Online buying has plenty of advantages over the traditional car-buying process. You can spend less time bouncing from dealership to dealership and leave the face-to-face negotiation process behind. Concierge buying services like Carvana even make it possible to buy a car and have it delivered without meeting the dealer.
Some manufacturers, like Tesla, are jumping on board with online buying, too. While you can view their cars in the showroom, you’re the one who completes the purchasing process—either online or from a designated kiosk.
1. Budget out a new car
Don’t waste time shopping for cars you can’t afford. Knowing your budget before you approach the online buying process will ensure that you don’t get stuck with a car loan that doesn’t work for you.
The key to successful budgeting is to think in terms of total costs. The best loan is the one that will cost the least over the long term—but if you only consider the monthly payments, you could end up paying more than you have to.
When it comes to factoring in total costs, you have to look at more than just the car’s price tag. You will need to factor in
APRto calculate how much interest you’ll pay over the loan term.
Using an online loan calculator tool will make the initial budgeting process a lot easier, so don’t hesitate to take advantage.
Once you calculate the total interest, you’ll need to consider other costs—things like buying fees, sales taxes, fuel costs, parking expenses, maintenance costs, and insurance. While many expenses are fixed, insurance is one area where you can definitely find savings.
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Key TakeawayLooking at total costs instead of monthly payments will help you save money in the long term.
2. Get pre-approved
You should never approach a dealer without getting pre-approved for a car loan—and this applies to the online buying process as well.
Online car-buying sites like
Carvanacut out the middle man so you can pre-qualify before you start shopping—but it’s still a good idea to shop around.
You may get a small deduction on your credit score for multiple soft inquiries. Try to do all your shopping in a 14-day grace period to minimize the impact.
Key TakeawayGetting pre-approved for a loan will help you approach the buying process with confidence.
3. Find the right car
Now that you have a price in mind, you can use car-buying sites, dealership pages, or concierge services to narrow down your search.
Begin by filtering for your price range, then continue to whittle your search down according to the features that you need and want.
Once you have some good options in mind, use online resources like
Edmundsto research the model in more depth and get a better idea of the price you can expect to pay. Then it’s time to narrow down your search by details like color and trim level.
Key TakeawayStart your search by exploring models in your price range and narrow it down from there.
4. Look for deals
Before zeroing in on your top pick, make sure that you aren’t missing out on any opportunities to save.
Taking the time to explore the following options might help you walk away with a better price.
Manufacturers often have appealing incentives on new vehicles to help boost their sales. Be sure to check out the manufacturer’s website for potential savings opportunities. Taking advantage of low-interest financing offers or cash rebate programs can help you save thousands in the long run.
Dealership websites make it easy to search their inventory online from the comfort of your own home. You can contact your local dealership and receive an email quote. Some sites will even let you contact multiple dealers at once to quickly compare the best offers on the same vehicle.
Outside your area
If finding the best price is a priority, it might be worthwhile to consider shopping outside your immediate area.
Sometimes the selection of vehicles is limited by location. For instance, rural dealerships tend to boast a better selection of full-size trucks, while urban dealerships typically have more to offer in terms of electric or hybrid models.
You can use sites like
cars.comto find the best dealership offers, regardless of distance. Some dealers offer home delivery options during the pandemic. You might have room to negotiate on dealership delivery costs when you deal with them directly.
Regardless of what type of vehicle you’re searching for, concierge sites like Carvana offer out-of-area delivery options that might be worth your while if you can find a good deal elsewhere. Even better, you can complete the deal online from start to finish, without having to worry about signing documents in person.
Key TakeawayUsing the Internet to shop for cars makes it easier to find the best deals, regardless of your location.
5. Contact the sales department
Handling the negotiation process online can take a lot of the stress and pressure out of face-to-face interactions.
Once you find an offer you like, you can contact the sales department by email or chat. Start by discussing the type of car that you would like to buy. Once you’ve established that they either have it in stock or can order it in, you can discuss
If you want to forgo the negotiation process altogether, online concierge services offer non-negotiable price points. The upside is that you won’t get slapped with extra dealership fees and can enjoy perks like guaranteed 7-day returns and 100 days of warranty coverage on your purchase.
Negotiating car sales online
If you’re intimidated by the idea of negotiating a car sale, you’re not alone—but you could miss out on some major opportunities to save money if you don’t negotiate.
Most dealers initially offer a slightly higher purchase price with the expectation that they will have to negotiate. Individual dealerships are highly motivated to sell and will often be willing to hash out a favorable compromise if it means moving a car off the lot.
Dealers are skilled at in-person negotiations and can pull out various tricks and tactics to disarm buyers. Thankfully, most of these distraction tactics just don’t fly when negotiating in writing. For this reason, eliminating face-to-face interaction when negotiating a car sale will often work in your favor.
One of the perks of negotiating your car sale online is having a written copy of every deal that was offered. The dealers can’t rely on fast-talking to slip any numbers over your head. You’ll also have ample time to carefully consider and compare offers before you respond.
Carefully consider your offer
Keep the conversation focused around the out-of-the-door price
Ensure that you’re always speaking in terms of the total out-of-the-door price when you negotiate. This isn’t the same as the sticker price, sale price, or MSPR.
The out-of-the-door price includes all relevant interest costs and fees—it’s the total that you’ll be paying.
Avoid volunteering any personal details off the start
Introducing too much personal information into the conversation can easily distract from the bottom line and put the sales representative at an advantage.
Communicating online will allow you to direct the conversation to the questions you want answered. Once you agree, you can discuss the details like monthly payment options, potential trade-ins, and pre-approved car loans.
Don’t be afraid to walk away
Online negotiation eliminates much of the emotional component that can make buyers vulnerable during face-to-face interactions.
If something isn’t sitting right about how the representative is communicating, there’s no need to stick it out. You can use the same convenient online car buying options discussed above to quickly procure another offer on a similar vehicle.
If you get a reasonable offer, you can use it as leverage to let other dealerships know that this is the price that they need to beat. Online shopping buys you plenty of time to compare offers, so why not use a good deal to land an even better one?
Key TakeawayNegotiating your car's price online can put you at an advantage. You can use online concierge services to skip the negotiation process completely.
6. Test drive the car
New cars can have defects, and it’s important to test drive them to ensure everything is in good working order. Ask to test drive the exact car you’re buying rather than a demo.
You can always visit the dealership in person, but online buying may open up other options.
Online concierge services typically offer a grace period to test drive your car and return if necessary. Some dealerships also offer at-home test drives or grace periods to try the vehicle after it is delivered.
7. Find insurance
You’ll need to have car insurance before you can drive your new car, so don’t leave it until the last minute.
Using an intelligent, AI-based tool like
Jerryis the easiest and most effective way to find a car insurance policy customized for you.
After providing you with a comprehensive cross-analysis of the best policies across providers, Jerry will handle the phone calls, paperwork, and renewals for your top pick so that you don’t have to. So why do all that extra work when Jerry can do it better?
8. Make it official and buy your new car
You may have to visit the dealership in person to sign the documents, but no-touch sales are becoming increasingly common, so don’t hesitate to ask if this option is available.
Post-online negotiations, you should already have an out-of-the-door sales price and your financing options in place. Bring any relevant documentation along to your meeting.
If you’re using an outside lender, ask your dealership what type of paperwork you’ll need to have on hand to complete the sale.
The dealership will also conduct a final appraisal on any car you’re trading in. You’ll likely get less than you would if you sold the car privately, but trade-in value can help minimize the impact of high state sales taxes and saving you time and energy.
After you review all the contract details, the last thing to do is sign the paperwork. Ensure that the numbers discussed during the negotiation process line up and that nothing is left blank. Don’t sign if there are any omissions or inaccuracies. It’s far more difficult to alter paperwork after you sign.
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