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Posted October 28, 2020

The pandemic has changed many aspects of people’s lives, including the way we purchase new vehicles.

On top of saving money, it’s important to prepare for virtual aspects of car buying that would normally be in person, such as financing, test drives, and signing for the purchase. A recent survey shows that nine out of ten people prefer to start their car-buying process online, signaling a shift in the standard buying process.

Keep reading for tips you can use to confidently buy your new or used vehicle online.

Start Early

If you anticipate you’ll need or want a car soon, it’s ideal to ensure you have as much time as possible to devote to searching for a vehicle and financing options. Also, if you’re unsure of the car you want, starting early allows you to research and look around to get an idea of what’s out there.

If you’re set on a specific vehicle already, leave yourself time regardless to ensure you are getting the best deal on your dream car. When researching vehicles, start by narrowing your search to vehicles in your area first. Examine the ratings and reviews your particular model has through Kelley Blue Book and Consumer Reports to ensure you know the value and reliability of your future vehicle.

Set a Budget and Find Financing

Budgeting isn’t everyone’s favorite task, but you want a big life purchase to fit into your finances. Determine the most you’re willing to spend and stick to it. Ideally, make sure you know your max price before viewing cars that can be tempting and out of your price range. You’ll need to factor in new car fees when looking at the listing price, so keep this in mind when estimating your vehicle loan payment and comparing interest rates. You’ll want to make sure your loan payment fits into your finances over the term you want, without causing your budget stress.

Shop for financing prior to heading to the dealership to save yourself money and time with negotiations. Research and compare financing options to make sure you are getting the best rate. Watch out for predatory lenders who’ll charge you high interest rates or long loan terms, even if you don’t have the best credit. Typically, you’ll find lower interest rates when financing through your local credit union or bank than through the dealership. Once you’re pre-approved for a loan, it can help you stay within your budget and sets a price range dealers will have to meet to make a sale.

Contact the Dealership for a Test Drive

Once you’ve found your car online, you’ll want to call the dealer to make sure the vehicle you want is in stock and go for a test drive. Test driving your vehicle will allow you to get a feel for the car’s driving style and catch anything you may have missed in the pictures or written description. Certain online platforms may even deliver the car to you, so check ahead with the dealership to make the experience as contactless as possible. Be sure to ask about their COVID-19 safety procedures before visiting so there are no surprises when you arrive.

Negotiate Pricing

If you’re dissatisfied or feel you’re not getting the best price for the vehicle, speak up and state your terms. Negotiating can be daunting, but at the end of the day, the dealer wants to make a sale and you want to buy the vehicle. Use this knowledge to your advantage and negotiate with multiple dealers to evaluate the lowest prices. Most online platforms allow you to inquire and submit an offer online, which can help you negotiate for multiple vehicles and save you time. Once you’ve nailed down a fair price, it’s time to make the car yours.

Fill Out Paperwork

Contact the dealer to complete any necessary paperwork and schedule the delivery or pick-up of your new vehicle. Inspect your new car thoroughly to make sure it looks how you want it inside and out. Now that you’ve signed your name, enjoy driving your new vehicle! 

For more helpful tips on buying a car, visit our Buy a Car Life Guidance section.