Buying Cars Online: 7 Things to Know Before You Click to Buy

Buying Cars Online Means You Can Have It Delivered To You!
Make sure there is a good return policy when it comes to buying a car online. Photo:

Who Buys Their Cars Online? You Might be Surprised to Know.

It’s not just the “computer geek” at your office or the “nerd” you remember from high school buying their cars online. It’s everyone! The moms at preschool who would rather put a fork in their eye than drag their kids to a car showroom are buying cars online. The working parents who can’t take time off work to go hunt for a new ride are buying cars online. Your friends, neighbors and pretty much all of the “cool kids” are buying cars online.

I had the opportunity to try out buying cars online when Carvana, one of the first online car dealerships, launched several years ago. Carvana lets users browse, finance, and purchase a car online and have it delivered as soon as the next day. Cutting out the dealerships means lower prices and no stress from the sales staff.

Carvana Delivered The Car Directly To My House!

I loved having the car delivered to my house! Photo: Maria Smith

I went through the typical process of buying a car through the site. Even though I knew I was just testing the process, I was still wary of putting in all my personal information. However, I checked and double checked all the security features and was comfortable going ahead with it. It took me about 40 minutes to complete everything. And there was no high-pressure salesman. Yay! The car was brought to my house the next day and it was exactly what I thought it would be.

Abc News Featured Our Family In A Story On Online Car Buying.

ABC News featured our family in a story on online car buying. Photo: Maria Smith

World News Tonight even interviewed me as a mom who was interested in learning more about buying a car online. Throughout these experiences I found the process to be smooth, easy, and a total revolution in car buying. If Carvana carries the car we want, our next car will definitely come from there!

A Girls Guide To Cars | Buying Cars Online: 7 Things To Know Before You Click To Buy - Buying Cars Online Pinterest Graphic Photo Credit Maria Smith

Photo: Maria Smith

Want to get in on the fun? Here are seven things you should know first.

7 Things to Know About Buying Cars Online

1.      Purchase from a Reputable Source.

Buying Cars Online Means You Can Have It Delivered To You!

Buying cars online means you can have it delivered to you! Photo:

As with any purchase, especially one of this financial magnitude, it is important to do your homework. Whether you are buying cars online, from a dealership or a private seller, it is always important to research the seller so you know exactly who you are dealing with.

How? Start by checking out online reviews. These reviews can be a great way to learn about the experience previous buyers have had and any issues that have may come up. Look for reviews on popular sites such as Google, Yelp, or Facebook. Some sellers list reviews directly on their websites. But be wary of ones that feature only positive reviews.

2.      Look for Return Policies.

The biggest worry car buyers share about buying cars online is the fear that they will find something wrong with the car or not like it once they see it and/or drive it. The best way to lessen that fear is to buy only from sellers that offer a return policy. There is no federal law saying buyers can return a new vehicle, whether it is bought online or at a dealership. Typically, the purchase of a vehicle is final as soon you sign the contract and take possession of the car.

However, some online companies offer impressive return policies. For example, online car retailer, Carvana, covers all vehicles with a 100-day/4,189-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 7-day money back guarantee. That means customers can return their vehicle for any reason and receive a full refund – no questions asked.

3.      Research your Financing Options.

Eighty-eight percent of car buyers use the internet to shop, according to AutoTrader’s 2016 Car Buyer Journey. They are spending on average 8 hours and 42 minutes researching pricing, comparing vehicles, locating vehicles and learning the value of their trade-in. It seems, however, that they spend far less researching how they will pay for the vehicle.

According to a national survey commissioned by Carvana: 71 percent of consumers who have taken out an auto loan don’t know the total dollar amount of interest they paid on their last loan, and 69 percent do not understand how much they would save with a one percentage point reduction in the loan rate. Spending time researching the right financing could save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

4.      Ask about a Trade-in.

Buying Cars Online Means You Can Have It Delivered To You!

You can trade-in your old car online too. Photo:

Some online car sellers will take your old vehicle as a trade in. A little research online is the best way to determine the true value of your old vehicle. That’s an important step in the car buying process regardless of whether you end up completing the process online. One way to do that is by visiting car dealer websites. But know that some dealership websites that offer a value comparison form for trade-ins are basically lead generation forms. It could result in unwanted emails or sales calls.

5.      Run a report.

Before purchasing any pre-owned vehicle, review its history report. This will give you a full summary on the life of the vehicle, including number of owners, accidents, maintenance, damage reports and more. Knowing this information can help make you feel more secure in your decision. Reputable resources such as Autocheck and Carfax can show you a vehicle’s history. All you need is a VIN number or license plate number. There is a fee of about $30 to $40 for these services but it’s well worth it!

6.      Take your time.

While many online purchases can be done very quickly, don’t rush this one. Look at all the options for several kinds of cars and compare the price to what you can find at car dealerships if you can. While the process for buying cars online can be very short, don’t feel pressured to finalize the transaction right away. It’s totally OK to sleep on it!

Buying a car is a big purchase, one of the biggest you will make. It may take time to comparison shop and weigh all your options. However, you have to be conscious of what kind of car you are buying. If you are buying a new car, there are more models out there just like the one you want. But if you are buying a used car, you have to understand that if you wait too long, the car you want may be gone.

7.       Check local availability.

Carvana'S Nashville &Quot;Vending Machine&Quot; Is An Impressive Site.

Carvana’s Nashville “vending machine” is an impressive site. Photo: Carvana

One of the things to keep in mind when buying cars online is that the cars may or may not be available in your city. Check if the car can be driven to your city, if it’s not there already, and if there is an additional price for that location change. I love Carvana’s home delivery, which can be done in as little as one day. Carvana also has a “car vending machine” in Atlanta and Nashville, that allows buyers to pick up their cars without ever having to deal with a salesman or anyone whatsoever!

Want to know which cars you should target? Check out this list of the cars that have the best values. Or know that you want a luxury family car? These seven family vehicles should be on your comparison list.

Car Shopping

Need a new car? Whether shopping for a new car or a used car we recommend using our car shopping service

Tire Shopping

Need new tires? We recommend Tire Rack

Car Repair

Need to get your car repaired? We recommend Repair Pal. Exclusively just for Girls Guide to Cars readers, call (877) 323-1708 to speak to RepairPal Car Genius for FREE automotive repair advice and if needed to find the right shop for you!

Maria Smith is the founder of, one of the top parenting, travel and auto blogs in the country.... More about Maria Smith