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Car buying these days often isn’t the process your parents are used to. More and more consumers are completing part or all of the process online. One area that has seen growth in recent years is car loans. Shoppers are obtaining auto financing online before heading to the dealership. 

More buyers are getting car loans online

Online car loans, car financing
Online car loans are gaining popularity | Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

WardsAuto looked into the rising trend of potential car buyers completing the auto financing process online before heading to the dealership and recently shared the results of the Cox Automotive Car Buyer Financing Journey Study. The findings show that consumers are increasingly open to the concept of getting car financing online so they don’t have to go through the process in person at the dealership.

The Cox Automotive study reveals that some consumers are getting a jump start on their car financing earlier than ever these days. And though it’s still the case that only 29% of buyers applied for financing online for their most recent vehicle purchase, 96% of respondents indicated they would be willing to go that route. 

It’s also important to note that while a minority of buyers actually completed the car financing process online, 87% reported investigating their financing options before they headed to the dealership. This saved them a good deal of time once they were ready to make a purchase. 

Consumers have turned to online car buying too

The Cox Automotive study also revealed some interesting data about consumer attitudes toward purchasing vehicles entirely online. For one, more than 75% of those who responded to the survey indicated they were willing to consider purchasing a car entirely online. 

“We’ll eventually hit a point when more cars than not are bought online,” Angela Drake, Cox Automotive’s senior marketing research manager, told WardsAuto. “It’s definitely the future and will continue to grow as more digital tools become available.”

In fact, a growing number of online retailers aim to make it easier than ever to purchase a car entirely through the internet. 

Here are some of the best online car buying websites

If you’re interested in hopping on the trend of car buying online, you’ll want to look into the retailers that were named the best online car buying sites according to Consumer Affairs. 

Number one on the list is Carvana, which is known largely for its innovative vending machine–style service. Carvana has the advantage of allowing a seven-day return window if you’re not satisfied with your purchase. It also offers the assurance that it will never sell cars that have been involved in accidents. However, keep in mind that frequently rescheduled deliveries have been the subject of some consumer complaints against Carvana.

A popular alternative is CarMax, which gets high marks for its customer service. CarMax also offers quick car financing, but its prices can be on the higher side, and you may have to wait up to three days for delivery of your vehicle, even if you’re local. Another thing to keep in mind: CarMax sells only used vehicles.

Autotrader is another site where you can purchase vehicles online, but it operates by connecting you directly with dealerships. It can also link you with potential lenders through LendingTree. 

For those not interested in working with dealerships, Tred can connect you to private sellers. Tred offers customers secure payments and a 60-day money-back guarantee. It also runs background checks on sellers and thoroughly reviews vehicle histories before agreeing to list them.  

Finally, there’s TrueCar, which, like AutoTrader, compiles lists of vehicles directly from dealerships. TrueCar will let you know the list price alongside the MSRP for each vehicle so that you can clearly see any potential savings. 

Online car loans and car buying are the wave of the future. The more you can learn about all your options, the better off you’ll be when the time comes for you to hit the keyboard for your next vehicle purchase.


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