How To Buy a Car Online
With today's technology, you can buy a car online from the comfort and convenience of your own home. The internet is a great tool that allows you to make comparisons, get quotes, and even secure financing or insurance. With a little bit of research, you can find good deals and save a lot of money. But, there is also a lot of fraud, and if you aren't careful, you could end up losing your deposit or paying for a vehicle that doesn't exist.
Buying a car on the internet expands your options and makes it easier to find exactly what you are looking for. And, with the current market conditions, there are a lot of great deals available. Many reputable sellers and dealerships have caught on to this latest trend and offer online purchase options. But, if you are going to take advantage of this convenience, you must use some wisdom before handing over your hard earned cash.
- Check out the seller. Whether it is a large dealership or an individual seller, you want to make sure that you are doing business with someone who is reputable. Check out the website or ad to see if they provide detailed contact information. General statements like “we are located in the United States” should raise a red flag. If you can't find a physical address, don't purchase from that particular seller.
It is also a good idea to check reviews and feedback from other customers. You want to find a seller who has an established history of delivering what they promise. Everyone has to start somewhere, so longevity isn't always an accurate indicator, but if the seller is fairly new, you should take extra caution. Since scam artists tend to disappear quickly, once you make a deposit, it may be impossible to get your money back in the case of fraud.
- Research and compare prices. Find out the current market value for the vehicle you are considering and compare selling prices on various sites. The Kelley Blue Book is a good source of information, or you could check pricing sites such as CarsDirect.com, Cars.com, or AutoTrader.com. While you want to find a good deal, beware of extremely low prices. If it seems too good to be true, then it is probably a scam.
- Verify that the car actually exists. Ask the seller for his/her phone number so that you can call and talk to him personally about the vehicle. Also ask if you can come test drive the car. Even if you do not live close enough to follow through with this request, you will find out if the seller is either willing or hesitant to make these arrangements. Any reluctance could indicate fraud.
Ask for additional photos, a copy of the vehicle registration, and the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Do not agree to make a down payment until you are absolutely certain that the car exists.
- Get a history report. By requesting the VIN, you can order a history report on the vehicle from a company such as CARFAX or AutoCheck. This will confirm the odometer reading and let you know if the car has been in an accident or flood, or has been resalvaged. This check is very important, especially if you are buying a vehicle without seeing it first.
- If possible, test drive the car. Buying a car online means that you can purchase the vehicle from anywhere in the country. But, if you live close enough, it is a good idea to arrange a meeting with the seller so you can look over the car and take it for a test drive before you make a commitment. This is also a good way of confirming that the vehicle really does exist.
- Have the vehicle inspected. Make sure you get a mechanic to look at the car, especially if you are not able to check it out yourself. If the car is located in another city or state, you can hire a vehicle inspection company to inspect the car on your behalf. The cost of this fee could save you a lot of money in the long run.
- Make sure the deposit is refundable. Some companies are known for taking your deposit and then selling the vehicle to someone else before you are able to make full payment. When you try to get your money back, they will claim that the down payment was non-refundable. Before you hand over any cash, get written verification that your deposit will be returned to you if the vehicle is sold to another customer. Keep the email as confirmation of this, and any other, agreements made between you and the seller.
- Choose a safe payment method. Never send a personal check or make a wire transfer. Once the money leaves your account, you many never see it again, even if you don't get the car that you were promised. Always make payments over a secured browser (look for the "lock" icon on the status bar and make sure the URL begins with "https" in the location bar), and use a protected method of payment. Most credit card companies will help you get your money back if you can prove a fraudulent charge. The PayPal feature of eBay is also secure and will investigate any complaints of unreceived products. Or, eBay Motors has a Vehicle Purchase Protection Program that will protect you from fraud, however, the transaction must be made from their site to receive this coverage.
- Consider transport costs. If you are not buying the car locally, you will need to arrange to pick it up or pay someone to deliver it. Depending on the distance, this cost could be significant and should be figured into the total price of the vehicle.
- Final thought: Consider purchasing mechanical breakdown protection. No matter how much due-diligence you perform you’re never 100 percent sure of the vehicle’s mechanical condition. This is especially true when purchasing a previously owned vehicle. Consequently, it is a very good idea to consider transferring some of that risk to a third party. You can do this by purchasing a high-quality extended mechanical breakdown protection plan for your vehicle.
By using the internet, you can often find good quality cars much cheaper than the prices offered at local dealerships. But, to buy a car online, you must take some extra precautions to make sure that the seller is legitimate and that you receive exactly what you paid for.
Good luck with your online purchase! Let us know if autoPOM! may be of assistance to you!