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Do’s And Don’ts When Buying A Car Online

Ben Gribbin

Ben Gribbin

June 7, 2019

Award winning automotive writer with experience rebuilding Land Rovers.
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The way we shop has evolved thanks to the power of the internet. Where in the past we would have trailed out to the high street or to the supermarket for the essential and non-essential items we wanted, in today's modern society, we need only sit back in the comfort of our homes and complete our shopping needs at the click of a button. Of course, this isn't so great for high street retailers, although many of them have also set themselves up with a website to ensure they have a survivability in business. And when it comes to shopping, this also relates to our motoring needs. Not only can we buy car parts online, as well as any fancy gadgets we might choose to pimp our rides with, but we can also buy a car online as well. Whether we are looking to buy something new straight from the manufacturer, or something that is second-hand, and perhaps more attuned to our budget, we need only head online to do a Google search to find what we are looking for. This can give us the opportunity to widen our search parameters, so rather than scour our town and city for a decent motor, we can, thanks to the internet, widen our geographical search to include other parts of the country. Still, while buying a car online offers us choice and convenience, there are risks involved in doing so. We will look at some of them in this article, with a handy list of do's and don'ts that we hope will help you the next time you're on the lookout for a new motor.

Do shop around

There are hundreds of car websites online, whether you're looking for classified listings for something cheap and second-hand, or looking at dealer websites on the hunt for something new or approved used. We have just linked in Land Rover's site, but you might also want to check out other popular websites, such as Autocar and Auto Trader which cover nearly all models and price ranges for the potential car buyer. When you're shopping around, be sure to make a note of the cars you like online, and then do a Google search for those sites that might offer you a more attractive price for the type of car you are interested in. You can then do as we suggest below and narrow down your search on your hunt for a car.

Do narrow down your search

Choice can be a blessing and a burden. While there are hundreds of websites available to you, you might eventually get overwhelmed with the choice of cars on offer. Therefore, narrow down your search, and in either the Google search engine or the relevant site's search parameter, enter such details as the price, car model, and location to place a limit on your options. You might then have less trouble finding the right car for you and coming to a decision, and hopefully, you will then be able to pick up your new car in no time.

Don't forget to commit to research

Image source: Thanks to the internet, you also have the opportunity to check out reviews and media reports of the cars you are interested in. This is especially useful, as while you should make the effort to see the car you are buying before purchase, you don't want to waste your time travelling across the country only to decide you don't like the car when you're up close and personal with it. Therefore, look for buyers guides online. Read consumer and expert reviews. And check news reports for common car faults prevalent within the brand and model you are considering. Think about your criteria too, and create a checklist. Is the car right for your family's needs? Is it economical to run? Does it have the latest safety features installed? You have Google at your disposal, as well as the wisdom and opinion of the car buying public, so do as much research as you can. This will help you narrow down your search further, and when it comes time to visit the car, there will be less chance of you leaving disappointed.

Don't forget to check the car's history

So, you have scoured the internet, and you have Googled every conceivable search term to help you narrow down your search, and you have finally found the car you like. That's great news, but you still need to keep your fingers at the keyboard before you commit to a decision. While you will have less to worry about when buying something brand new, you do need to check the history of a car if you're buying it second-hand. The owner should have the vehicle history report, and they might even email you a copy if you want to see it before visiting the car. However, you can also run some online checks too. These include an MOT Search, as if you have the registration number to hand, you can easily find out whether the car has passed or failed its MOT, and check on the car's mileage. You should also do an HPI Check, as this is an effective way to discover vital information about the car you want to buy. Has it been stolen? Has it been involved in an accident? Is there outstanding finance on the car? By running the check, you will find out what you need to know. It's better to discover any problems early, because if you are considering buying the car sight unseen (please don't), or if you don't want to travel the country to discover a potential lemon when you get there, you will waste less of your time and money if you do the necessary checks first.

Do contact the seller

Image source You won't have the car directly in front of you, so to find out more, you will have to contact the seller, be that through a phone call, email, or social media message. Ask as many questions as are necessary, and try to get as much info as you can about the car. You might ask about the number of previous owners, for example, or ask about any possible faults. If you don't like what you hear, then you can continue your search elsewhere, without having wasted your time travelling to see a car you don't like. On the other hand, you might be very interested in what you hear, and that might give you the impetus to visit the car for a better look. Of course, while it shouldn't be said, don't forget to be careful in your dealings with the seller. If he or she asks you to send a down payment for the car over the phone or online, don't do it, even if they pressure you by telling you they have had other offers. While the seller might be perfectly honest and genuine, you might also fall prey to a car scam such as this one. It's a scary thought, so don't be afraid to refuse the option. You might only be short of both cash and a car, otherwise!

Don't buy the car sight unseen

While there might be less risk when buying something brand new, buying a car sight unseen is something you should never do when buying something used. We advised against this in one of our previous points, and for good reasons. You might end up with something that isn't' comfortable to drive. It might have faults you weren't previously aware of. And you might have a harder time returning it and getting your money back if you aren't happy for any reason, especially when dealing with private sellers. As we suggested, you might also be the subject of a scam if you part with your cash sight unseen too! The expense of travelling across the country to see a car is worth it and for obvious reasons. You will be able to test drive it for one thing, and this will give you the opportunity to check it for comfort, as well as any fault signs, be they obvious or hidden. You will also get the opportunity to check the car's bodywork for any signs of damage. You will also get to meet the seller and check essential paperwork first-hand. If you like what you see, then fine. You will be able to drive it home if you came by train, or you can arrange for car transport so you can have the motor delivered to you at a convenient date. But if you don't like what you see, or if you have any doubts after a first visit, you then have the opportunity to continue your search or have more time to think about the car you have seen.

Finally

Buying a car can be a stressful and time-consuming process, and while shopping online might make life a little easier for you, you should still take care when deciding what to purchase. We hope our advice here has been helpful to you, but let us know what you think. And if you have any other advice for our readers, especially if you have ever bought a car online, be sure to share your wisdom with us. Thanks for reading, and all the best if you're currently in the car buying process.

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