Online car-buying guide

Harness the power of the Internet to make the car-buying process easier and more convenient.

Updated

Buying a car can be an exciting but painful process. First of all, you need to know what you want, and then you need to find someone who is willing to sell it at a price you can afford. Searching classifieds or car yards is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, buying a car online can make the process simpler as well as save you countless hours and dollars.

Online sale listing sites are a great place to find cars and research prices. There are also sites that facilitate genuine offers from dealers. Going online can make car buying easier and more convenient.

Why should I buy a car online?

There are a few reasons why buying a car online can be a good option:

  • Convenience. Do research from the comfort of your own home.
  • Easy to compare prices. It's much easier to get a gauge on prices by checking similar vehicles.
  • Narrow search filtering. Buying online allows you to search for a single model with the desired kilometres, age, transmission type, colour and price. By comparing similar cars you can assess their quality more objectively.
  • No pressure to buy. When online you're under no obligation or pressure. No one can directly talk you into anything through your computer.
  • Saves time. Buying online helps condense your shortlist, so you can focus on only the cars you're interested in.

How does buying a car online work?

The process of buying a car online is fairly similar to the traditional method. The major difference is in the first few stages. Here are the steps to take:

1. Research

Research can be a slow and painful process, but it will make all of the next steps a whole lot easier. There are two parts to research: knowing your needs and finding cars that meet those needs.

Start by thinking about what you need the car for. The number of seats, fuel consumption, type of driving and budget are what you should be considering.

Once you know your needs, you can start finding cars to fit them. There are some websites that can help you choose a car based on your criteria.

Use safety ratings, new car reviews, awards and user feedback to narrow down your list to one or two possible models.

2. Financing

Having your finances sorted out early is essential. If you intend to use a loan, you can consider a pre-approval so you know how much you have to spend. Regardless of how you want to pay for the car make sure you have money ready to go when you start negotiations.

3. Shortlisting

By now you should know what car you are looking for and how much you can pay for it. The next step is to find the best options based on your needs. Using an online car sales site such as carsales.com.au, search for the model you previously identified as being suitable. You can usually filter the results by price, location, kilometres, age and transmission to get more targeted results.

Go through the listings and pick out the ones that seem to offer the best value. Make a list of your top five for inspection.

4. Inspection

This is where things get fun. Go and do a physical inspection of each car. Use a checklist to guide you in this process. The main thing is to be methodical and dispassionate. Make sure you also do a thorough test drive and, while you might find that the first car you see is perfect, it's prudent to at least try a couple for comparison.

Part of the inspection process is also to check the paperwork. A quick online search can check for encumberment, previous write-offs and current owner. As it costs to do these searches it's only worth doing for your first preference.

5. Mechanic check

Unless you are particularly knowledgeable about cars, or have someone with you who is, you should get a mechanic to inspect the car. Mobile mechanics will go to the seller and can sometimes do an inspection on the same day.

The check isn't necessarily about ruling a car out. It gives you an accurate idea of how much you can expect to pay in the coming year on maintenance.

6. Negotiation

If you're happy with the car, the online document searches are clear, and the mechanic gives it a thumbs up, then you are ready to negotiate. Your research should have given you a pretty good idea of the price range for this type of car.

Most sellers list their car at the price they would love, not what they want or need. Don't feel obliged to pay what they ask for.

Where can I buy a car online?

Here are a few sites to get you started:

  • Cars Guide has a range of great content and reviews, as well as car listings. Nice place to do some research.
  • Car Sales probably has the most listings of all the online sites. Good search filters and functions as well.
  • Gumtree has more of a community feel than the other options. Low cost of listing means it is well suited to cheaper cars.
  • Auto Trader is the online version of an original print classified magazine. Good for unique or novelty cars.
  • Auto Genie lets you enter the type of car you want and dealers will contact you with their best offer. No searching required.

Are there any drawbacks to consider?

The anonymity offered to people online can make it hard to judge the seller you are dealing with until you meet them in person. Trust is a big part of buying a car. When buying online you have no way of knowing how trustworthy the seller is apart from your own intuition.

Likewise, it is easy for an online car listing to make a car look and sound better than what it is. Of course you will physically inspect the car and see its real condition, but when the car is not what you expected in the first place it is just a waste of time.

Have more questions about buying your car online?

Are cars sold online covered by some form of consumer protection?

It depends where you buy it. New and used cars purchased from a dealer are covered by Australian Consumer Law. However, the law does not cover private sales. Make sure you do a thorough inspection and have a mechanic check the car before you buy it.

Should I still do a physical inspection and normal checks before purchase?

Yes. Never buy a car based purely on what you can see online. It is easy to make pictures look nice, but much harder to make a bad car drive well.

Do I need to check all online classified websites or is one enough?

The more you check the more options you will have, although if you are searching for a fairly common car you will still get plenty of results from one site. Dealers will most likely list on multiple sites, but private sellers often won't bother.

Compare a range of car loans you can apply for online

Data indicated here is updated regularly
$
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Min Loan Amount Loan Term Application Fee Monthly Service Fee Monthly Repayment
IMB Secured Personal Loan
6.45% (fixed)
6.8%
$2,000
1 to 5 years
$275.12 ($250 Application fee + $25.12 PPSR registration fee)
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.45% p.a.
Benefit from this competitive rate by securing the loan with a vehicle up to 6 years old. Use this flexible loan for any purpose.
Loans.com.au - New and Dealer Used Car Loan
From 4.67% (fixed)
5.22%
$5,000
3 to 5 years
$400
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.67% p.a. based on your risk profile
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees and an optional balloon payment. Note: Settle the loan before 30 November 2020 and enter the draw to win a $1,000 fuel voucher. Terms & conditions apply.
Wisr Secured Car Loan
From 5.19% (fixed)
6.08%
$5,000
3 to 7 years
$655 (Includes PPSR registration and private sale fee, if applicable)
$0
You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 5.19% p.a. to 17.69% p.a. based on your risk profile
A flexible car loan from $5,000 - $50,000 with personalised rates and rewards for strong credit customers.

Credit Concierge Car Loan
From 4.45% (fixed)
5%
$10,000
1 to 7 years
$350
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.45% p.a. with a comparison rate of 5% p.a.
Get access to over 20 providers to fund a new or used car.

Stratton Finance New Car Loan
From 3.85% (fixed)
5.43%
$10,000
3 to 7 years
$700 (for private seller vehicles this fee is $608)
$8.25
You'll receive a fixed or variable rate depending on the lender you are approved with
Apply for up to $250,000 and use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit. Optional balloon payment available.
Beyond Bank Low Rate Car Loan
5.29% (fixed)
5.53%
$25,000
1 to 7 years
$175
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.29% p.a.
Take advantage of a competitive rate, pre-approval and no early repayment fees when you finance a car under two years old.
CUA Secured Fixed Car Loan
6.79% (fixed)
7.16%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$265 ($175 Establishment Fee + $90 Security Administration Fee)
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.79% p.a.
A secured loan with a high maximum borrowing amount up to $100,000. Redraw facility and no monthly fees.
Greater Bank New Car Loan
From 5.49% (fixed)
5.87%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$275
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.49% p.a.
Apply for this loan to finance a brand new car or demonstrator vehicle and find out if you've been approved in 24 hours.
NRMA New Car Loan
From 5.69% (fixed)
6.39%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$499
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate from 5.69% p. a.
Purchase a new or used car up to 2 years old and benefit from a fixed rate and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
Jump Payments Car Loans
From 4.47% (fixed)
5.28%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$295 (Varies by lender, starting from $295)
$10
You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.47% p.a. and comparison rate from 5.28% p.a.
Borrow between $5,000 and $250,000. Get access to customised finance options.
Greater Bank Secured Personal Loan
From 6.49% (fixed)
6.88%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$275
$0
You’ll receive a comparison rate of 6.88% p.a. on funding from $5,000 - $100,000.
Loans are available on terms of up to 7 years and asset security is required. Get approved in as little as 24 hours.
IMB New Car Loan
5.45% (fixed)
5.8%
$2,000
1 to 7 years
$275.12 ($250 Application fee + $25.12 PPSR registration fee)
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.45% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 that you can use to purchase a new car or one up to two years old.
People's Choice CU Discounted Personal Loan (Car Loan)
From 4.65% (fixed)
4.99%
$20,000
1 to 10 years
$250
$0
Borrow over $20,000 and secure with a new or used car less than 2 years (manufacture year 2018).
Pre-approval, no monthly fees and fixed rate for 5 years.
NRMA Used Car Loan
From 6.99% (fixed)
7.7%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$499
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.99% p.a.
Finance a used car with NRMA and benefit from a fixed rate term and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Picture: Shutterstock

Related Posts

Car Loan Offers

Important Information*
Logo for IMB New Car Loan
IMB New Car Loan

You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.45% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 that you can use to purchase a new car or one up to two years old.

Logo for Beyond Bank Low Rate Car Loan "Special Offer"
Beyond Bank Low Rate Car Loan "Special Offer"

You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.29% p.a.
Take advantage of a competitive rate, pre-approval and no early repayment fees when you finance a car under two years old.

Logo for RACV New Car Loans
RACV New Car Loans

You'll receive a fixed rate from 5.69% p.a.
A larger loan of $5,000 or more to help you buy a new or used car. 5-hour pre approval available and no ongoing fees.

Logo for Stratton Finance New Car Loan
Stratton Finance New Car Loan

You'll receive a fixed or variable rate depending on the lender you are approved with
Apply for up to $250,000 and use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit. Optional balloon payment available.

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