Cars/Motorcycles, Personal Finance

How to buy cars online safely: the smart steps

How to buy cars online safely

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This guide outlines the strategies for how to buy cars online safely, with expert tips and what to watch our for during the process.

Ask any routine car dealership customer, and they’ll tell you that the vehicle buying process is a long-distance road trip–not a drag race. If you’ve spent seemingly endless hours loitering in a car dealership, hunching over a wooden desk, and signing on the dotted line, you know that sentiment to be true. For those drivers looking to leave the inconveniences of in-person car buying in their rearview mirror, it’s time to consider buying a vehicle online. 

Not only does knowing how to buy cars online promise a wider selection and better prices, but cruising down the virtual highway, rather than stopping by a brick-and-mortar dealership, streamlines the buying experience.

How to buy cars online safely: the smart steps

If the prospect of an online car marketplace has your wheels turning, it’s time to step on the gas with the smart steps for how to buy cars online. 

Set a budget

When it’s settled you’re buying a car, the first thing to consider in how to buy cars online is setting a budget. By determining what you have and what you’re willing to spend, you can narrow down your selection based on the price, moving you one step closer to your dream vehicle. 

Remember to include all costs, such as fuel, insurance, and maintenance required to put rubber to the road. 

Get a pre-approved loan

It’s advisable to get pre-approval for a loan before approaching any car dealership in person or online. This step helps you give the dealership a chance to beat the rate provided by other lenders.

Several options are available for obtaining financing, including banks, credit unions, or online lending platforms as part of how to buy cars online. Ultimately, you’ll want to contact several lenders and compare interest rates and maximum loan amounts.

Identify the right model

While some drivers can recite makes and models from their bucket list at the drop of a hat, other drivers may find the number of options overwhelming. 

For the latter group, knowing how to buy cars online makes things a lot easier, as shoppers can view a host of vehicles from their laptop or device of their choosing. Additionally, online buyers can access data on vehicle reliability and safety with a few clicks. With this information at your fingertips, you can rank just about every model that fits your budget.

After settling on a model, you can also consider visiting a local dealership for a closer look.

Research the inventory via multiple dealers

You can go a step further in how to buy cars online and see what other dealers outside of your locality are offering. Online shopping for vehicles enables drivers to expand their selection and dip into inventories outside of their home state.

Should you prefer to buy one outside of your home state, here are the steps to follow:

Contact the sales manager

Email or chat with the online sales manager, focusing on the vehicle you want without mentioning the financing plan. Why? This way, the sales manager will readily disclose the price of the car to you. 

Note, if you’re considering a used car, ask the dealer to provide a copy of the vehicle’s history.

Take it for a test drive

The good news is that many dealerships have programs where their salespeople can bring a vehicle to your home for an at-home test drive as the hands-on part of how to buy cars online. Make good use of this offer and test drive on the roads you typically frequent. 

Settle the deal and get the car delivered

Ensure you have a complete deal in hand, inclusive of all fees and taxes. Read each document before signing the purchase papers to ensure it’s complete and accurate. Doing so also helps avoid any manipulation of the documents at play. 

How to buy cars online: watch out for scams

Part of knowing how to buy cars online safely is definitely to watch out for scams from fraudsters who will try to impersonate reputable dealers or the authorities.

Fake email from the portal

Interested parties often receive an e-mail. It states: The vehicle market has been commissioned to review the seller and his offer and to confirm it. Reputable organizations but also the police are often listed, which allegedly confirm the seriousness. The buyer is recommended to hire a specific logistics company or escrow service to minimize the settlement risk. The supposed sender: the portal. However, there is no question of minimizing, because the e-mail is a fake.

How to protect yourself

No reputable Internet vehicle market sends such emails. Recommendations for handing over the car are also not given.
Set the contact to the seller and report him to the portal.
The proposal to involve an escrow service or a specific logistics company often indicates fraud.

Counterfeit papers

Especially when selling used cars via the Internet, you should check the documents about the car particularly thoroughly. Because there is often cheating here. For example, the vehicle registration document is forged. Or the seller is not registered as the owner in it. Then don’t get involved in the business. It is particularly difficult: Counterfeit car papers are usually difficult to recognize. But there are some clues:

  • Washed or yellowed, difficult-to-read documents
  • Different font types
  • Different font colors

How to protect yourself

Before completing the purchase, have all original documents presented by the seller. You can compare the information contained therein with the car offered: For example, does the vehicle identification number (VIN/VIN) match? Usually the VIN is visible from the outside in the area of the windshield (in older cars often in the engine compartment).

Check all documents (such as inspection booklet,) to see if they appear suspicious.
If possible, meet with the seller directly at the admissions office. There you can re-register the car together.

Phishing emails

In order to elicit confidential data from the recipient, fraudsters send so-called phishing emails. The supposed sender is a reputable company, for example a used car portal. The e-mail asks the recipient to enter the data on a website. This website may make a serious impression, as it often looks deceptively similar to the actual company website. But it is fake. And the data you enter there ends up with the fraudsters.

How to protect yourself

Serious online vehicle markets never ask for confidential data by e-mail. So if you receive such an e-mail during the process of how to buy cars online, you can be sure: it is fake. Do not reply to the message or click on a link that is included in it.

Prepayment demands

Advertising markets on the Internet are only the platform that connects buyers and sellers and enables contact between them. Whether the provider is reputable, whether the advertised car exists at all – this is usually not checked. Another indication that something is wrong with an offer: The seller urges payment in advance. The appropriate advice on this approach is as simple as it is important.

How to protect yourself

Under no circumstances, in no case, ever pay in advance. Incidentally, the same applies to cash transfers.

Wrap up

Don’t let the lack of time and the not-so-pleasant haggling experience deny you the excitement of buying your car. Make things easier for yourself with knowing how to buy cars online, and go the online route to your next car.