Get the Most Out of Online Car Shopping
Chris Teague April 21, 2020

We’re living in a strange world today, where in many ways it can seem impossible to live life in the ways we did before. It’s true that we need to keep our distance from each other, but there are some things we just can’t avoid, even during a pandemic. Shopping for a car can be one of those things, because there isn’t really a way around needing a vehicle if you absolutely have to get somewhere. Buying a vehicle is a dreaded experience for many people, so trying to shop in the middle of a quarantine is even worse. The process doesn’t have to be all bad, and now it doesn’t even have to involve another person if you absolutely don’t want it to, as online car shopping has become extremely popular in recent years. In fact, online car shopping can yield some of the most aggressive new car deals that are available anywhere, but there are some things you’ll need to keep in mind when buying a vehicle online. Let’s look at how to get the most out of your virtual shopping experience.

Get Ready

Online car shopping can feel like a game, but the process is every bit as serious as it is when you’re at the dealership in person. Just like you would do in preparation for a visit to a dealer in person, you’ll want to have your ducks in a row before starting the online buying process. This includes securing financing and finding the best rates and terms for your situation. Shopping remotely isn’t that different from an in-person experience from a financial perspective, because there’s still a transaction and it will still include a loan, lease, or bank transfer or some sort. If you need to finance the vehicle, take your time to get preapproved and find out what you can actually afford before inquiring with the dealer.

Find the Right Vehicle 

Online car shopping might seem like a game, especially for those of us that enjoy killing lots of time looking at vehicles. Because it’s fun, it can be easy to get sidetracked looking at something that isn’t exactly what you want. You can also get sucked into the mindset that, because something looks great on your screen, there’s no need to go the extra step and view it in person. Those are both dangerous situations, because you will grow tired of a vehicle that isn’t what you wanted or if it’s not in the condition you expected. Make sure that the vehicle you’re buying is the one you expected.

2017 Ford Fiestas

Get It Inspected

Pictures are a great way to view a vehicle remotely, but the camera can hide some serious condition issues. We recommend pre-purchase inspections for anyone purchasing a vehicle, even in person, because of the complicated and often very expensive nature of repairs. Inspections are even more important for remote buyers because you’re not behind the wheel in person to hear the sounds and experience what the vehicle is doing first-hand.

Follow Your Budget

Buying a car in person is stressful enough, because even in the best scenarios it can feel like you’re paying more than you want to. Online buying is more challenging in this regard, because the personal touch is removed, and it can feel like you’re obligated to pay whatever the dealer is charging. While the online experience can be easier without the uncomfortable in-person negotiating, you’ll still need to make sure you’re fighting for the best price and to be certain that you don’t exceed your budget.

Take Delivery

So, your new ride has been inspected and you got a price that makes you happy. The job is done, right? Not quite. Before you ride off into the sunset in your new car, take it for a spin around the block and give it a thorough visual once-over. Be sure that it’s what you ordered and that there have been no changes to its condition during delivery. Pay attention to the drive and observe any odd noises, vibration, or other issues that may not have shown up in the pre-purchase inspection or sales ad.

The times are stressful enough already right now without adding a layer of confusion with the car buying process. If you take your time, shop around, and ask plenty of questions, the online car shopping experience can be enjoyable and can net you a vehicle that will make you happy for years to come.

Chris Teague

Chris Teague covers a variety of automotive topics from new car reviews to industry trends. With a background in business and finance, Chris’ writing is aimed at helping consumers make informed choices about what they drive and growing an understanding of the companies that make those vehicles. You can find more of Chris' work at