The car buying game is changing. What used to be a hassle is now made easier by online selling marketplaces and tools that allow you to shop for new and used vehicles from the comfort of your own home. You can do everything from researching models to negotiating prices in just a single afternoon. While shopping online can be convenient, though, it can also be risky. Since 2014, more than 26,000 families have reported falling victim to online scammers advertising vehicle sales. Many dealerships now have a dedicated online portal for car shoppers, while secure ecommerce sites such as TrueGether make it easy to look at deals from private vendors and businesses without having to worry about common Internet scams. Here are some tips on how you can safely navigate the online automotive marketplace and find the car of your dreams at a price you can afford.
Set a Budget
When picking out your dream car, you’re probably most concerned with aspects such as space, size, seating, and power. While it’s important to look for a vehicle that suits your unique lifestyle, you should also be sure to consider your budget. Look for a make and model that falls within a realistic price range. Even if you have plenty of money saved up in the bank, models with poor fuel economy or high insurance premiums can cut into your disposable income each month for years to come.
To figure out what you can expect to pay for a given car, you should research its local Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). This is the price tag that retailers in your area charge for a particular make, model, and year of vehicle. Compare this to the invoice price, which is what car dealerships pay the manufacturer. These numbers should give you a rough idea of what a fair amount for your chosen car might be. You can also use online tools to check out recent transactions and find out what other shoppers are paying for a vehicle.
As with any large purchase, you should shop around before committing to any online seller. Spending a bit of time and effort looking for the best price can end up saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Many ecommerce sites have user-friendly tools that allow shoppers to compare local vehicle prices at a glance. You can also contact dealerships for an online price quote. Some have simple contact forms that you can fill out, while others require you to contact a representative via email. You can then compare these quotes to the car’s MSRP and invoice price to see if you’re getting a fair deal.
In addition to shopping around for the best price on a car model, it’s also a good idea to compare financing rates from different banks and credit unions. Many lenders have online portals that allow you to easily see the rates and terms for which you might be eligible. You may be able to find a lower annual percentage rate, or APR, through a third party rather than accepting the dealership’s offer.
Haggle for a Better Price
Not all online quotes that you receive from car sellers are set in stone. Many are willing to negotiate a better deal for the customer, as long as their demands are reasonable. If a car is priced too high, you may be able to get a better offer by mentioning the fair market value and invoice price of the vehicle.
Often, you can get dealerships to offer a lower price by showing them the fair market value and invoice price. Don’t forget that not all quotes are completely transparent. You should always ask for an itemized document that lays out extra fees and add-ons. Removing unnecessary and unwanted options from your bill can end up significantly lowering the final price of your vehicle.
You may also be able to negotiate a trade-in deal with an online seller, especially if you’re buying from a local dealership. Many establishments have trade-in options that allow you to get a discount on your new car by bringing in your old one. You may be able to get more cash for your old vehicle by accepting a trade-in offer from sites like CarMax or by selling privately.
In addition to using trade-ins as a haggling tool, it’s also a good idea to research rebates and financing incentives. If you get preapproval for a loan from your bank or credit union, you can use it as leverage to ask for a better rate from your dealership. Some are able to offer low monthly financing, especially to buyers with good credit.
Only Shop Through Secure Sites
When buying a car online, it can be easy to fall victim to scams. As the virtual marketplace continues to grow, more and more scammers are targeting people buying vehicles online. Tens of millions of dollars are lost every year to fraudulent car sales.
Before committing to a purchase, always take a few moments to verify a seller’s credibility. Dealership websites are usually secure, but it can be harder to tell with other online marketplaces. To see whether or not a platform is trustworthy, you can check their history with the Better Business Bureau or turn to online ratings and reviews from other customers.
If you’re sending money online, always make sure it’s through a secure connection. Most ecommerce websites offer purchase protection to reduce the financial risk for customers. You can also get protection through common payment platforms such as PayPal.
Inspect the Vehicle
While most of the car-buying process can be done online these days, some things you still have to do in person. Before signing any papers, you should get a good look at the vehicle you plan to purchase. Either head out to the dealership lot or meet private sellers at an agreed-upon location where you can closely examine and possibly test drive the car. If it’s a used vehicle, don’t forget to get an auto history report.
Researching, negotiating, and purchasing a vehicle is easier than ever thanks to the rise of the online automotive marketplace. You can compare prices and find the best deals in the area without ever having to leave your living room. Just remember, though—it’s always a good idea to see a new car for yourself before finalizing any purchase.