Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A man is shown clicking a button for online car sales.

How to Price and Buy Cars Online

If most shopping wasn’t already online before the pandemic, it is now our present-day reality. Everything from groceries to healthcare to homes can be researched and purchased using our wifi connections, reducing the need to ever leave the house. And with recent technological advances in apps and websites, there’s a platform to buy everything. In the past, car shopping meant driving to your neighborhood dealership, potentially more than one, and spending half your day doing test drives and ditching overzealous car salespeople. Drivers looking into online car sales are not off the hook completely. When removing professionals from the equation, we’re on our own to find answers to our questions, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s before a commitment is made and a new car shows up in the driveway.

In this article, we break down how to answer questions such as, “How much should I pay for a car?” and “What happens during the car-buying process at a dealership?” Price is a driving factor for many drivers searching for a new vehicle. Determining how much to pay for a car can make or break a deal, but thankfully there are plenty of tools available to assess how to get to the best possible number. We’ll explore everything from comparing prices to securing financing to get you comfortable with doing the process from the comfort of your own home.

A silver car is shown on a laptop screen.

Picking an Online Retailer

There are many things to consider when researching the purchase of a car online. The first step would be to explore different online car retailers and see which sites seem user-friendly, safe, and carry the inventory matching your needs. It’s important to review a website thoroughly before providing any personal information since cybercrime is not uncommon. Make sure a site looks authentic, has working links, and has plenty of contact information for help should you need it.

Doing the Research

One of the trickier aspects of buying a car online is figuring out how much you should pay for a car. Thankfully, with tools like Kelly Blue Book (KBB), it’s fairly quick to assess the current market value of a car based on details like make, model, mileage, trim, and condition. New cars all have what’s called an MSRP, which stands for “manufacturer suggested retail price.” This number should be consistent for one brand for a base model with no extra packages. How much you should pay for a car depends on what monthly payment is comfortable, what you can offer as a downpayment, leasing vs. buying, and the APR (annual percentage rate) if you obtain a loan.

For new cars, it doesn’t take much time to jump around to different dealer pages and see what the most common figures are for the model you’re looking to buy. Every manufacturer has the MRSP and package prices on their websites, so even if a local dealer shows different numbers, it’s not hard to ascertain what the real numbers should look like. This goes for trim levels and packages, too. A manufacturer’s website will have trim and package prices listed, so it’s worth cross-referencing if you’re only looking at a local dealership’s website for figures.

It’s not just the MSRP that matters, either. People searching “how much should I pay for a car?” also explore what those figures would be monthly. Once you know the price, you can also research the current APR and do a bit of number crunching to arrive at your monthly payment. Factors like downpayment, credit worthiness, and the market interest rate will all play a role, but any sophisticated online car retailer will be equipped with the tools to input each figure and see how it affects monthly payments.

Research can also involve learning more about the brands and models that are available. Since new cars will always cost more than used or certified pre-owned, it’s worth exploring if new is right for you. Besides the car’s age, there is further research to do about owning vs. leasing. Leasing tends to be a more affordable option for a new car since you pay monthly for the lease term instead of financing the full value of the vehicle. Both leasing and buying will be affected by the down payment. Certain dealers require a minimum to secure a deal, while others are flexible and will negotiate the figure. Finally, pricing is affected by what sorts of warranty and maintenance packages are offered by the retailer of your choice. It’s critical to consider maintenance and warranties in case the unexpected happens, and sometimes a monthly fee tied into your payment will save you money in the long term should something go wrong with your car.

A red toy car is shown on a laptop keyboard.

The Benefits of Online Financing

The financing leg of the journey may be one of the best parts of buying a car online. If you’ve ever haggled with a salesperson at the dealership, you probably know this is one of the most time-consuming parts of the endeavor. Offers are made, numbers are crunched, and your salesperson disappears for lengthy periods to seek approval from a behind-the-scenes manager. After a deal is reached, you’re handed off to a different department entirely: finance. Once you’re handed off to a new team member, a whole new process begins. The finance person sits with you for a long stretch while credit scores are checked, lenders are contacted, and details are hashed. Expect to clear your schedule if you plan to go to the dealership, as the process often takes several hours.

The perk of financing online is that, theoretically, all the financial details are ironed out in one place. The application process is private, done from the comfort of your couch, and the length of time to get approval is as fast as it gets. The application through the online retailer will collect all the necessary information and produce accurate figures with its built-in algorithm. The other benefit of online financing is the smaller margin for error since numbers aren’t being crunched by a human. It’s also easy to adjust things like downpayment and see how that affects monthly payments. By far, our favorite part of online financing is privacy. Whether you are accepted or rejected as a loan applicant, the whole process is done in the privacy and comfort of your home. You can work and rework the numbers as often as you wish without worrying about anyone else’s time or feeling any outside pressure. If you change your mind entirely, there is no one whose commissions will be affected that may try to change your mind for personal gain.

Still Unsure? Ask For Help

With all the solutions offered by online car shopping, the best one is the availability of assistance. When using a reputable site, you’ll find there are ways to contact the retailer via phone, email, or live chat. If the process becomes confusing or you find yourself with questions, it’s always an option to reach out and speak to someone who can serve as a guide. The reassurance of available help makes the process even less stressful.

When done with care, buying a car online is an easy and enjoyable process. We love knowing all our questions can be answered, and any car you want can be purchased at your fingertips. With everyone’s busy schedules, it’s great that technology has opened an avenue to save hours, if not days, on car shopping. With the convenience of being able to fully customize your purchase, secure financing, and choose a comprehensive plan for maintenance and repairs, it’s easier than ever to purchase a vehicle online.