The way we buy cars is changing. Just a few years ago, our primary option for purchasing a car was the traditional way; driving to a car dealership, dealing with an often pushy salesman, and trying to get the best deal possible on a new or used car. In our digital world, that’s no longer our only option.
Many consumers are turning to online shopping when it comes to buying a car, and often find great success. From a simpler, streamlined process to potentially lower prices and interest rates, buying a car completely online doesn’t have to be daunting.
In our short guide, we’ll show you the ins and outs of buying a car online and where you can find the best deals
Assess Your Budget
The first thing that you should do when buying a car online is to assess your budget by determining both how much you’re willing to pay for a car and how much you can afford based on your finances.
It’s a good idea to put at least 20% of the total cost of the car as a down payment to lower your monthly payment and overall interest costs. Additionally, aim to keep your monthly car expenses under 10% of your monthly take-home pay.
Car payments that are too high can impact your Debt-to-Income ratio, which can impact your ability to secure other kinds of loans and lines of credit.
Research Financing Options
Once you’ve landed on your budget and your maximum purchase price, it’s time to research various financing options. While many car dealerships often work with a network of lenders, we always recommend researching your own financing options to secure the best rate.
Sites like Credit Karma and RoadLoans work directly with you and a large network of lenders to provide personalized rates for your loan, often without impacting your credit score. Shop around with multiple lenders to find the lowest possible rate.
Ideal rates are below 4%, but if you’re buying a new car, you may be able to take advantage of special interest offers from the manufacturer.
Finding the Right Car
There are tons of new and used car directories online that allow you to quickly and easily connect with local dealers, all from the comfort of your home. In fact, many of them allow you to Edmunds and MotorTrend are just two of the countless sites available that allow you to complete your car purchase online.
Cars.com recently upgraded their shopping interface, allowing buyers to work directly with dealers to make an online purchase through the platform. Simply narrow down your search by make and model or even by style and get matched with hundreds of cars in your area.
Shop Around for Quotes
Just like you should shop around for interest rates, you should also shop around with dealers to get the best price for your car. When you shop online and request quotes from multiple dealerships, those dealerships are now competing for your business, meaning you’re much more likely to find a great deal.
When you search for your vehicle on a car directory, you should be able to request quotes from multiple dealerships in your area. The more quotes you request, the better price you may be able to get. If you don’t want to deal with pesky sales calls, always provide your email address in the quote request and note that you’ll only entertain offers that are emailed.
You have no obligation to pick up the phone, and dealerships that call you after a specific request for email-only may not be who you want to work with.
Closing the Deal
After working with the dealership online, it’s time to close the deal and get your new car. Some dealerships may offer delivery for a new vehicle, but it’s much more common to have to go to the dealership to sign the paperwork and pick up your car. There may be a chance to negotiate further when you show up on the day of the sale.
From initial research to finalizing the sale, a large portion of buying a car can happen online, without the need to speak to someone over the phone or in person. Using these tips, you can get the best deal on your new car, all without leaving your couch.