While there’s certainly some merits to buying cars online from private sellers, most buyers tend to find a dealership to be the easiest, most convenient option to buy a car. However, not all dealerships are the same. In addition to different brands and types of dealerships, the personalities of the people who work at the dealership can factor in, including the sales and finance staff. Not all dealerships have your best interests in mind, so it behooves you to make sure the dealership you pick is willing to give you the fairest deal possible. More than ever, prospective customers have the ability to gather information on a car before they ever reach the vehicle itself, so there's no excuse to not know what you're getting yourself into before you sign the contract. A dealer's used car might be better or worse than the market average, both as far as quality and price, but with this information at your fingertips, it's much better to have this information on hand before you contact the dealership to begin with.
Buying cars online is also a common method of retrieving a new vehicle, though the difficulty in this is that you may have unforeseen issues with the quality of the vehicle overall. When looking at a dealer’s used car, it’s important to know the reputation of the dealership as well. While most dealerships are honest, respectable establishments, it’s important to know the place you’re visiting is willing to give you a good deal. In the age of the internet, there’s no reason to go in blind when you can come into the transaction knowing the majority of important information. With enough research and communication, you can walk in, read the contract to make sure everything is in order, sign the papers and be driving off in no time at all! This convenience is a double-edged sword though, in that you can get lost in your own excitement and end up signing up for something that ends up being a bad deal in the long run. Patience and rationality are important, as getting too wrapped up in a vehicle that's too high priced or too low quality can end up leaving you regret your choices in the long run. With all that in mind, here are 5 signs to look for so you know that your experience buying cars online will be a positive one!
Inventory - Used cars inherently come with a little more variety than new cars. They can have quite the array of quality, but a dealership is more likely to put their newest and nicest cars towards the front of the lot, or wherever you’re most likely to see them passing by. They can often function as advertising for the dealership as well, representing the inventory as a whole as well as the upper end of what the dealership offers. If the very first few cars you see leave a lot to be desired, that can be a major red flag for the dealership as a whole. However, this does not necessarily mean that the quality of the dealership itself is lacking, rather their inventory is, and this may give them further motivation to try to give you a good deal, as they'd like to be rid of cars that they can't make a ton of profit from.
Reviews - In the age of the internet, a lot of people who have purchased a vehicle from the dealership in question will be likely to have left a review of the experience. Even if the dealer’s used car that you’re looking at online is nice, a review indicating that they use high-pressure sales tactics could be a good reason to look elsewhere for that vehicle. A bit of negotiation online before you go in can negate that, which is another good facet of buying cars online, or at the very least, looking them over before you indicate that you're interested in the vehicle in question. Look for reviews that mention any specific staff you'll likely have to deal with, any tactics that the dealership uses to clinch a sale, notes about pricing across their inventory, or anything else that gives you a sense of pause. If you don't think you'll be comfortable making the purchase given what you see in the reviews, it's okay to reconsider and look elsewhere. Car sales online mean that you're never that far away from finding that same vehicle elsewhere.
Warranty/Benefits - While it can be a headache to get a vehicle repaired, it’s far worse if you have to pay all the expenses for it out of pocket. Buying cars online does make this a bit easier, as a dealer’s used cars will generally have this information listed with the vehicle. If not, it may be listed on the website itself, or you can call the dealership yourself and ask about it! More often than not, a dealership will offer a warranty upfront, or at the other end, they may offer a car as-is, meaning that they can’t be held liable for the reliability or quality of the vehicle. These are the cheapest option, but are also usually the least reliable. If you're pretty familiar with the make and model of car that you're buying, and you have the tools and space to work on the vehicle, it may not be that big of a deal to handle the repairs yourself, but given that this isn't an option that everyone can do, keep your own circumstances in mind as you think about how you'll get the car fixed when it inevitably has an issue of some kind.
Clear, concise wording - All contracts inherently have a little bit of “legalese” to them, but it’s crucial to read over what you’re actually signing. A more unscrupulous dealer may be prone to making “mistakes” in the contract that benefit the dealership. Make sure you know exactly what you’re signing, what it’s going to cost in the short and long term, and the agreed upon method of resolving the issue should you not be able to pay the car note. Even if it’s unlikely, it’s always possible for financial misfortune to arise, so always be sure you know what the worst possible outcome is in regards to your vehicle. Being prepared is very rarely a bad thing, and knowing exactly what the contract says could benefit you in innumerable ways. Keep your credit score and finances in mind as well, as they can have a lot of sway over the final price of the car, as well as the monthly amount you'll be paying for it. That monthly price is important, but the overall price is far more important in the long run.
Pricing - While everyone wants to get a vehicle for cheap, a suspiciously cheap vehicle can be indicative of some much bigger issues. If your first thought is, “It can’t possibly be that cheap,” it almost certainly isn't, for one reason or another. The vehicle could be stolen or have other title related issues, there could be major mechanical issues, or a wide litany of other issues that you could be on the hook for if you aren’t careful. The car price used should be far under that of a brand new car, but beyond that, you should have a reasonable expectation of what the car should cost, especially if you’ve looked into resources like AutoTrader or Kelly Blue Book. Your down payment will also have a significant impact on the length of the loan, as well as the overall price,
Now that you know what to look for when buying cars online, any dealer’s used cars should give you an idea of what to expect from the dealership itself. Take a look at our inventory and see for yourself! We also offer financing, so you can take care of your whole transaction at our dealership and leave in a car you love!