The Pros and Cons of Buying a Car Online by Paisley Hansen

Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

Digital commerce has exploded in recent years. The auto industry is quickly joining this emerging trend.

Of course, buying clothes and groceries online is one thing. Making a major purchase over the internet is  entirely different. After all, a car is an expensive purchase that typically requires auto financing. You do not want to spend all that money only to end up with a lemon. Before you decide whether to buy a car online, it helps to understand the pros and cons of this type of transaction.


The biggest benefit of online car buying is the speed and convenience. If you have purchased a car at a dealership before, you know that finalizing the deal can take hours. You have to wait around for a sales rep and then fill out tons of paperwork. With online shopping, the process is streamlined.

Some manufacturers even offer their own e-commerce platforms to make virtual purchases even easier. You can secure financing, schedule test drives, and exchange documents online. You can then have the car delivered right to your house.

You also can buy a car online whenever and wherever you want. You do not have to wait for the dealership to open. You can even use virtual dealerships to search for cars in different locations instead of being stuck with the options in your local establishments. You might find a better deal or vehicle outside your city or state.

Purchasing a vehicle online eliminates the stress of haggling with the salesperson, as well. The asking price is clear and typically non-negotiable. This transparency makes it easy to compare the costs of different vehicles. Prices may even be slightly lower online than they would be in the store.

Many car-buying websites also include calculators that let you see how much you would owe each month under various loan terms. This way, you can decide which financing plan is best for you.

If you do find yourself regretting your online car purchase after the fact, it is often easy to return the vehicle, as well. Most digital dealers offer a seven-day, money-back guarantee. You can even exchange the vehicle you purchased for a new one. In-person dealerships, conversely, rarely offer return policies.

Perhaps best of all, you do not have to deal with pressure from salespeople when you buy a car online. You can take your time and think about your decision instead of being pushed by a sales representative.


Still,  buying a car online is not for everyone. In most cases, you do not get to physically feel or see the car before you purchase it. You have to rely on photos alone, especially if the dealership is located out of state.

Similarly, if your car is being shipped to your home from miles away, you may not have a chance to test drive it before you finalize the purchase. As a result, you could buy vehicle and then realize that it is tough for you to handle. As mentioned above though, you may have the option to return the car in this scenario.

Buying a car from a virtual dealership far from your home comes with another downside. While the vehicle will get shipped right to your house, this service is not free. You will likely have to pay a shipping fee on top of the cost of your vehicle. This fee could set you back several hundred dollars.

Finally, financing options are limited when you buy a car online. If you need to take out a loan, you may have to use the dealership’s lender, which often means high APR rates. To avoid this added expense, you can secure financing from your local bank or credit union before you start online shopping.

Ultimately, you have to decide what part of the car purchasing process you value most. If you want a convenient experience that will get you a vehicle right away, you should consider buying your car online. However, if you prefer to touch and see the car before you buy it, then you may want to head to the dealership in person.