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Want to Buy a Car Online? Here’s What You Should Know…

*This is a sponsored post. All opinions are 100% my own and based on my personal experience. Full disclosure policy here.**

Everyday I drive over 65 miles to and from work. Yeah, fun stuff – especially when I have to sit in traffic every freaking day. So when I bought my current car, I knew I needed something practical with great gas mileage and had a long warranty. And I did it all online! Here’s how you can buy a car online with the help of Cars.com.

Thinking of buying a car online? Here are 7 Important Tips you should know before heading to the dealership.

Thinking of buying your next car online? Before you head to the dealership, read these 7 tips first! #Cars.com #Ad Click To Tweet

My First Car Buying Experience

When I was a teenager, all I dreamed about was getting my first car. Having a car = freedom!

So in 1990 on my 16th birthday I went out and got my drivers license. I was so excited! But what good is having a driver’s license if you don’t have a car?

A few months later, my grandma was kind enough to pay for my very first car. We had a family friend who bought used cars and fixed them up and my mom had every intention of getting me into a reliable used car to help me get around. That’s when I saw it…

This was no jalopy to “get around”. This was a candy apple red 1979 Datsun 280zx!

It was red. It was fast. And I HAD to have it!

The Datsun 280zx was my very first car. Except it was candy apple red!
The Datsun 280zx was my very first car. Except mine was candy apple red!

Between all my begging and the help of this family friend, we somehow talked my mom into letting me get this car for only $3700 cash.

I didn’t care that it had almost 100k miles on it.

I didn’t care that it had no power steering and I sprained my wrists every time I made a right turn.

I didn’t care that it had no backseat – like that was going to stop me from taking 5 friends to the beach…

It was mine, it was paid for, and I looked hot in it.

And while this car was beautiful, it was lipstick on a pig.

You don't always know what you are getting when you buy a used car
You don’t always know what you are getting when you buy a used car

It had LOTS of problems. In the first year, I had to replace all of the brakes – not just the pads. We’re talking the rotors and calipers too.

Then the following year, the transmission blew. If you ever had to replace the transmission on your car, you know expensive that can be.

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Back then, there was really no way to know exactly kind of used car what you were buying. All you had was the Kelly Blue book and the word of the salesman. Because we know how honest used car salesmen are…

You couldn’t buy a car online like you can today. My, how things have changed!


Car Dealerships are Scary

When I bought my first brand new car, I grabbed a friend and we went to the local dealership. I was seriously intimidated.

Car dealerships are scary
The only thing scarier than the sticker prices are the salespeople!

The salespeople hovered around outside like vultures ready to swoop down on you like carrion the minute we started looking around.

After deciding on the model I wanted (this time it was a Toyota Rav4), it was time to do the negotiating. I was 20 and while I had good credit, I didn’t have very much of it.

The salesman tried to get me to buy a car at 20% interest. My friend just laughed at him and said forget it, let’s go. And then the games began.

I'd rather get my teeth pulled than haggle with a car salesperson
I’d rather get my teeth pulled than haggle with a car salesperson

Here’s how it went:

Salesman said he’ll be right back. He goes to the back and talks to the “boss” (or the wall, who knows) and comes back with a lower interest rate. Like they couldn’t offer this the first time, right?

We say no, we want it at so and so price. Salesman goes to the back again for a half hour (probably taking his lunch break), then finally comes back this time with the “boss” and we haggle some more.

By the time we made the deal, we were tired, hungry, and irritated.

But that’s not all, next came the meeting with financing where they try to up-sell you on everything from an extended warranty to life insurance.

After 5 hours, I finally drove off the lot in my brand new car.  And while I loved the new car, the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

20 years and 6 cars later, I have learned quite a bit about buying cars. I will never set foot in another dealership before going to Cars.com first!

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Avoid Haggling. Buy a Car Online!

If you are planning to buy a car online, here’s what you need to know first:

1. Figure out which car you want

Whether you are dreaming about a beautiful new Tesla or the fuel efficiency of a used Jeep, Cars.com can help you make the right choice.

You can select by new, used, type, make, model, size, price, and location. Can’t decide between a Dodge, Ford, or Chevy? Compare your choices side by side!

Can't decide? Compare your car side by side!
Can’t decide? Compare your car side by side!

With Cars.com you can even see the different trim options available on your favorite models all on one page to make deciding even easier.

You can even compare the different trim options available for your dream car
You can even compare the different trim options available for your dream car

And if you’re buying a used car, Cars.com even shows you the CarFax report right on the listing!

2. What features are most important to you?

Have to have a back up camera? Or maybe you desire heated seats. What about safety features?

Get the most up to date safety ratings and recall information for your new and even your current vehicle on Cars.com. Compare pricing and options when buying your next car.

Make sure your car is safe by checking out the safety break down on Cars.com
Make sure your car is safe by checking out the safety break down on Cars.com

3. Read the reviews

Reviews are essential to help you with your decision. Cars.com has an awesome Video and Review feature, so you can see first hand what other drivers have to say about the car you are thinking about buying.

When buying a car, do your homework and read the reviews.
When buying a car, do your homework and read the reviews.

4. Can you afford it?

Use the handy Cars.com Finance Calculator to see just how much that BMW will cost you per month.

Once you got a handle on how much car you can afford, next get Pre-Approved. You can get pre-approved with Cars.com auto lenders or go to your own bank first.

Get pre-approved before you buy a car. You're already ahead of the game!
Get pre-approved before you buy a car. You’re already ahead of the game!

Being pre-approved is an essential negotiating tool. You may actually find that the dealership can give you an even better deal than your bank!

5. Buy a car online

You know what car you want and know what you can afford. You have your pre-approval in place. This is where the magic happens!

Contact several car dealers to make them fight for your business!
Negotiate your deal via email before even seeing the car.

Once you have picked out your car, Cars.com will show you where your make and model is available. Then click “Check Availability” for the dealership of your choice and email them your requirements.

6. Contact more than one dealer

When my hubby and I bought our last cars, we contacted several different dealers and did all the negotiating via email before we went to the showroom.

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Contact more than one dealership. Make them fight for your business!
Contact more than one dealership. Make them fight for your business!

Car salesmen are hungry, so make them fight for your business! When you have multiple deals, you can pick and choose between the dealerships with the most attractive offer and have them bid against each other.

But beware! If the salesperson refuses to negotiate with you online and just pushes you to come down to the showroom, tell them no thanks.

There are several other dealerships who will be happy to negotiate with you via email before you give them your business. Will they ask you to come to the showroom? Of course! But if you are happy with the deal you already worked out, you can feel comfortable with your decision.

Print out the emails so you have everything in writing when you test drive your new car and are ready to make that deal.

If the numbers change when you get to the showroom, remember you still have other offers you can fall back on and refer to. And don’t be afraid to walk away.

Remember, nothing is set in stone until you sign the papers.

7. Drive off in your new (or used) car

Never deal with pushy salesmen again. When you buy a car online, you can make sure you get the best deal from the comfort of your home, at your own pace.

Save time and money when you buy a car online
Save time and money when you buy a car online

My hubby and I bought our last cars this way and saved a ton of time and money! We both had excellent experiences and will always buy a car online for all of our future car purchases.

And when you are ready to buy your next car, remember Cars.com before you purchase. It’s your one-stop shop for research, financing, buying, and even selling your car online.


Have you ever bought car online? Would you consider it for future car buying purchases? Why or why not? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Published inProducts for the CarRants and Rambles

21 Comments

  1. Ugh, I got a new (to me) car a few years ago, and it was definitely a time suck. After dealing with dealerships, I ended up with a different car I wasn’t planning on buying but a model I had driven before a loved, and I got it someplace that was a great price. I definitely learned my lesson then!

  2. Jacqueline Meldrum Jacqueline Meldrum

    I’ve never bought a car online. I usually do research online then go to a dealership. Thanks for the tips, I may consider it next time.

  3. I think buying a car is such a hard thing…. We are looking now for a new one and it´s so complicated!!!! Thank you for this great post

  4. I’ve never bought a car online, but I like the idea of it. I know the last car we bought from a dealership, we were followed around until we were ready to buy. I just want a little privacy when talking price with my husband, but they want to get you in their office as quickly as possible.

    • Totally. I hate the way they stalk you. But if you negotiate online before you go, you can make an appointment and buy your car quickly.

  5. Nicole Anderson Nicole Anderson

    Given the terrible stories you often hear about the salesmen at car dealerships (especially from women buyers) I would only expect online sales to continue to grow and grow. I am really impressed with all the features of cars.com and let’s be honest – with the ability to do this in a way that you control the outcome with many choices – why would you bother with salesmen at dealerships ever again? Great post.

  6. Reviews definitely make such a difference. That is one of the first things that I do.

  7. Erica Erica

    It is great that you can now reach out to multiple dealerships via email. As someone who has worked in sales, it is so much more difficult to win the sale when you know the customer is just calling around. It makes you put out a higher offer first. Otherwise, you fear you’ll never hear from the customer again.

  8. This post is of great value to me and it is very informative. Thank you for sharing your experience! This kind of insightful advice is very helpful, especially when buying a car can be a dreadful experience.

  9. I think this is awesome. It’s nice to know that there’s a site where we can go to help us find the best cars that’s perfect for our lifestyle!

  10. I hated buying my car it took forever. I wish I never all these great tips and online shopping. It would have saved us at least 4 hours

  11. Rosey Rosey

    I would like to shop online for a car, if I knew exactly what I wanted. Like the comment above me noted, it does take FOREVER to get a car! Saving time on that process would be awesome!

  12. It’s very important to consider all those tips you mentioned, Will take note of them.

  13. Just bought my new convertible this way! Your steps are on point. We did negotiate a lower price in person, though, but we knew the range of prices for this car and it wasn’t in the margin. Ended up saving a few thousand, which we were excited about!

  14. This is really true. We haven’t had a lot of great experiences at dealerships. We actually had one dealer park a car behind our car so we couldn’t get out. Grrr. I like looking online and shopping around.

  15. I was literally doing this today. I need a car and I was actually shopping online. This blog will come in handy.

  16. These are such great tips when it comes to car buying. I’ve never did the online haggling before but I can imagine the advantages. The key to car buying is having the ability to walk away. You will always get a better deal when you are truly prepared to leave.

  17. This is such great info! I just bought a car, but I’m bookmarking this for next time!

  18. I’m also going to buy a car soon!! Thanks for those amazing tips

  19. This article gives helpful information.Dealing with a car dealer must be with such shared tips.Anyway,so far I never thought of buying a car online.But that sounds a great idea!

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