Buying a Car Online — Some Things to Know

by Darwin on May 10, 2019

Few things in modern life rankle people more than the traditional car buying experience. Pretty much everything else in life sells based upon the designated price. Meanwhile many dealerships continue to sell cars the way horses were sold way back in the 19thcentury.

This introduces distrust, because the process feels skewed toward taking advantage of customers. Fortunately, the advent of the internet has slanted the process more in favor of the buyer if they know where to look. However, there are still some things to know when buying a car online.

What You Really Need

This is just as true when you’re buying online as when you’re walking into a dealership. There can be a significant disparity between what you want and what you need

Do you have a family with small children or teens? Do you use your car to commute to work? Do you drive clients around? Are you caring for an aging person who needs rides to the doctor? What sorts of recreational activities do you enjoy? All of these factors should be considered when choosing a car suited to the demands of your life. 

Chances are you already have an idea what you’d like. Research it and learn what cars are in its competitive set. Measure all of them against the requirements above, also factoring in price, reliability, gas mileage, maintenance costs, insurance costs and registration fees. 

How Much You Can Comfortably Afford to Pay

In addition to the monthly payment, you’ll need to look at fuel, insurance and maintenance costs. Take a good look at your budget to ensure you don’t take on more debt than you can afford. 

Determining what you need and what you can afford will help you narrow the field to some practical decisions. This, in turn, will lead you to the right car. Car reviewing sites like,, and will help you gain insights into their strengths and weaknesses.

You’ll also need to decide whether you’re going to lease or buy. Leasing gets you the use of more car for less money, but you won’t own it at the end of the term. If you buy outright, the car will be yours when all payments are made, but you’ll pay more to get it. 

good car loan calculator will help you figure out what your budget will allow you to do. 

Get Your Financing Pre-Approved 

The bank or credit union with which you do business is a great place to start. There are also a number of online lenders, such as RoadLoans offering pre-approved financing for new cars. 

Pre-approval makes it easier to get the best deal on financing. With a loan already in hand, you can put the dealer in competition with your lender to get you the best interest rate. 

By the way, under no circumstances should you ever agree to finance a car for more than 60 months. Ideally, you’ll keep it to 36 to 48. Longer-termed loans do make payments lower, but the added interest increases costs in the long run. 

Test Drive Before You Buy

As good as modern cars are, they all have different characteristics. Some you may love, some you may hate. This is why you should always drive a car before you buy it

Narrow your choices down to four based upon your research and drive all of them in one day. This will help you make direct comparisons. When you visit dealerships, tell the salespeople you’re trying to decide between the four cars on your list. If theirs wins out, you’ll make sure they get credited with the sale. 

The best time to do this is during the middle of the week; Tuesday through Thursday is when dealerships are slowest, that way you won’t tie up a salesperson when they could be closing a sale on a weekend — when dealerships are busiest.

These tips will help you get a car you like, suited perfectly for your lifestyle, at a price you can comfortably afford — without spending hours and hours at a car dealership haggling over the price.

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