The Internet has significantly changed the car-buying process, giving shoppers an invaluable tool to find the car they’re looking for at a fair price.
For car dealers, this shift in consumer habits has produced the need to list more of their inventory online. According to the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA), more than 82% of dealerships maintain a website and many publish their best price for inventory online -- giving online car shoppers an opportunity to easily compare prices between dealerships. To compare vehicles at multiple dealerships, many online shoppers use sites like cars.com and autotrader.com, which aggregate information published on dealer sites and provide popular comparison engines.1
There are a number of differences between car shopping online and in person, and if you’re purchasing a vehicle online, it’s in your best interest as a buyer to be aware of them.
The pros of car shopping online often outweigh the cons
Formerly, to find a car for sale, you’d have to look in the classified section of a local newspaper or go to a dealership, but with more dealers listing vehicles on the Internet, it takes just a few clicks to search for the vehicles available in your area. That said, like many online shopping experiences, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options you’ll find when using car shopping websites. Most automobile websites have several ways of filtering search results, which can allow you to pinpoint your desired vehicle based on manufacturer, model, color, mileage, price, features and more. In addition, some other advantages of shopping for cars online include:
- Larger selection
- Easier price comparison
- Usually no pressure to buy
Tips for safely buying a car online
When you’ve picked out the car and contacted the dealership, you want to make sure that you’ve diligently performed all of your research in advance of the purchase. Here are some tips for avoiding pitfalls during a sale:
- Get the VIN (vehicle identification number).
- Look up the vehicle history report.
- Ask the dealership or seller if the title is clean.
Car shopping online is an easy and fast way to see what options are out there, and if you do your homework before you go to buy, you'll put yourself in a great position to get a great deal on the car that you want.