Best ways to buy a car online

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on April 20, 2022 Fact Checked
Best ways to buy a car online

Buying a car has evolved from navigating dealerships and haggling salespeople to a convenient online process.

Traditionally, buying a new car has revolved around setting aside weekends after researching the market to visit dealerships and test-drive new sets of wheels. Now, car buying has evolved with the times, with online car shopping offering flexibility without the need for leave your home. Here we’ll take a look at some of the best ways to buy a car online and factors you should consider before purchase.


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    Research through online platforms

    Whether you’re looking for something fresh off the manufacturing line or a second-hand run-around, online platforms can provide an overview of the market, vehicle offerings and details to facilitate online purchases.

    Platforms such as CarSales, Carsguide, and Autotrader are the primary platforms when it comes to searching for a vehicle online. These sites usually list price guides and model history, vehicle comparisons, latest news and model reviews.

    If you’ve scrolled far enough and finally locked eyes on a vehicle that could be ‘the one’, these platforms can connect you with dealerships offering an online buying experience, meaning they have the potential to take control of all the guesswork - all you have to do is take the vehicle for a spin, have your finances in order and sign on the dotted line.

    Before committing to an online purchase, it’s important to test drive the vehicle you have your eyes set on, ensuring it lives up to more than just its facade - otherwise you may be left with a severe case of buyer’s remorse. New cars are far less likely to have any defects than a used vehicle, but they aren’t perfect, nor are the people in charge of looking after them on the lot. 

    Options when buying a car online

    There are a few options if you want to buy a car online, either directly or indirectly through a car buying service. For used cars, an auction service could also be the way to go.

    Direct with manufacturer or dealership

    In the modern automotive landscape, more than a handful of manufacturers are now allowing customers to buy a new car online, organise contactless deliveries and provide you with the equivalent of a digital showroom to compare different colours, interior options and features. 

    From choosing your ideal make and model, colours and accessories, most dealerships will offer the ability to place an order online - even delivering a demo to your doorstep to test-drive in the comfort of your own suburb.

    However if you don’t want to deal with a dealership, a car buying service could be up your alley.

    Car buying service

    Car buying services eliminate the need for you to negotiate with dealerships directly. Car buying services or car brokers usually work with a network of dealerships and source the most competitive price for you. They often get access to fleet pricing, too. Their cost is often baked into the final sales price of the car, but the ultimate savings could be worth it. Services include:

    • OnlineAuto - OnlineAuto’s ‘buying specialists’ can help you find a suitable model for your needs, as well as potentially save you money on the deal through its bulk-buying business model, and can even organise the car to be delivered to your door.

    • CarConnect - Those in the market for a new ride can choose from a new car or a second-hand model, with CarConnect working with dealerships to help you find the best fit for your needs, aiming to take out the negotiation phase to help all parties get the best deal possible.

    • Cars24 - The newest player to the online car buying scene, Indian start-up CARS24 now allows Australians to buy used cars from home in under five minutes, with the car then delivered to their door.

    Car auction websites

    Auction houses including Pickles, Manheim, and GraysOnline allow you to tune into auctions online and bid from the comfort of your home. From there if you’re the winning bidder you can usually organise for the vehicle to be delivered to your door.

    The major downside of car auctions is that you usually can’t test drive the vehicle prior to purchase. However you can organise for an independent mechanic to go and inspect the vehicle.

    Keep in mind it’s always best to do your research and take precautions before locking yourself into a deal, including booking an inspection and ensuring the paperwork is up to date, that way you don’t end up with a lemon.

    Read more: How to negotiate buying a car

    Why buy a car online?

    If you are in the market for a new set of wheels, a few ways buying a car online may be of benefit to you include:

    • Time is on your side: Going online lets you do your research, comparisons and bargain hunting at your own pace. It also lets you look over more vehicles more efficiently and do it outside the pressured environment of a car dealership.

    • Knowing what you want: If you have a clear indication of the car you desire or have specific needs such as a handicapped-accessible van or an off-roading truck, you may find it online faster. In addition, if you find a model online that’s available at a dealership nearby with the same specs, you could use that in your negotiations.

    • Removing the middle man: Another drawcard to buying a car online is not having to negotiate with the sharks that can be car salespeople. This means you don’t have to haggle or be persuaded into a sale, you can walk away simply walk away at the click of a button.

    • Don’t want to test drive: One of the biggest factors in buying a car is the test drive. Many people have test driven the car they wanted, only to get out thinking it’s not the one, leaving them scratching their head for what to do next. If you’ve watched enough online videos and read enough reviews, you might feel comfortable without a test drive. Since online dealerships typically have seven-day ‘change of mind’ guarantees, you may be able to try the car for a week to determine if it’s the one.

    Financing an online car purchase

    If you have found your next set of wheels but don’t have the savings stashed away to purchase it outright, there’s a number of key considerations to factor in before agreeing to financing.

    Consider the interest rate on offer, whether the loan is secured or unsecured and ultimately how this could change depending on the market. It’s important to also weigh up the loan terms, which can typically range between one to seven-years, depending on your financial circumstances.

    Typically, the shorter the loan term, the less interest you’re going to pay, but this requires more substantial regular payments. Longer-term financing deals will mean you pay more interest over time. You could also consider a loan with a balloon payment that you will pay to your lender at the end of the car loan term to offset high monthly repayments.

    Read more: What makes a good car loan?

    Savings.com.au and OnlineAuto.com.au are both associates of the Firstmac Group.


    Image by Alex Suprun via Unsplash

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    Jacob Cocciolone joined the Savings team in 2021 as a Finance Journalist. Driven by a passion for keeping Australians up to date with the latest financial news and trends, his areas of interest include financial technology, investing, property and motoring.

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