It is said that many people spend more time choosing a car to buy than a person to marry. Cars are an extension of our personality and we tend to make the decision based on emotion, features and price. We usually know exactly what we want before pulling the trigger. The online market has made it possible to find the perfect ride for the perfect price. However, online car buying still has its own set of issues to avoid.
Here are five simple tips for buying a car online.
Nothing is deadlier for your bank account than walking into a dealership and saying, “Hi, I’m looking for a sedan/SUV/minivan and my maximum budget is x”. The same rule applies for online communication. Before talking to anyone, decide if you want to go new or used, what type of payment plan you’d like, and narrow your search down to a few models.
In your own time, check on the stats, price and features of the few models you like. Safety, performance, gas mileage, towing capability, size, even looks might all factor into your decision. If your ultimate goal is to flip a car, you might also have to look at the overall expense of customising the vehicle, from bringing in custom-fitted seat covers to match a coveted style or adding performance mods to upgrade efficiency. Bottom line, know what you’re looking for before talking to dealerships or sellers. This saves you the risk of being tempted or upsold by models or add-ons you don’t need.
Once you find an ad, whether on Autotrader, Carsforsale, CarGurus, TrueCar, or even Craigslist, it’s time to do some detective work. For new cars, find where the dealership is located, read reviews, and check on their reputation. Compare prices to similar cars in their inventory and other nearby dealers.
For used cars, you’ll want to gather as many pictures, videos, and details of the car as possible. Check the Kelley Blue Book (KBB), Carfax, and title status. Make sure the title and registration will transfer without issue. Seek out a trusted mechanic to perform a PPI (pre-purchase inspection), usually at the buyer’s expense. When dealing with private sellers, it might even be wise to do some digging on the individual to make sure you know who you’re dealing with.
If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid scams like the plague. If anything seems fishy, just walk away.
Once you go see the car, drive it, feel it out, you might start to get attached. You might become so attached you start to ignore that weird rattle, the dent in the door, or the play in the steering. Bring a friend or family member with you to be your devil’s advocate and steer you in a wise direction. They don’t have to be a car expert either, just someone with an extra set of senses to alert you of problems you may overlook. Be prepared to walk away and have a plan of action if you do.
Sometimes the perfect car can take a while to pop up. There are plenty of fish in the sea, or cars online, or something like that. Don’t be in a hurry to hand over your hard-earned cash. The perfect car will come along.