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Buying Cars Online: How to Research and Select the Right Ride

Traditionally, shopping for and buying vehicles meant that you had to either search newspaper classified ads or show up at a dealership to look around the car lot. These days, the Internet has broadened the availability of information about car buying and purchasing. Savvy consumers utilize these resources to find the best deal on the automobile that’s right for them.

Shopping for cars online

While many prospective buyers are eager to find the perfect car right away, a smart buyer actually shops for financing before finding their next car or truck. Having the financing set up before you’ve even started looking at cars may sound counterintuitive, but it can save you a bundle in the long run compared to financing through a dealership.

With preapproved financing from Nationwide, you begin the car-buying process with two strong advantages: you won’t have to worry about haggling over financing, and you’ll be able to budget your purchase before you arrive on the lot, so you’ll know exactly what your monthly expenses will be.

Once you’ve secured your financing, you can begin your search for your next car. The Internet is a valuable tool for this search, allowing you to search for specific cars while filtering your results to consider factors like price, mileage and model year, among others. There are many sites that provide valuable automobile information and compile search results from several sources, including dealerships and private sellers.

These sites and others provide an excellent vantage point to survey the current car market. Typically, every listing you see will contain contact information for the relevant dealership or seller, so you can contact that seller about a vehicle you’re interested in, arrange a meeting and take a test drive.

While some sites like auction sites provide options for online payment without you actually inspecting the vehicle, buying without test driving a vehicle is discouraged. The only way to guarantee the authenticity of a sale and the integrity of a listed vehicle is to inspect it yourself and take a test drive. Car shoppers should be wary of exchanging money online before seeing a vehicle or speaking with a seller. In rare circumstances, you may purchase a vehicle from an auction without seeing it due to its distance from your location. In such cases, be certain to have as much contact with the seller as possible prior to the sale, and scrutinize the auction site’s return and refund policy in the event of any fraudulent activities.

Generally speaking, the Internet is best used as a tool to research vehicles and find listings that meet your criteria for a new vehicle. Once you’ve found those vehicles, you can contact sellers directly to continue the test driving and sales process, which are best conducted in person.

For more on buying cars from person-to-person sales sites and online auction sites, see our article here.

Closing the sale with pre-approved financing

Regardless of how you search for your next car, start with getting your certified loan pre-approval from Nationwide. Receiving a loan preapproval from Nationwide is quick and easy and you can shop with the confidence knowing what you can afford. Next, you can find your car, negotiate the sales price and begin enjoying your new vehicle!

Once you’ve gotten your pre-approval from Nationwide and found the car you want, you can proceed with the sale process. When you arrive at the dealership, don’t mention that you’ve already been pre-approved for a loan. Look at cars as you normally would, but with your pre-approval amount in mind to make sure that you don’t go over-budget. Once you’ve found a car, negotiate the price like you usually would, requesting information on all available incentives and discounts for the vehicle you’ve selected.

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