Minimize Your Time at the Dealership and Shop for a Car from Home

Home shopping is the easiest, most comfortable, and probably the most fun way to purchase products. Considering cars are products, we should just be able to buy them online, however, that’s not currently the case since you still have to do a test drive and sign contracts.

According to Consumer Reports, “It’s not very common – and in some states impossible – to buy a car online.” Here’s how to save as much time as possible when car shopping and being at the dealership by doing most of the work from home.

Do your research

The first step is deciding what type of car you need (i.e. sedan, SUV, crossover, truck, etc.). Then you can think of what brands you’re interested in, if you’re not sure which best suits you, then hop online and check out different makes and models.

If you need help, you can always access resourceful websites like Motorbiscuit, Kelley Blue Book, or Edmunds (as well as many others) to point you in the right direction as car reviews and news articles can give you great insight into vehicles currently on the market.

Be sure to pay attention to certain features that you need and want as well as pricing, so that you can determine your budget.

Buying a Pickup Truck
Buying a Pickup Truck | Getty

Narrow down your search

Once you have figured out the type of car, makes and models that would best fit your needs and your budget, we suggest perusing car shopping websites like CarGurus or Autotrader to help you search for vehicles located within a certain radius from your home.

You might come up with a long list of cars that you want to check out in person, but it’s a good idea to really narrow down that list to maybe 3 to 4 cars. Not only will it save you time at the dealership, but it will make it easier for you to choose the perfect vehicle when the time comes. Of course, if you can narrow it down to one vehicle at this point, that would be best.

Reach out to the dealership

Now that you know which vehicle you want and where to get it, we suggest submitting your information on the dealership’s website. Nearly every dealer in the country has an Internet sales department devoted to assisting customers that submit their information online, so expect an e-mail and phone call response.

Set an appointment at a time that works best for you and affords you the most time that you can spend at the dealership. Unfortunately, you can’t buy a car in 10 minutes.

Sales associate shows a F-550 Ford truck to a potential buyer
Sales associate shows a F-550 Ford truck to a potential buyer | Dana Mixer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Figure out pricing beforehand

Fortunately, the pricing that the Internet department sends you is typically fair, and probably the lowest, price for the car. Feel free to price shop and look for the lowest price possible, however, do bear in mind that any room for negotiation at this point might lower the price by hundreds, NOT THOUSANDS, of dollars. Dealerships want to earn your business, but they have margins to stick to as well.

Also, if you’re financing a vehicle or plan on leasing, fill out a credit application on the dealer’s website or with a financial institution with the best rate. This will save lots of time later on.

Head to the dealership

Take a deep breath, this is the fun part! Meet with the salesperson at your appointment time, they should have the vehicle or vehicles waiting for you to drive to minimize time. After narrowing it down to the vehicle you want, you can start the paperwork since you already have the pricing figured out and the credit application done.

Important note: Remember to bring your driver’s license and current proof of insurance.

After that, you’ll sign the actual contract with the finance manager and drive home in your new car.

Best time to sell your car
VW Audi salesman sells car. | Yavuz Arslan/ullstein bild via Getty Images

It’s easier than you think

Buying a car can be daunting, but we advise you to follow these steps to make it as painless as possible. Car shopping might not be as easy as picking out your favorite hand sanitizer on Amazon, but it can still be quick if you do your research beforehand and figure out exactly what you want. You’ll still have to leave your house, but with the research and pricing squared away, we’re sure you’ll be just fine.