Buying a car online is more popular now than ever before, but if you’re going to do it, it’s important that you do it right. You need to make sure that you know exactly what goes on with buying a car online before you make any rash decisions. It’s always smart to do your homework before a car no matter how you do it.
We’ve broken down the entire online car buying process into 6 easy steps, start to finish, and doing it like a pro. We’re also throwing in some of our professional advice too, making sure that no matter what happens, you know what you’re up against.
Step 1 Decide What You’re looking for
The first step when buying a car online is exactly the same as if you’re buying a car offline; decide what it is that you’re actually looking for. When you’re buying a car, you need to think about what you need from that car. You need to think about things like your budget, what you’ll be using the car for, who’ll be using it, how reliable you need it to be, as well as the other things that matter most to you in a car.
Once you have an idea in mind and how much you have to spend, it’s a lot easier to begin to realise what your options are. There are all kinds of different cars out there after all, and a variety of different factors that affect what it will cost, too.
Step 2 Find a Good Online Car Sellers
Step two is to find some good online car sellers at the moment. New sellers are coming into the market all the time because of the growing market. Even car sellers that have brick and mortar dealerships have an online side of their business to help them stay in the loop and capture more customers.
The bad news is, not all of them are great. We made a guide on the best and worst car sellers of 2021 based on customer reviews and business history to help here though. Choosing the right one goes a really long way for you to get the best service possible, and to protect yourself should anything go wrong.
Step 3 Select some vehicles
Step three is the fun step. This is when it’s time to select your finalists in the competition. The best thing to do most of the time is to pick a handful of cars that you like and that fit your criteria from step one. Any more than five or less than three however might make things a little bit more difficult, but it’s completely down to you.
It’s always worth taking the time to really think about what each car can offer you. It’s likely going to be with you for a long period of time, so choosing the right car is important, even at this stage.
Step 4 Do your Homework
Just finding the car on the seller’s site isn’t the end of the story when you’re buying a car online. Just like when you’re buying a car in the real world, you need to make sure that you’re buying something you are not going to regret. Doing homework is still an absolutely essential step to take, even if the sellers are vetted.
The step we always advise as professional vehicle inspectors is of course to get a vehicle inspection, since we can check the car for you. That may be at their location, or at yours when it gets delivered. It’s up to the seller. Aside from that, make sure you check things like the car’s MOT history, if it has service history, reviews of the car make and model, and everything else you can find out. Financial checks can be a good help too, although larger operation dealers should be removing that from the equation.
Step 5 Order and pay
Next up, the simple process of ordering and paying for the vehicle. Buying a car online is much like buying anything else online. You simply choose what you’re looking for, add it to your order, and then follow that company’s checkout procedure. It’s relatively simple (although still make sure you’re being safe online).
Of course, it’s also good to remember that there are lots of different ways to pay for a car. You might want to get a loan from the bank, you might want to pay for it yourself, or you might want to get finance. If it is finance, then make sure you again do your research on the finance of that seller and make sure you pick a package that works best for you.
Step 6 Deliver and test drive
Finally, step six is actually receiving the car. You are able to get it delivered to your home in most cases (unless you’re ordering from a brick and mortar dealer who may only deliver in a small radius). You can often also choose to pick it up instead, but it’s down to you. You’ll be asked to pick a time and date and get notifications as they happen about the delivery. The delivery person will then walk you through your car and give you everything you need to know.
Most online sellers are happy to tell you about their return policy when you’re buying online. That’s because many allow you to return the vehicle you buy within a week or two, free of charge if it’s not for you. You may have had a bad inspection, or simply not like it in the flesh. Either is fine, and it’s your right to a full refund when buying online (although that’s a little bit more complicated). Aside from that, if you’re happy, that’s it! You’re a new owner and can drive happily with your new purchase.
What if Something Goes Wrong?
If something should go wrong with the vehicle you bought online, you’ll still have all of your consumer rights to use to make sure you are treated fairly. You have a 14 day cooling-off period if you didn’t see the car in person (so be wary if you’re asked to head to a dealership to sign for the car since this isn’t an online transaction).
You also have the right to have the car repaired if it is sold to you with an issue that you didn’t know about. To use it, you will have to prove the issue was there when it was delivered though, and not caused by you, but depending on how soon this happens after purchase the seller may accept fault more easily.
Like all car purchases, the process is still generally straightforward. The biggest differences that do exist however tend to come from your limitations. You’re distance purchasing after all. That means you can’t just turn up and look at the car you want to buy. In the same sense, you can’t exactly test drive it, in the conventional sense, either. You have to wait for it to get to you, and then you can return it in most cases.
What is important however is that you know that you still have your rights, and all car buying is pretty similar. Whatever you choose to do, just be careful. You have a huge number of options opened up to you from online buying, and it will only get easier moving forwards.