What You Need to Know About Buying a Car Online - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Apr 9, 2020

What You Need to Know About Buying a Car Online

Well, it finally happened. Your once trusty hunk of metal broke down for the last time. You need a new car, and with a busy schedule you need it fast. The thought of traveling from dealership to dealership seems daunting, so you open your laptop and do some searching online. Your eyes gaze upon a set of wheels that seem like the perfect fit to replace your current ride. 

It’s that easy these days, introverts - rejoice! Virtual car dealerships are changing up the traditional ways of purchasing a car. It’s normal to feel apprehensive about this process, as purchasing a car involves banks, loans, and cash. Read on to learn more about the online car-buying process and what you need to know about this latest industry trend.

First, set a budget. One great feature of searching for a vehicle online is filtering your search results by price. If you begin by setting a manageable budget and specify that amount on the website, it will help you avoid viewing cars outside of your price range to tempt you into spending more. Setting a budget will also help you pre-plan during the car buying process by determining how much you will need for a down payment and what your comfort level is when it comes to your monthly payment.

Do a lot of research. There are many companies hoping you’ll buy a car online from them; both national and local dealerships are moving toward this trend. Research the ones you are interested in doing business with by looking for online reviews posted by customers. Read “my experience” stories online and ask friends if they’ve made online auto purchases. Doing your research upfront can lead to a great car-buying experience, or help to avoid a bad one. 

Once you’ve found a contender, request a thorough VIN history report.  The VIN (vehicle identification number) gives you a detailed look into the history of your potential vehicle. The VIN report lists useful information about a vehicle, such as: how many owners it’s had, if it was in any accidents, and can even list it’s wellness checks, including oil changes, services, and any recalls it’s had. Many dealerships will include a VIN report with a vehicle purchase, but if not, try negotiating it into the deal. If that doesn’t work, you can purchase the VIN report online. It’s definitely better to have seen this report upfront than find out after your purchase it that it had been in an accident .

Obtain close-up photos of all areas of the vehicle. The last thing you want is to set your eyes on your dream car for the first time and find it has ripped interior seats or a scratch on the passenger side door. Ask for detailed photos of each major area of the vehicle, including: seats, dashboard, outer body, trunk, tires, and under the hood. Have a second set of eyes look at the photos as well, in case they find something you missed.

Think about your loan ahead of time. Many online dealerships offer loan options that you can go with, but do your research. Discuss the interest rates with the online sales representative. You may be able to qualify for lower interest rates elsewhere, so explore those options ahead of time. If rates are high now, remember, you can refinance down the road to save money in the long run.

Compare your choice with multiple dealerships. Just because it’s more convenient doesn’t mean it’s the best deal for the vehicle. Run the make and model of all vehicles that interest you through a local search to see if your online list price seems fair, or if it’s much higher or lower than others. If it’s significantly higher or lower, that should be a red flag to question this with the sales representative. If your local options make more sense, we encourage you to support your local economy instead! 

Update your insurance policy. Maybe you didn’t have certain coverage on your previous vehicle or had lower limits and want to make changes. Now is the time! When you find a car you want to purchase, contact your local agent to discuss what coverages are best for your needs, as well as what documentation they will need. 

If you live a busy lifestyle, an online car dealership might sound appealing. If so, make sure to do your research, ask friends and be as informed as possible when making your decision. A new vehicle might just be one  click away!