purchasing a car online
Saving Money

Is Purchasing a Car Online The Future?

It has become the norm to buy various items online, such as clothes, household goods, and even groceries. But some consumers have now started purchasing another item — cars. Purchasing a car online has surged in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. As we were forced to keep our distance from one another, online shopping became our only outlet.

Consumers have quickly realized how convenient and easy it is to make such a huge purchase with the click of a button. Instead of perusing around various cold car lots, they can simply shop from the comfort of their homes. In many ways, a dream reality for busy families.

While, in theory, it all sounds optimistic and straightforward, the question is: Should you be making such a big purchase without seeing it in real life? Or is this the way all car buying should be? Fast, easy, and without fuss seems like a good way to approach a car buying decision.

While history favors the in-person buying process, especially for a new car, is it worth the effort? Let’s find out.

Researching Your Car Online

Both new and used car buyers now prefer the online research process. A recent survey suggests that over two-thirds of American citizens complete all of their car research online. This process includes researching different makes and models, browsing available car advertisements, comparing prices of different vehicles, and calculating loan repayments. Social media and the chat option on car dealership websites are often utilized to learn about the car buying market before making a purchase.

While becoming informed about your purchase by attaining information online is something every responsible consumer should do, as knowledge is power, it is still different from actually completing a vehicle purchase online without seeing it.

Differences in Buying a New or Used Car Online

The shopping experience for a new or used car can be an entirely different process. In fact, it greatly differs if you buy your next car online.

When it comes to completing a car purchase exclusively online, it may be easier for someone who is buying a new car as most of the photos and specifications come from stock photos. It is nearly guaranteed that everything will be in working pristine order. Which means, you also don’t need to worry about underlying issues from extensive wear-and-tear.

For used cars, various attributes need to be looked at in person. This includes imperfections on the exterior of the car and problems with the engine. All of which are easier to inspect if it is seen by the buyer. Several online car-buying websites, like Autotrader, make the process a little easier at least. Because the vehicles on the website have already been vetted prior to posting it online, consumers can have a greater sense of security about the integrity of the vehicle.

The Pros of Purchasing a Car Online

The biggest pro about buying a car online is that it is not as time-consuming. Rather than physically going to car lots and dealerships to look at a range of cars, online shoppers can browse everything directly from a screen. Not many people want to spend their entire weekend or multiple weekends trying to find the perfect purchase. Buying a car online cuts out this labor-intensive process. In the search bar, you put in the criteria you want, and the car that suits you comes up. It streamlines the buying process so that obligations, like filling out the paperwork, can be done at a time that suits the buyer.

Another excellent pro of purchasing a car online is it cuts out the negotiation and haggling process. Typically, the prices are clearly advertised, the customer is vetted, and the down payment is received. All the numbers are just automatically updated as the process continues. Usually, when buying a car exclusively online, the price is non-negotiable. Both parties are happier about it.

Along with no negotiations, there is also no sales pressure. When expressing interest in a car within a dealership, it can sometimes feel like the salesperson is putting pressure to complete a sale. While many salespeople are lovely and easy to deal with, a significant percentage of people would rather not deal with a car salesperson again, if possible. Buying online avoids this process in every way.

Just like buying items of clothing online, once you complete the purchase of your new car online, it will be delivered straight to your home. And even better, at your convenience.

The Cons of Buying a Car Online

The biggest negative to buying a vehicle online is that you cannot inspect it before buying it. A lot of car dealerships and selling websites will give extensive photos of the car, especially if it’s used, however, nothing takes the place of actually seeing it in real life. When you view the vehicle in person, you can pick up on any suspect details that were glorified in photos.

Another significant disadvantage is not being able to test drive the car before purchasing it. It is a disadvantage for two reasons. One, you can’t check the car and engine for any obvious faults. Two, you may not like driving the car. If the car doesn’t suit you, how will you know before purchasing it? Ultimately, you get stuck with your purchase, especially if you have financing.

Many car dealerships now offer a hybrid experience to combat these issues. You can research different models and talk to salespeople online like you normally would. As a bonus, the traditional test drive is provided if desired.

Also, if you are looking for options for financing your car, if you buy it online, there may be a limited selection. It could restrict your option to either one or a small number of viable lenders. You can always retrieve the financing independently before buying a car to get around this problem. However, the process may become more complicated.


While there are several positive and negative attributes to buying a car online, the choice is really down to you. It seems like online car research is something that nearly every buyer does before taking the leap into the automotive market.

The complete purchase of a vehicle online is gaining popularity every year, and it is where the automotive market is heading. We buy everything else online why not our cars?

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Ryan Clancy
Ryan Clancy is a freelance writer and blogger. With 5+ years of mechanical engineering experience, he's passionate about all things engineering and tech. He loves bringing engineering (especially mechanical) down to a level that everyone can understand. Ryan lives in Miami, and writes about everything engineering and tech at sites like Forbes, Engineering360, Clinked, MakeUseOf, Mechanical Engineering HQ, and many more.

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