Online car-buying guide

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

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, 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

Updated October 18th, 2019
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Min Loan Amount Loan Term Application Fee Monthly Service Fee Monthly Repayment
From 4.79% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.79% p.a. with a comparison rate of 5.34% p.a.
Get access to over 20 providers to fund a new or used car.

5.49% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
Borrow as little as $2,000 at a competitive fixed rate
Finance a new car up to two years old. Competitive 5.99% p.a. rate available to all approved applicants.
From 4.69% (fixed)
3 to 7 years
$700 (for private seller vehicles this fee is $608)
Fixed or variable rates starting from 4.69% p.a.
Apply for up to $100,000 and have up to 7 year(s) to repay. You can use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit.
6.99% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
Finance a range of vehicles including cars, motorbikes, boats and caravans.
Apply online to finance a new or used motor vehicle and receive a response in 90 seconds. You will receive a competitive tailored rate of between 6.99% p.a. to 9.99% p.a.
5.49% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
Offset your interest with a Car Budget Account.
Take advantage of a competitive rate, pre-approval and no early repayment fees when you finance a car under two years old.
From 5.19% (fixed)
3 to 7 years
$655 (Includes PPSR registration and private sale fee, if applicable)
You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 5.19% p.a. to 5.69% 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.

From 5.69% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
You'll receive a fixed rate from 5.69% p. a.
Purchase a new car with this loan and benefit from a fixed rate and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
From 5.69% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
Benefit from 5-hour pre-approval.
A competitive rate car loan from RACV with no monthly fees.
From 4.89% (fixed)
3 to 5 years
Optional balloon payment available to reduce your repayments.
A competitive rate car loan suitable for a new cor used car.
From 5.71% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
$500 (from $100 to $500)
You'll receive a fixed rate between 5.71% p.a. and 8.66% p.a. based on your personal credit history
A flexible loan to help you finance a car, motorbike or boat up to five years old.
From 7.99% (variable)
1 to 10 years
Your choice between secured or unsecured.
Apply for a loan up to $75,000 and benefit from loan terms up to 10 years.
8.49% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
Use a new or used car as security.
A flexible loan thats lets you benefit from a car search tool as well as the option to borrow extra for on-road costs.
From 8.49% (fixed)
1 to 5 years
You'll receive a fixed rate from 8.49% p.a. based on the value of your car
Get a competitive rate and apply for a larger loan up to $80,000 when you attach a new or used car as security to the loan.
6.69% (fixed)
1 to 5 years
Secure this loan with a car and use the funds for any purpose.
Competitive 6.89% p.a. rate available to all approved applicants. Loan amounts up to $60,000 available.
From 6.99% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
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.
From 5.99% (fixed)
1 to 10 years
You’ll receive a fixed rate of 5.99% p.a. ( 6.63% p.a. comparison rate ).
Apply for up to $75,000 available with asset security. Only good credit applicants can apply for this loan.

Compare up to 4 providers

Picture: Shutterstock

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

You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.49% 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 Latitude New and Used Car Loan
Latitude New and Used Car Loan

You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.99% p.a.
Apply for a loan from $5,000 to finance a new or used car. Flexible repayments and options to finance a classic car.

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 5.49% 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. Note: Product only available to residents of Victoria.

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