It doesn’t matter if you’re buying your first set of wheels or upgrading your old car for something a little better, buying a car is a big responsibility. Things have changed a lot in recent years too. Not only can you buy direct from a dealer, but car buying sites seem to have mushroomed online. Then there’s eBay, Facebook even Instagram. Figuring out what to buy, where to buy it from and still end up with a bargain can feel like a challenge.

Finding cars for sale is easy, but finding the right car to buy isn’t quite as simple. Not only do you need to be careful you don’t get caught out by someone trying to off-load a wrong’un, you’ll need to make sure you’re safe too. Our tips will help you buy a car online with confidence, sift through the options available and choose what’s right for you. There are three key areas you’ll need to consider: what to buy, where to buy a car and how to buy it.

Which Car to Buy?

There are a few things to consider when deciding which car is going to be right for you. Do you want a new car with warranties and a payment plan, or will a used car suit your needs? Are you looking for a classic car or an everyday runaround?

Financial experts recommend that car expenses should amount to no more than 20% of your income. That includes car repayments, petrol costs, taxes, insurance and maintenance. Used cars can save you a lot of money – especially if a five-year loan is out of the question.

Think about the style of car you want and read reviews and ratings about it. Figure out what you’ll be paying not only for the car, but to keep it on the road. So here comes tip one:

Tip #1 – Do Your Research

That means learning all you can about the car you want to buy. Want a five-door hatch? Check out the options in that category. Set on a BMW convertible? You’ll need to find out what the recent resale prices are and any common niggles to watch out for. Make sure the make and models you’re interested in have the dimensions and features you want.

Once you’ve settled on a few different makes and models, narrow it down. Find out how far you can expect to get on a full tank – or full charge if you’re going electric. Learn what you’ll need to pay for road tax and how much it will cost you to insure your wheels. It’s easy to find out what you need to know about any type of car with some quick online research.

Tip #2 – Shop Around

Unless you’re in a rush, it’s worth taking your time and shopping around. New and used cars are easy to buy, but they’re harder to sell. So take your time, test drive a few cars that are in your shortlist and don’t put pressure on yourself to buy quickly.

When you get around to finding a car you want, you should do a background check on that specific car. An HPI check will ensure any used car you buy is exactly what you think it is. There is no need to find out this level of detail in the early stages of buying a car online. But do check out any used cars you are considering parting with your cash for before you sign anything or hand over your money.

Where to Buy a Used Car

Where you buy a car is almost as important as what you buy – particularly when you’re buying online. Reliable, certified online sellers are worth their weight in gold. Not that you should be paying over the odds for a reliable marketplace. So here comes our third tip:

Tip #3 – Check Out the Dealer or Car Buying Site

If you are buying from a dealership, check out their reviews and ask around to see what other buyers’ experiences have been like. You can learn a lot from word of mouth or Google reviews. If someone has been sold a lemon from a dealer, it’s likely you’ll hear about it in car forums and their online reviews. You should steer clear.

If you’re looking to buy from an online marketplace it’s worth checking out their reviews too and seeing what their process is for people selling cars from the platform. Are sellers vetted? Are identities verified? Will you be safe purchasing a car through that marketplace? We’ve all heard horror stories of buying a car online and the seller being less than savoury. Do your research for the selling platform with your safety and the integrity of the seller top of mind.

How to Buy a Car Online

Whether you’re looking for used cars for sale or keen to purchase something new, finance options abound! There are personal loans, car financing options, paying up-front and in full, and part-exchanges to consider if you’ll be getting rid of your current set of wheels.

Tip #4 – Consider Your Finance Options

As already mentioned, there are a few different ways you can purchase your car. Look into each of them and choose what’s right for your circumstances. Don’t be bullied into car finance from a dealer or part with cash until you have the keys and paperwork in your hand.

Car dealership finance: A car dealer may try selling a car based on the monthly payments. This can make the car seem much cheaper than you thought it would be, but be careful with this option. Finance through a dealer generally comes at a higher rate as it’s via a third-party and the lender typically charges much higher rates than your own bank or credit union.

Personal loan: You can apply for this online or head into your branch to speak with someone directly. A credit check will still be needed but it is likely that financing a car purchase this way will cost less in interest and be more within your budget.

Parting with your savings: This is the cheapest way to buy a car as there are no interest rates to pay. The car will be yours. Not the banks or the finance company. Depending on how much you have available to spend, it can limit your options.

Part-exchange: The idea is that you surrender your current wheels to reduce the price of the ones you want to buy. Sometimes this works, sometimes it’s not worth it. If you are considering a part-exchange, agree on the price for the new car before discussing any discount you may get for a part-exchange.

Tip #5 – Buy a Car You Can Afford

This isn’t just about how much savings you have or loan repayments. Whether you own a car outright or not, it will cost you every year. There is no point in buying the car of your dreams if you can’t afford to insure her or cover the on-road and maintenance costs. That’s why we had tip #1 – do your research. It is possible to buy a car you can afford and enjoy driving.

Tip #6 – Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate

Buying a car online doesn’t mean there is no opportunity to negotiate. As my Dad told me, “Nearly everything in life is negotiable”. Buying a car is definitely one of those things. If you have done your research well, you’ll be able to spot a bargain and know the things to look out for that you can use to haggle on price.

Buying a car online needn’t be a stressful experience that leaves you feeling duped. Research your options, shop around and don’t be afraid to offer a lower price than the one advertised. That’s how you buy a car online that you love, with confidence.

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