Your guide to online car shopping

Motoring 2020-8-18
How To Buy A Car Online

Buying a new car or a previously owned motor online can be tricky so here are our top tips to help get the best deal.

As a nation, we absolutely love the convenience of shopping from the comfort of our own homes including buying a new car. Gone are the days of traipsing around car dealerships on a rainy Sunday morning.

With the consumer demand for online car purchases showing no signs of slowing down, many dealerships, brokers and independent sellers are advertising their ‘too good to miss’ deals but how do you know which one is right for you?

We’ve put together our top tips for choosing the right car and getting the best deal online.

Budget and research

Before you start daydreaming of that new car parked on your drive, sit down and work out exactly what you can afford to spend. You’ll need to consider the total cost of ownership including the car itself, insurance, maintenance, tax, fuel and even delivery costs. It’s also worth considering which fuel type is better, whether you should buy or lease and even the possibility of going electric.

Once you’ve done this, you can begin shopping. Since many websites allow you to narrow down your search based on your requirements, this can save a lot of time browsing through cars that are out of your price range or just not suitable.

Take your time and check out all the deals offered by different vendors – from dealerships to independent sellers. It’s good to know what the average cost of your chosen car is to prevent spending more money than you need to. Once you have a list of prospective vehicles, start comparing them to find the right one for you.

Get used cars independently checked

Buying a used car online can be riskier compared to buying brand new as you’re relying on the dealership or private seller being honest with their vehicle photographs and description. You should always be cautious as sometimes they might not be completely honest.

It’s good practice to get an independent mechanic to check over the car to ensure that you’re getting exactly what’s advertised especially if it’s a long-distance purchase or your mechanical knowledge is limited.

Don’t worry if the seller doesn't want to take the car to the garage to be inspected because there’s plenty of services that will go to the car's location instead.

The test drive

Testing driving is super important when it comes to deciding on which car to buy. Just because you like the way it looks and the price is right, doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way once you get behind the wheel.

Nearly all dealerships will let you book a test drive through their website at a location convenient for you, however, if you’re going through a purely online company such as Cazoo or BuyaCar, you may not always be able to book a test drive before you buy so be sure to check this in their FAQs.

Top Tip – Even though some companies are unable to accommodate test drives before you make a purchase, they will allow you drive the car for a few days on a mileage limit so that if you really don’t like it, you can return it (make sure to double-check T&Cs).

Vehicle history check

Most dealerships or brokers will provide you with a vehicle history check to demonstrate transparency of the car’s condition which will give you some peace of mind. This report usually show details such as the number of previous owners, if the vehicle has been in an accident, been written off by the insurance company or has outstanding finance.

If you find that the seller is unwilling to provide you with a copy of the report, then you should be wary of parting with your cash as more often than not, there’s an issue with the car. If you still really like the vehicle, then you can pay to have your own report conducted before making any final decisions.

Check out the returns policy

Depending who you choose you to buy your car with, it’s worth checking if they have a returns policy and how it works. Make sure to read all the information provided and double-check the small print in case of extra charges or additional clauses.

Each dealership or broker will have a different policy, for example, Cazoo allows you 7 days and a 250-mile limit to test the car and if you’re not happy, you can return it for a full refund. However, BuyaCar allows you 14 days but only 10 miles with no free collections if it’s not for you.

Also, double-check how the return policy differs between a used car and a brand new one. As a new car will lose the dealership money, they may not want to take it back after you’ve driven it.

Important note – If you’re returning your car due to a fault or it not being as advertised and you paid by credit card or on finance, you’re covered by the Section 75 Consumer Credit Act.

It’s advisable to pay using credit on large purchases as your credit provider is jointly and severally responsible for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by a retailer or trader.

Free e-Book

For extra hint and tips, sign up and download your second-hand car buying guide for free. Follow our step-by-step to making the car buying process easier and to help you find the right car.

Low-cost car loans

If you’ve found your dream car and need a helping hand to make it a reality, our low-cost car loans start from just 3.5% APR Representative between £5,000 and £25,000.

Hitachi Hints and Tips is intended to be informative and interesting. It does not constitute financial advice, and you should always do further research when making any financial decisions. All information was correct at date of publication.

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