4 tips to remember when buying a car online

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The car buying process works differently in 2022 than it did decades ago. With many other resources available on the internet, it is easier to compare the best used car prices. You can avoid the dealership and pushy car salespeople by buying your car online.

Websites like Autotrader and Carfax have listings where you can buy cars directly from reputable dealerships. You don’t need to go to a dealer if you buy a car from Carvana or CarMax. Buying a car online always involves risks: always take a few precautions if you choose this route.

1. Do your research

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There are many cars on the market today, so finding the one that best suits your lifestyle is crucial. If you have a growing family, it may make more sense to buy an SUV than a two-row sedan. Drivers with long commutes might consider more efficient vehicles like hybrids and electric vehicles.

Once you know what car you want, you can search for it at different dealerships with online search tools. Most dealerships list their available cars online or through a third party like Carfax. These lists usually also tell you if the vehicle has been in an accident or has significant issues.

If the car you want is not available at a dealership, you may be able to purchase it from a private seller. Although it is possible to buy a vehicle legitimately this way, many scammers also seek to take advantage of innocent drivers.

When working with a private buyer, always ask for the car’s VIN. It is recommended to run this number in the NICB checker to make sure it has not been stolen.

You will also want to document all the details of your transaction in writing. Ask the seller to show you the title of the vehicle and make sure their matching name is on the document. Always have the car inspected by a professional before you commit to buying it.

2. Consider additional shipping costs

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Many car dealerships that operate exclusively online will ship a car to your doorstep, often for free. However, if you are buying a car online from an out-of-state dealership, you may need to hire an out-of-state transportation company. When looking for an auto shipping service, your first priority is to find one with good reviews.

Access Auto Insurance advises readers to check if a transport company will transport the car to their area. Ask the company what they charge for shipping, including any additional fees. Confirm when the car will be picked up and how long it will take to arrive at your home.

3. Don’t Forget Shipping Security

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Cars are expensive purchases, so you don’t want to skimp on safe transportation. If you want your car to arrive in the best condition, work with a shipping company that provides closed shipping. Your car will be shipped in a bricked-up trailer with full protection from the elements.

Every auto transport company should also have the dealership sign a bill of lading. This confirms the condition of the vehicle before it arrives at your home. If the car is damaged before or during transport, this document will help you recover your money.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Photos from a dealership often don’t tell the whole story of a car, so don’t hesitate to ask for additional details. A dealership associate might be more than happy to give you a “tour” of the car via video call.

Although there are some exceptions, you generally cannot test drive a car you have purchased online before it is delivered. With that in mind, check that the dealership has a return policy valid for at least seven days. This should give you plenty of time to catch any noticeable performance issues and have the car returned.

RELATED: Here Are the Pros of Buying a Used Car Online (And Some Cons)

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