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Buying a car online vs in-person

Not sure whether to buy your next car online or face-to-face through a dealership? Find out which is best.


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When you're buying a car, one of the questions to consider is whether you want to do it online or in person. While there are pros and cons to each, depending on your buying style, you might have been doing it wrong all this time.

Buying from a dealership allows you to speak to experts face-to-face. However, you might not get as good a deal. Dealerships have more overheads than online retailers, and those overheads will usually be covered by the price of the cars.

Buying a car online can remove the some of the hassle involved with dealing with salespeople. Not to mention, it can save you money. However, it might also be more confusing - if you don't know what you're doing.

The differences between buying online or buying through a dealership

The difference between buying online vs in person is mostly a difference in the shopping experience followed by the same buying experience. A test run, followed by driving away in a car that you hopefully didn't pay too much for. It's much of a muchness, either way.

These are the main differences that come with looking for a car online, vs heading over to a dealership:


In-person at a dealership


  • Going online allows you to take your time

    Going online lets you do your research, comparisons and bargain hunting at your own pace. It also lets you look over more vehicles more efficiently and do it outside the pressured environment of a car dealership.

  • You don't have to deal with professional hagglers online

    Car dealers are professional hagglers. Going online can lead to dealing with someone who knows just as much, or just as little, about cars as you do.

  • You can compare prices more easily online

    Want to compare prices online? You can simply search for other cars that are the same make and model.

  • Car dealers have more options

    You can get a wide range of extras at car dealers, many of which you can have installed right then and there.

  • You can get answers to your questions

    Whatever might be said about car salespeople, they are experts. If you have questions, you can get answers on the spot.

  • Dealership financing

    Dealers have financing options that you can apply for when you get your car.


  • Going online takes longer

    You can't just grab the car you want and drive away.

  • You don't know who the seller is online

    Car dealers also sell online, and you often don't know who the seller is until you're buying.

  • You can't compare prices as accurately online

    You can't really see what kind of condition a car is in if you just have a picture and a short description. This makes it harder to accurately compare prices online.

  • Car dealers have overpriced, unnecessary options

    Those extras come at a cost, and odds are you either don't need them at all or they're a lot cheaper to get elsewhere.

  • High-pressure sales

    This is one of the biggest drawbacks of a dealership. If you can't handle sales tactics well, you might walk away with something you don't want.

  • Dealership financing

    While perhaps more convenient, some dealership financing options might not be as good value as finding your own financing options online.

Top 4 reasons you should shop online first

When it comes down to it, it might just be a case of personal preference. However, we would suggest that at the very least that you do some online browsing before heading over to a dealership.

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:

1. Get a good idea of prices

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. You could even try asking a dealer to price match.

2. Do 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 I 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:

  • Carsales: lets you filter cars by make, model, body type, price and location.
  • Gumtree: This is a popular place to look for second hand cars and find low prices.
  • Drive: also has handy filters for finding the perfect automobile.
  • eBay: Australia's most popular shopping site also hosts a large range of second-hand cars.

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.

Get pre-approved

The trick 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.

To find out more, get pre-approved or apply for any of the loans displayed below, simply click "Go to Site" to be taken to the lender's website.

Compare a range of car loans you can apply for online

For more information on any of these loans, simply click "More Info" to be taken to our review page. To apply for a loan, click "Go to site".

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 New Car Loan
4.99% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
$275.12 ($250 Application fee + $25.12 PPS registration fee)
You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.99% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 that you can use to purchase a new car or one that's up to two years old. - New and Dealer Used Car Loan
From 4.67% (fixed)
3 to 5 years
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.
Credit Concierge Car Loan
From 4.45% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.45% p.a. with a comparison rate of 5.29% p.a.
Get access to over 20 providers to fund a new or used car.

CUA Secured Fixed Car Loan
6.79% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
$265 ($175 Establishment Fee + $90 Security Administration Fee)
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.
NAB Personal Loan Unsecured Fixed
From 9.99% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
You'll receive a fixed rate between 9.99% p.a. and 18.99% p.a. ( 10.88% p.a. to 19.83% p.a. comparison rate) based on your risk profile
An unsecured loan up to $55,000 you can use for a range of purposes and pay off over up to 7 years. Note: Majority of customers will get the headline rate of 12.69% (13.56% comparison rate) or less. See Comparison rate warning in (i) above.
Symple Loans Personal Loan
From 5.75% (variable)
1 to 7 years
from 0% to 5% of the loan amount
You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 5.75% p.a. to 21.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
Borrow up to $50,000 to pay for what you need.
Driva Car Loan
From 4.34% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
$295 (Varies by lender, starting from $295)
You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.34% p.a.
Borrow up to $250,000 with loan terms from 1 to 7 years. Get access to a range of lenders.
NRMA New Car Loan
From 4.99% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.99% 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.
Plenti Car Loan
From 4.89% (fixed)
3 to 7 years
from $249 to $799
You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.89% p.a.
Borrow up to $100,000 with a Plenti Car Loan and benefit from no early repayment or exit fees.
NRMA Used Car Loan
From 6.49% (fixed)
1 to 7 years
You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.49% 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.

Compare up to 4 providers

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Car Loan Offers

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

You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.99% 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 4.89% 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 4.99% 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 NRMA New Car Loan
NRMA New Car Loan

You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.99% 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.

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