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Should I Buy a Car Online?

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 23 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Budget Car Online Car Supermarket

Buying a new car can be a stressful time and the prospect of doing it all online could make matters worse. However the truth of the matter is that purchasing a car online can actually be very simple, easy - and all done from the comfort of your living room.

Where to Start?

There are a variety of sources for finding vehicles to purchase online and the best places to start are manufacturer's websites and listing sites such as Autotrader. Which of these sites you use depends on where you are in the selection process and whether or not you know which car you are wanting to buy.

Glass's and Parkers Guides

One of the most indispensable things you should have to hand when looking to buy a car is a guide such as Parkers and Glass's. Regardless of whether you are buying online, through a newspaper ad or from a dealer, these will give you list prices, models, histories, recalls and issue to look for when buying a car and should be your Bible throughout the selection process. With the correct information you can be sure you are getting the best deal.

Choosing the Right Car

If you have no idea what kind of car to buy and you need inspiration then you can set your budget and location and the sites will give you a list of potential vehicles. From there you can narrow your search further to find the vehicle you like the look of.

Manufacturer's Websites

If you already know the make and model of car you want then the manufacturer's website is an excellent place to start because there you can book test drives, order brochures and in some cases even configure the exact vehicle you want - choosing everything down to the colour of the stitching on the seats. You'll also find any manufacturer offers detailed on there, and you might find that they do special discounts for online orders, depending on what's on offer at the time.

Listing Sites

Listing sites such as Autotrader and Exchange and Mart are great places to look - they have thousands of cars of all shapes and sizes, ages and specifications through private and trade adverts. These are great to look through if you're still undecided about what kind of car you want as you can get a view of what is available in your local area - and of course, what the going rate is.

If you already know exactly what you want then you'll find that this is where these sites come into their own. You can restrict the search significantly based on a number of fields including the number of miles, fuel type, transmission type and even supply your own criteria such as trim ranges. Both private sellers and traders advertise on listing sites so the price will be reflected in the adverts. Because these adverts are online it is always important that you try to arrange to see the vehicle in person before you agree to purchase it - and take it out for a test drive. If for any reason what you see does not match what is in the advert without a good explanation, then it is in your best interest to walk away and continue your search.


Online auction sites such as Ebay has been growing in popularity with people buying cars for a number of years. Of course, the usual rules apply - you've got to be very careful about who you deal with - check the sellers feedback, check that they are paypal verified if possible, and if you have any qualms about the deal at all then don't go through with it.

Of course you also have the old-fashioned kind of auction - and it's here that you can walk away with a complete banger or a complete bargain - you've got to do your research well and remember - if it seems too good to be true, then it very probably is!

Mention that you're thinking of buying a car online or at an auction and you'll doubtless hear some horror stories about people buying cars from such places - but there are hundreds of successful sales every day, you just have to be smart and follow your instincts.

Car Supermarkets

Although you can't usually buy a car online via a car supermarket, you can check what they have in stock and book test drives. Once you've chosen one, you can go and try it out - which you should always do if you have the opportunity - and you can often sort out your finance online too, which means you can just turn up on the day with your identification and drive away with the car once the papers are signed.

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