Here are the Advantages of Buying a Used Car Online (and Some Disadvantages)

Shopping for a used car can be a downright pain, especially if you have to go from dealership to dealership to find the right one. However, online retailers like Carvana, CarMax, and Vroom have made buying a used car a nearly virtual experience. You only need to log onto the site, pick the right car, arrange the payment, and then have it delivered to your home. And while that process is pretty simple, there are some advantages and disadvantages to buying a car completely online.

The advantages of buying a used car online

A toy car on a keyboard.
A toy car on a keyboard. | Getty Images

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Unlike shopping for a used car at a traditional car dealership, buying one online means that you can reserve it immediately and pick when you want it delivered to you. Here are some other additional advantages that Tuscon.com has pointed out:

  • More transparency: When buying a used car online, all of the fees, taxes, and registration dues are clearly laid out so you’ll know exactly how much you will pay for the car. Some unscrupulous dealerships, on the other hand, tend to hide extra fees.
  • No need to negotiate: Do you hate having to negotiate with the guy in the shirt and tie sitting across from you? No worries! When buying a used car online, the price you see is the price you’ll pay.
  • It’s more convenient: It’s hard to carve out a few hours out of your day to visit a car dealership and go through the sales process. When you buy a car online, you can peruse the inventory whenever you have free time and the buying process is usually much quicker as you can sign all of documents electronically.
  • A warranty is included: Many online used car retailers offer a seven or 30-day warranty with every purchase. They even offer an extended warranty as well.

The disadvantages of buying a used car online

In this photo illustration, the Carvana logo is displayed on a smartphone.
In this photo illustration, the Carvana logo is displayed on a smartphone. | Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

For every advantage of buying a car online, there’s also a disadvantage. One of the biggest downsides to buying a car online is that you can’t test drive it first. That’s right, you just have to point, click, buy, and then cross your fingers that you made a good decision. Here are some other downsides:

  • Only used cars can be purchased online: Due to federal law, new cars have to be sold at franchise dealers and can’t be sold online. That means all of your online car shopping is reserved for the used variety only.
  • Fewer options when trading in your car: If you plan on trading in your current car and still owe money on it, then you’ll need to add that remaining amount onto the down payment for the new(er) car that you’re buying. Traditional dealers will usually tack on that remaining amount to the price of the newer car, but when buying online, you don’t have that luxury.
  • You can’t inspect the car before purchasing it: Just like not being able to test drive the car before purchasing it online, you can’t inspect it either.
  • Online dealers don’t have older cars: Looking for a $5,000 used car? Unfortunately, an online retailer won’t have older cars like that. They usually stock relatively newer cars in their inventories.

More online used car buying tips

Selling and buying used cars at the online shop.
Selling and buying used cars at the online shop. | Classen/ullstein bild via Getty Images

If you find a used car that you like on one of the retailer’s sites and are planning to take the plunge, here are some additional buying tips:

  • Test drive another car of the same make and model: Since you can’t drive the car that you want before purchasing, it’s a good idea to find another car of the same make and model to drive to make sure you like it. You can check your local dealerships for one or even rent one from sites like Turo.com
  • Shop around for a loan: While all of the online retailers offer financing, some of them have really high rates. In that case, make sure to shop around for a lower financing rate before buying the car. You could save a lot of money in the end.
  • Get the car inspected: While you can return the car your just bought, you only have a seven-day window. During that time, it’s a good idea to have the car inspected by a qualified mechanic to see if there’s anything that needs fixing.

Buying a used car online is a quick and convenient process, however, it does take some attention to detail to get the perfect car that you want. Fortunately, it also takes the leg work of having to go from dealer to dealer, so the trade-off is worth it in the end.

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