Pros and Cons of Online Car Buying

Image: Vector image of man standing on phone with cars plugged into the outside

Are the days of driving around a stocked car dealership lot looking for your next ride long gone? It seems you can buy anything online these days, cars included with the rise of “self-service” car retailers. But is it really a good idea to buy a car online? Here are a few of the pros and cons:

Pros of Online Car Buying

Can Save Time and Money. A major perk of shopping online is finding a great deal. Instead of driving around various car lots, you can compare vehicles in the comfort of your own home.

No Negotiation or Price Haggling. Most of us aren’t interested in fighting for a good deal, especially if you are in a time crunch. Prices online are often clearly listed, allowing you to easily compare price points and helping you get the best deal. Keep in mind this could be subject to change due to credit history, trade-in value of a current car, down payment, etc.

On the other hand, not getting the chance to haggle or negotiate could potentially lead to you paying a higher price for a vehicle than you would if you went to the dealership.

No Sales Pressure. Buying a car online helps avoid high pressure salespeople, giving you time to review all aspects of the vehicle.  Take your time making a decision about your next purchase if you use the online option.

Ability to Shop 24/7. The internet has no business hours, meaning you can shop for a car when it’s convenient for you – yes, that means in your pajamas on the couch at 2AM. Need time to think it over? Easy! Minimize the tab and revisit your search later.

Need it delivered? You usually can have the vehicle delivered to your house or a place of your choosing, without having to step outside your home.

Cons of Online Car Buying

Inability to See, Feel, Test Drive and Inspect. Though dealerships and online car retailers provide detailed photos of the vehicle, there’s nothing quite like inspecting and test driving the vehicle in person. To remedy this, some dealerships offer extended warranties and return policies to ensure you are satisfied with your vehicle purchase. Additionally, some online car retailers will offer a test-driving meet-up, giving you a chance to see the vehicle in person.

Possibility of Limited Financing Choices. Online buying options may limit your financing choices. Review your financing options ahead of time and avoid time consuming problems.

Have a Trade-in? If you buy online, you may have to sell your car instead of simply trading it in at the dealership. It may be worth the extra effort as you are likely to get more for your vehicle by selling it on your own than trading it in. Dealers often offer you less for your trade so they can make money selling it, however, some online car retailers will consider your trade during the purchasing process.

If you’re looking for convenience and fewer hassles, online car buying might be for you. If you like to inspect, test-drive and negotiate the best deal, going to a dealership is probably going to be your best bet. Either way, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons to make sure you are getting the deal that works for you.