Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A close up shows a note pad with a budget next to a cup of coffee.

Online Car Shopping Is Getting More and More Popular

While it used to seem like a strange thing to do, more and more people these days are buying cars online without even seeing them first. The demand for cars is high; with inflation and a microchip shortage in the last few years, buyers are feeling the sticker shock, plus the frustration at not being able to find what they want. To try and make up for it, dealers are looking towards online car sales to try and level the playing field. However, demand for new cars has led buyers to review their used car options, which means a shrinking pool of used cars as well.

So you’re in the new market for a new or used car, but you can’t find the one you want near you; what’s a car buyer to do? Should you settle or wait until the right car comes along? Perhaps you’re ready to give online car buying a go but have no idea how to start.

Buying something as big as a new vehicle can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. You need a car to get around, and you can’t find one you like near you, so you’ve decided the solution to your problem is to buy online. There’s a first time for everything, right? But you’re ready to take the leap! So to help new buyers begin the process of online car buying and see if it’s right for them, we’ve gathered a few tips to take some of the guesswork out of looking for a car online.

Deciding on a Budget

When you’re looking to spend a high amount on a vehicle, it’s important to set a budget. Consider things like the cost of the model you’re interested in, but also look at the regular cost of the vehicle. You’ll find some models are more expensive to repair and maintain than others. Look at how much it will cost to insure the car, plus how much you have to put down. When you’re looking at taking out a car loan, keep in mind if you have less than great credit, your rates will be higher than those with a better credit score. So take your time to shop around and find a dealership that’s willing to work with you to obtain the best deal.

Starting the Search

What’s so great about buying online anyway? Well, for one thing, you get access to more cars nationwide than you normally would at a single in-person dealership. Plus, you can do it from the comfort and convenience of your laptop. That means you’re not going to be spending hours waiting around at the dealer. Online car sellers have streamlined the process, making it easy for everyday buyers to search for and purchase a car when it’s convenient for them.

The good news is that when it comes to buying a car online, a lot of it is the same as buying a car in person. When you’re making a significant investment like purchasing a new vehicle, it’s best to start off with research. Research the make and model of the car you’re looking for. Read reviews and find out if other people in your region like the vehicle for winter months or if it’s better for drivers in the south. Find out if the vehicle you’re looking for has any recalls, how it holds up over time, and more. Once you know what you’re looking for, online car websites make it simple to search for vehicles using a number of criteria such as year, miles, or price. If you live in an expensive city, shopping for a car that’s out of town might save you some money.

Thanks to websites like Youtube, buyers can often see video reviews of vehicles they’re interested in. Take a look under the hood and have a tour of the interior. Video reviewers will often point out desirable (or undesirable features) plus take the model for a test run and critique the driving experience and the car’s performance.

Also, take time to research the dealer you’re thinking about buying from. Whether it’s an online or in-person dealer, check to see any reviews they have and how long they’ve been in business. If a customer has a negative experience with a dealer, you can bet they’re going to post about it, but that doesn’t mean the majority of people have bad experiences, so it’s always important to take your time and research dealers to ensure the best buying experience possible.

A close up shows a button being pushed labeled 'car valuation start.'

The Value of the Vehicle

So you find the exact make and model you want at an unbelievably good price, and you’re so excited! But wait, when you find a deal that’s too good to be true, make sure you take a moment to find out why. Maybe that underpriced beauty has been in a few accidents, or there’s a smell in it that won’t come out. It’s important to try to get to the bottom of offers that seem far too good to be true because they just might be.

Check trusted car value guides like the Kelley Blue Book to find out the model’s retail value. Also, see what’s included in the price of the car. Does it come with a warranty or any extras? Does it look like it’s in good shape or needs some work? Calculating the total will help prevent unwanted surprises and keep you within your budget.

What about the vehicle’s history and current condition? Find out the vehicle’s mileage and check out the CARFAX history report to see if the vehicle has been in any reported accidents. You definitely want to know what you’re paying for, so make sure to research all aspects of the vehicle you’re looking to buy.

Know Your Options

Research auto loans and find out about financing and rates. Taking your time to make sure you get the best rate means that even a single percentage point can save you money in the long run. And when it comes to the details, read the fine print. Have any extras or agreements you made with the dealer put into writing before you sign on the dotted line.

Vehicle sellers are required to disclose certain information about the car before the sale (like a salvage title for fire damage). This allows you to know why a vehicle is a certain price and can make it easier for you to strike a deal with a competing dealership for a better price. This can mean all the difference if you’re looking for the best deal. If a competitor wants your business, a vehicle disclosure can help them get approval to pay a little more and get you as a customer.

Many dealers have whole departments that are dedicated to online sales. So if you have a question about pricing, it’s important to take your time to contact them and find out exactly what you’re paying for, plus any information about rebates or dealer incentives, so you don’t waste your time or theirs.

Before you buy, make sure you find out about the dealer’s return policy. If you’ve never sat in the car or taken a certain model for a test drive, even the best research can’t tell if you’re going to like it or not. Make sure the return policy is clear, and you have a hard copy just in case.

A close up shows a person shopping on a laptop for Houston online car sales.

Maybe It’s Time to Try Buying Online

Buying online isn’t just for the younger generation, and you certainly don’t have to be rich either. Online car buying is available to provide anyone and everyone with the chance to get into their dream car. Dealers make it so you can negotiate online, talk to professionals to answer your questions, and even sign on the bottom line. Many dealers even deliver the vehicle right to your driveway to make it easier than ever to buy online.

Doing the legwork and sifting through the vast amounts of information online will all seem worth it when you’re sitting in that brand new vehicle, knowing you got the best deal out there. Take advantage of online car buying and save yourself time and money, all from the comfort of your home or work. With so many services available, there has never been an easier time to buy online.