Check out the pros and cons of an online vs an in-person dealership purchase to find the best way to buy your next ride.
When you're buying a new car, one of the questions to consider is whether you want to do it online or in person. There are pros and cons to each, and depending on your buying style, you might have been doing it wrong all this time.
If you aren't keen on either, you're not alone. "Painful", "confusing", "time-consuming" and "a hassle" are how about three quarters of buyers describe the car-buying experience. Buying online can remove the hassle and cut the time needed to find the car you want, but it can also be a lot more confusing if you don't know what you're doing.
The differences between buying online and at a dealership
The difference between buying online vs in person is mostly a difference in the shopping experience followed by the same buying experience. You'll need to test drive the car, and the end result, driving away in a car that you hopefully didn't pay too much for, is the same either way.
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There are pros and cons to each method of buying a car, and they largely balance themselves out. You shouldn't buy without a test drive anyway, and so you will almost inevitably buy your car partly in person and partly online. It can be a good idea to get the advantages of each in order to find the optimal deal.
What you can do when you purchase online
When you buy in person, you get efficiency and the ability to ask your car dealer all the questions you need answers to before buying, but that's basically it. By going online first, you can reap even more benefits:
- Have prices to match. If you can find a new car for a certain price online, or even a used car in equivalent condition, you might have a lot more bargaining power and could even try asking a dealer to price match.
- Thorough research. Find out how much it usually costs to buy the car you want, and then learn what to look for in a used car and how to pay less for a new car. Many of these tips work both online and off.
- Filter your search. Imagine walking into a car dealership and telling them to show you only cars of a specific colour, within a specified price range, below a certain number on the odometer and of a certain make and model. Then imagine asking the dealer to line them all up in front of you so you don't have to walk between them. This kind of filtering service is a normal part of looking for cars online.
- Get more options. When buying from a car lot, your choices are limited to whatever is available on that lot and at any other lot you visit. When you look for a car online, you have a lot more vehicles to choose from and can find cars that closely suit your needs. You can then check those cars out. However, you still have to travel to inspect and purchase these cars, so keep the location in mind when browsing online.
Where can you buy a car online?
The benefits of going online, compared to visiting a dealership, can also vary depending on which websites you're using. Each one is different, and one might suit your needs more than another. The following are some of the sites you can visit:
- Cars Guide: Content and reviews alongside listings mean it can be useful if you want to research specific cars.
- Gumtree: A popular place to look for second hand cars and find low prices.
- Auto Genie: This site lets you enter the type of car you want, and dealers will contact you with their best offer. Once you know what you're looking for, this can bring some of the benefits of a dealership to you.
Car finance online vs at dealerships
Getting a car loan can be quick and easy at a car dealership, but as with many dealer extras, there's a good chance you're not getting the value for money that you could. Once again, going online first and looking for a better deal can give you more bargaining power even if you do end up visiting a dealership.
The trick here is getting pre-approved for a car loan, with due consideration to how suitable the particular loan is for you. With pre-approval in your pocket, you can simply tell the dealer that you have a better finance offer and then see if they're willing to match the terms.
Getting pre-approved for a loan involves knowing what kind of car you're interested in, which generally means going online and checking your options beforehand. Buying entirely offline can bring convenience and efficiency benefits, but will rarely match the value of going online beforehand, even if you do eventually end up buying from a car lot.
Compare a range of car loans you can apply for online