Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A woman is holding out her credit car to buy a used car online.

Online Vehicle Shopping: What’s The Difference?

Let’s say there are three kinds of used vehicle shoppers. Shopper A will visit their local dealership and settle for what’s on the car lot. Shopper B will travel a great length to find a dealership with the exact vehicle they want. Shopper C chooses to do things a bit differently and decides to utilize the internet to buy a used car online. How will these three shoppers fare? Chances are, these shoppers will all find a great car that suits them, but were their experiences comparable? In some ways, yes, in other ways, the experience of buying a used car online is far superior to the traditional method of visiting a physical dealership. But just how far do these changes go, and just how dramatic are they?

If you remember the first time you ever bought a household essential on an online marketplace, and if you remember that feeling of ease and simplicity when you can get that moment of relaxation after checking out, it’s a similar experience. This feeling of acknowledging you’ve accomplished a productive day from the comfort of your own home is one of the very best uses of the internet, after all, second to reading this article. Best of all, as you would with any website you visit, you can shop at your own pace, and you won’t have to worry about being bombarded by a pushy salesman with dollar signs in their eyes.

“Can I help you find anything?” gets old fast, and it’s never easy to gauge the salesman’s motives. Are they genuinely trying to assist your shopping experience? Or are they trying to meet a preset quota and see yourself as just another number? It’s difficult to tell, but this simply isn’t an issue with online dealerships. However, this isn’t the only thing that sets online dealerships apart.

A row of cars inside a dealership is shown from a low angle inside of a car dealership.

The Ability to Find Vehicles Nationwide

Let’s start with one of the biggest advantages that shopping with an online dealership will grant you, and that’s the freedom of finding your car almost anywhere. Your search for used vehicles can span the entire United States, essentially making it the largest dealership lot you’ve ever visited, albeit this time it’s virtual. While some drivers may be content with window-shopping, some drivers have a very distinctive goal in mind when vehicle shopping, and that’s to get the exact vehicle they’re looking for.

We’re not simply speaking about finding a model such as a Silverado 1500, for example, that’s achievable anywhere. We’re speaking about the specific details that you want to be included with your vehicle––you can find custom-fit models with no issue. So that 4-door 2017 Silverado 1500 High Country with the jet black interior you fell in love with after test driving years back will be easier to track down.

With the ability to find vehicles across the country, you also aren’t limited to the price associated with one dealership and with a search that includes well over 200,000 vehicles to select from. If you aren’t keen on the price of a particular vehicle, then simply look for a less expensive model.

You might now be thinking that with over 200,000 vehicles to choose from, how do you know you are getting a quality car? Pick an online dealership that provides you with a CarFax report with each vehicle you look at. You’ll be able to determine the condition of the model, previous owners, any potential frame/body damage, recalls that were addressed, and much more. The flexibility that this allows with the shopping experience already makes it superior in many different ways, but when combined with the lack of pushy salesmen and the freedom to spend as much time as you’d like performing in-depth research, it begins to feel a tad like the future.

Buyer’s Remorse? Not a Chance

It wasn’t always the case when a dealership would accept a vehicle back so soon after the purchase unless there was a severe enough reason. Nowadays, buyer’s remorse is a far more realized thing, and this is especially true when shopping for a vehicle. What makes purchasing a vehicle so much different than just about anything else is the fact that you won’t entirely know how well your vehicle fits your driving style and preferences until you’ve had time to spend with it. Sure, test drives have been a thing for quite a while, but even these can be deceptive at times, only lasting upwards of an hour at best, and it’s only human to have second thoughts about a purchase, especially such a large one. Imagine if you had the choice of telling a landlord that you aren’t content with your current house or condo, even one week after living there, and there are no major issues with the place, and promptly moving out. It’s the same ideology but a far simpler thing to do with your vehicle with an online dealership.

After you purchase your vehicle, you’ll have the choice of picking up your vehicle at their location, or you can opt for free delivery right to your driveway. The delivery process typically takes between one to two days and is a relatively easy process, and you can even give specific parking instructions, so it’s right where you want it when it’s time to drive. Going back to buyer’s remorse, however, various online dealerships understand that you may have second thoughts about your vehicle, especially if you never got the chance to test drive it at a dealership.

This is typically a no-questions-asked service that these dealerships provide, and they can schedule a vehicle pickup directly from your driveway as they did with the delivery. The pickup will usually be free, and your vehicle will be eligible for a pickup and return as long as you request it within a few days of your purchase. The specific guarantee/warranty will vary between the different online dealerships you visit. Be sure to check the policy before you even start looking for models, so you know what to expect.

A blurred image shows a showroom full of cars.

The Right Choice for You?

The truth is, the internet is only becoming bigger and better each day, and the auto industry is still trying to catch up with the times. It’s not too far-fetched to expect online dealerships to begin appearing more over the next five to ten years, but it’s important to know that it’s not slated to completely wipe all other physical dealerships from the business. Online car dealers are a unique opportunity to find the exact vehicle you want or to explore many models that fit your own needs a single physical dealership won’t have. There are many tools in place so that you will have a person to reach out to throughout the process, but like any car shopping experience, no two dealers are the same. You need to search to find the online dealership that works best for you.

Are online dealerships right for you? We can’t answer that, but we recommend that you give it a try. Visit the website of an online dealership and start looking around, look at their inventory and their warranties. You’ll find that this is an excellent place to start.