.

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Narrow Down the Car

Once you have found a few vehicles that meet your criteria, contact the sellers. Whether it's a dealer, or an individual seller on eBay, look at their past reviews. Investigate the extent to which past customers have been satisfied with their experiences negotiating with, visiting and buying from the seller.

Research the Individual Car

You should begin by asking to look at the vehicle's history report. Most dealers offer a document called a CARFAX. If it is an individual selling the car, ask for the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Use this to purchase the exact vehicle's history. The report will cost you about $35, but the information it provides is crucial. Once you have reviewed and understand the car's history, ask the seller if the car needs any work, and if so, what type. Finally, ask the seller whether they would agree to have the vehicle looked at by an unbiased mechanic. If this makes the seller uneasy, they might be hiding something.


Inquire about the negotiability of the vehicle's price. Even if the advertisement indicates the price is "firm," there's generally a little room for negotiating a better price. Use your initial search tool to your advantage. If you have seen the same vehicle elsewhere for less money, or know the seller has been advertising the vehicle for some time, you'll have more leverage to negotiate. Generally speaking, it's most beneficial financially to purchase a vehicle in its off season. For example, a convertible in winter, or an AWD truck in the summer. Many larger websites will email you when new vehicles are available, so if you're not in a rush you can save even more by waiting for just the right vehicle.

The Best Sites for Buying Used Cars Online

There are many outstanding online car dealers that make purchasing a car easier than it has ever been before. Therefore, here's a quick list of some of the best car shopping sites on the web:


CarsDirect is one of the most comprehensive used car sites on the Internet, and allows you to browse vehicles from hundreds of reputable CarsDirect network dealers. Furthermore, CarsDirect can help you with quick online financing and even help you get low car insurance quotes. When shopping for a new or used car, CarsDirect helps you with every aspect of buying a vehicle. Start your used car search here.

Auto Trader

Auto Trader is one of the largest used-car dealer on the Internet, and currently has over half a million used cars and trucks listed for sale. Auto Trader allows dealers and individuals from all over the country to post pictures, specifications and other relevant information on used vehicles for sale on their website.


Carmax is one of the largest used car dealer groups in America, and has 100 Carmax used car dealerships around the country. The Carmax website allows you to browse the current inventory of all of them, and if you find a vehicle you like Carmax will deliver it to the nearest Carmax location to your area with no charge. Carmax makes it simple to find a quality used car or truck and offers low no-haggle pricing.

Related Questions and Answers

What Are the Most Common eBay Car Scams?

With the growth of online sales through eBay, eBay car scams have grown exponentially. Scammers—usually from Central Europe or Africa—will suddenly produce a desirable car at a price that's too good to be true. If it seems that way, it isn't. So avoid this vehicle. Especially if they ask for half the purchase money up front. Then there's the racket. Much like the old time used car dealer, that oversells a vehicle, making it out to be something that it is not. Or, to put it another way, "You can buy my 2002 Accord, I'll let you have it for $1,500." With a price like that, you know something is bad. Then there's the person who will buy your car for "full price" and they will send you a "treasurer's check" drawn on a supposed American bank. If you look at the instrument, though, the chances are good it has been bleached and the bank doesn't exist. Always check out the dealer as best you can and use their "local buying" or "classified" program to make an offer. If the dealer is real, someone will get back to you quickly with a real counter offer.

Is the Only Way to Buy a Car on eBay through an Auction?

Other than car eBay auction, the most widespread way, there are at least two more ways to buy cars on eBay. The first one is through a new eBay classified service that lists all of a dealership's vehicles for 30 days, and the second is through a "buy it now" set price. There have been indications that eBay is restudying its eBay Motors standards to find new ways of doing business. They also urge you to use their Escrow.com service to protect yourself from scamming. There are many scams, such as cars that seem to exist at multiple addresses and prices that are too good to be true. Use eBay classifieds and you'll be better off.

When You Buy a Car on eBay, Do You Pay Sales Tax?

If you want to elicit a war on car eBay sales regarding taxes, identify the fact that the buyer must pay the state's sales tax in your ad and you will have people pass your ad in droves. However, it is perfectly true that in most states you will have to pay sales tax for eBay sales. Although, by the same token, those taxes will be rebated to you. However, you will have to remind your agent that the proper forms have to be filled out. If it stays within the same state, the sales tax is not rebated.

Are there Any Laws or Regulations on Craigslist for Buying a Car for Sale?

There are very few laws related to new buying on craigslist of a car for sale, but mostly not so rigid. Other than proving you are the owner by providing a copy of the vehicle's title and other records, if requested, a bill of sale, or tax payment records, there are no laws governing craigslist cars for sale. Indeed, the buying service has been rife with scams and scandals for some time. So if you are thinking of purchasing a vehicle, be sure that the paperwork is correct before you transfer any money or make any payment.

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