Let's be honest. The traditional car-buying experience has never floated many consumers' boats. After all, it's rife with pushy salespeople, slick gimmicks, and exhausting days spent scouring dealerships.

Fortunately, times have changed and somewhat drastically since the advent of the global pandemic. Instead of hours spent walking lots in stuffy, suffocating masks, customers are turning to online car buying to solve their transportation needs.

But what do you need to know about virtual automobile purchasing? Keep reading as we break down the process, providing you with handy tips to make the most of the digital shopping experience.

The Demand for Online Car Buying Options

Nearly every industry in the United States has witnessed a shift since March 2020, necessitated by the changing landscape of the global pandemic. Not only have these shifts been felt by consumers, but they've also impacted car dealerships and auction houses.

Customer sentiment has also undergone a significant shift. Today, more than 50 percent of customers report feeling "very likely" or "extremely likely" to purchase a car online. Fifty-nine percent of customers said they expected to buy vehicles digitally through dealerships.

What's more, 63 percent of consumers showed interest in purchasing a car through an online auction. And 80 percent have relied on digital technology to assist with vehicle research and other aspects of the car purchasing process.

As you can see, the demand for online car sales is clear. Many innovative companies now provide new and better ways for consumers to get the customer experience they desire remotely.

For example, online car selling websites like cars.com and carvana.com now advertise digital retailing, virtual appointments, and even home delivery. And ACV Auctions continues to push the envelope regarding virtual inspections, vehicle reports, and more.

The Rules When It Comes to Online Auto Purchases

Despite all of these new advances, there are some tips you still need to bear in mind when it comes to auto purchases via a computer or a mobile device. How can you ensure you get the best car for your budget?

Follow these tips for a better online shopping experience:

  • Do your research
  • Make a list of your must-have features
  • Know what you're getting
  • Check those Blue Book values
  • Consider multiple financing options
  • Discard online car buying myths
  • Inquire about return policies
  • Don't wheel and deal without a written agreement
  • Secure an experienced, affordable auto shipping company

Let's drill down into each of these tips and how they can help you select the best vehicle for your needs. No time in a dealership lot required.

Do Your Research

When it comes to car shopping online, don't skimp on doing your homework. While many significant benefits exist when it comes to digital car-buying over more traditional methods, you must do your due diligence to enjoy them.

Not only does research have implications for finding a great deal. It will also help you avoid unpleasant scenarios and scams.

What are some best practices for a better experience? Start by considering this report by cargurus.com about the most affordable and pricey cities to buy a vehicle. As you'll see, geography can make a BIG difference, so don't be afraid to search outside your immediate vicinity, state, or even region of the country.

You'll also need to bone up on dealerships where you're considering a car purchase. Find out how long each company has been in business and what past customers have to say about them. You should also scan newspapers in the dealership's area looking for both good and bad publicity in recent years.

If you do your homework well, you'll quickly ascertain whether a dealership's trustworthy and reputable. It's also worth checking out the best online car auctions on the market today. That way, you'll have a full understanding of the options available to you.

Make a List of Your Must-Have Features

As you delve into the car buying experience, remember that an automobile is ultimately a tool. As a result, you need to find the make and model that best suits your individual needs. To get the most utility from a purchase, create a list of non-negotiables.

These non-negotiables represent must-have items that you don't want to drive a vehicle without. Writing down these features will help you stay focused and avoid the kinds of distractions that lead to an impulse purchase.

Know What You're Getting

What's one of the most common mistakes customers make when buying a car online? They tend to accept the first low price they see without truly investigating what they're getting.

The result? Buyer's remorse.

How do you avoid this scenario? Don't fall hook line and sinker for the first, second, or even third bargain that you see. Instead, take the time to make sure you're working with a company that provides the customer service and perks you expect.

It's worth paying a little extra for added service benefits and other features not always promised with the cheapest deals. Even online, you get what you pay for. Don't forget to ask about service warranties, taxes and fees, and additional charges, too.

Check Those Blue Book Values

Just because you're going virtual for a purchase doesn't mean that resources like Kelley Blue Book, National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), and True Market Value no longer count.

You still need these resources to unearth manufacturer suggested retail prices (MSRPs). In other words, get used to double-checking these resources while browsing vehicle sites. Otherwise, it's easier than you think to overspend online.

Consider Multiple Financing Options

What's another common error many customers make during the virtual vehicle buying process? They don't research financing rates and options as thoroughly as they should.

The result? Lack of awareness about the total dollar amount of interest spent on a loan among 71 percent of consumers. What's more, 69 percent fail to understand how something as small as a one percent drop in interest rates could save them big money.

Don't let inexperience with car loans and interest rates keep you from clinching the best car loan possible. Instead, do meticulous research so that you feel confident about finding the right financing.

Discard Online Car Buying Myths

So many myths persist when it comes to car buying websites. For example, many people assume that only those making high six figures (or more) can buy and lease cars virtually.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Understand that an ever-increasing segment of the population continues to get into the virtual car buying action. These include:

  • College students
  • Retirees
  • Blue-collar workers
  • Middle-class families
  • And just about every socio-economic class of buyers

Online car buying services are now for everyone. Whether you're starting out in life or have a family, there's a website where you can buy a new car or sell a used car. It's never been more streamlined, straightforward, or efficient so long as you don't buy into the myths.

Inquire About Return Policies

Just as traditional car dealerships must adhere to policies such as "Lemon Laws," so online dealerships will often offer a trial period for car purchases. Fortunately, auto engineering has rendered the chance of getting a lemon much less likely.

Nevertheless, there may still be details that get in the way of an otherwise fantastic driving experience. From seat padding to carpeting and engines, cars vary. These variations could leave you feeling less than thrilled upon arrival.

But don't stop merely at learning about an online dealership's return policy. You should also get a copy of it in writing. That way, if any problems arise, you've got the leverage and knowledge to make a return.

Don't Wheel and Deal Without a Written Agreement

When shopping online, many car leasers and buyers neglect to get agreement details drawn up in writing. But this negligence can and does contribute to expensive misunderstandings.

To avoid so-called "he said, she said" situations, always make sure you get it in writing. Not only will this tactic lead to more precise communications, but it could also help you secure a better deal.

How? Remember that a written disclosure makes an offer official.

Use this to your advantage when approaching other car sites to see if they can do one better. We've seen instances where customers got better quotes, even from cars listed at cost, just because an official disclosure permitted a competing dealership to get more money from corporate.

Secure an Experienced, Affordable Auto Shipping Company

Now you've got a thorough understanding of how to buy a car online. Before deciding on a vehicle, however, you've got one additional expense to consider—the cost of auto shipping.

While some websites throw home delivery into their service packages, you'll want to vet the service they use with great care. After all, a car represents the most valuable possession you own after your home. So, you don't want to leave its transportation to just anyone.

You must secure an experienced car transport service with an excellent customer service reputation. Again, you'll need to put your research skills to good use.

Explore customer reviews via Google and Yelp to see which carriers provide the best customer experiences. You should also hop on the Better Business Bureau's (BBB's) website to ensure everything's on the up and up.

You can also research each moving company's USDOT number via the Department of Transportation's website. This extra step will provide you with insights into each company's safety recorsd and whether they have the proper licensing.

Finally, make sure the company you work with provides the appropriate amount of insurance for the cars they move. If need be, inquire about additional insurance options and how much they cost.

Understand the Auto Shipping Process

Besides vetting each company you're considering with care, you need a basic understanding of what the car moving process involves. In many cases, it's as simple as getting a free, no-obligation online quote and then scheduling a car shipment online or via the phone.

We recommend collecting multiple shipping quotes so that you can find the best deal for your situation. But you'll want to balance pricing against the many services and features you may get with some slightly more expensive services.

From there, you'll need to reserve a date with a refundable reservation fee. (However, if the car mover wants you to place a pricey deposit down, consider this a red flag.) From there, the driver will pick up your new purchase from the lot or auction site.

After your vehicle has made its journey, you'll meet up with the driver and inspect your car to ensure it's arrived without damage in transit. It's that simple. Find out more about the auto shipping process you'll enjoy with a reputable, experienced company like Nexus Auto Transport.

Buy a New Car Online

There are many benefits associated with online car buying. That is if you know what you're doing. Fortunately, the tips above will put you on the fast track to buying your next dream car.

Best of all, you'll avoid the hassles and complications associated with traditional car buying. After all, none of us enjoy dealing with pushy salespeople or hoofing it from lot to lot for hours at a time.

When you do your research with care, know what you're getting into, and secure everything in writing, you'll be well on your way to an excellent customer experience. Just don't forget to make a list of your must-have features so that you gain an automotive asset that's ideal for your lifestyle and current needs.

And once you've locked in an amazing deal? Turn to the experts at Nexus Auto Transport to handle your move.

Get a car shipping quote in seconds!