Nowadays, you can get everything from tiramisu to toilet paper without ever stepping inside a store. So, why should buying a car be any different?
Granted, an automobile is a much larger investment than a fancy dessert or even a coveted 48-pack of TP. Still, you’d be surprised to discover how easy it is to leverage the power of the internet and electronic communication to transform a car-buying process that hasn’t changed much in decades.
Toward that end, we share six steps you’ll want to take to buy your next car (almost) completely online.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
While it may be tempting to skip ahead to the fun part of picking a vehicle, it’s best to start by determining how much car you can afford. Consult your bank or credit union to get pre-approved for financing.
ENJOY THE FUN PART
Spend some time thinking about your needs. Details such as the number of passengers or the size of the cargo you typically carry and any must-have features, like heated seats, should enter into the decision.
Visit automaker websites to explore the options available in various models. These sites also offer useful features, including 360-degree views that display your vehicle selection in different colors.
From there, move on to individual dealer websites to peruse their inventories.
CHECK IT OUT
Here is where the rubber literally meets the road. It’s also where the dealer’s internet sales manager comes in.
Contact the dealership (email is best so that you’ll have a written record of the exchange), explain which model you’re interested in, and arrange a test drive of the specific trim level you want. (Yes, you can skip the test drive, but we don’t recommend it.)
Once behind the wheel, pay attention not only to glaring deal-breakers, like a cramped back seat, but also to small things, such as whether the controls are easy to use with just a quick glance.
WORK THE DEAL
Knowledge is power, so gather information to determine a fair price in your area for the car you’d like. You can do that with a simple online search using the make and model you’re looking for and the words “dealer invoice”. Also, check the manufacturer’s website for available discounts, rebates, or special financing. Armed with this information, you’ll be in a position to negotiate the best price possible.
Don’t hesitate to contact more than one dealership until you find the exact car and deal you want.
JUST SAY NO
You can count on someone at the dealership hitting you up for the purchase of extra-cost products and services from upholstery/paint protection to an extended warranty. Be clear up front if you’re not interested in such add-ons. All are usually available elsewhere for significantly less money.
GET IT DELIVERED
Now that the heavy lifting is done, all that’s left is to get the keys and go. For the ultimate no-hassle car buying, many dealerships offer delivery.
Be sure to give both the vehicle and the paperwork a thorough look to resolve any possible problems before you sign on the dotted line.