Is Buying A Car Online Really Worth It?

The month I decided to try and conquer one of my biggest fears — buying a car completely online. I’ve seen commercials and advertisements all over the television and browser and decided it was time to buy something new and more reliable, well, new to me. I decided to check out HGreg because it is a reputable online dealership for used cars, like Carvana, and they just so happened to have the weirdly specced BMW X4 M40i I was looking for, and the price was pretty competitive. At the end of the day there were several factors that led me to make the trip to a dealership instead, but is it worth it for some buyers to look online.

Why I liked the online car buying experience

I had already test-driven the car that I wanted to look at so I was confident that it was the car for me. There were a few things about the process that made it incredibly easy and stress-free, and if going to a dealership right now, or in general, gives you heartburn then starting your search online is a great way to get started. Buying a car completely online, however, is a pretty new ball game to most people, and it’s pretty intimidating at the surface. 

BMW X4 luxury crossover SUV on display at Brussels Expo
The 2020 BMW X4 luxury crossover SUV | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

Working with the salesperson online was less intimidating than having someone trying to up-sell you on different cars and packages, and you get to handle the whole experience on your own terms. The salesperson I worked with at HGreg was very responsive to all of my questions and answered any concerns that I had about the car itself, the financing portion of the sale, or any warranty information I was looking for. 

I also had the opportunity to research the car thoroughly and using the VIN I was able to see what the car’s manufacturing specifications were — meaning what packages and options the car had —and contact my local dealership to see if there were any applicable recall for the car. I could price comparison with other cars in my area and make sure I was getting the car for the price I was looking for, and the application process told me everything I needed to know prior to finalizing my pick up. 

Why I inevitably didn’t buy online

There were some unfortunate downsides I experienced, and it isn’t anything that you don’t get from a normal car dealership. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some great experiences at car dealerships, and some not so stellar ones — this just happened to not be so stellar for me. Regardless of the circumstances, you are still working with a salesperson, and this is the part that I avoid the dealership for. I have nothing against salespeople at the car dealership, but at the end of the day it is a business and you have to acknowledge that they, just like the dealership itself, are there to make money. 

A white Porsche Cayenne Hybrid on display at an auto show
A Porsche Cayenne Hybrid | MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

Consumer Reports Best Tips For Buying A Used Car

For me, the pressure of buying a car online, completing the financing for the purchase, and have never even seen the car in person was just too stressful. I also of course got the standard “someone else is interested, so you need to buy it now” call from the salesperson, and its the same call I’ve gotten a dozen times before. I didn’t fall for it and neither should you. Sure enough, the car was still there the next morning, but I wasn’t. I decided it was worth it enough for me to see the car in person. 

Buying a car online requires thorough research and a lot of trust in the overall system, and buying from a large, reputable online car dealership can help ease some of the stress, but for me it wasn’t worth saving the trip to the dealership in the end.