Buying a Car Online: The User's Guide

CarsArrive | CarsArrive , Auto shipping

These days, you can buy anything online -- even a car. Rather, especially a car. In fact, around 18 million cars are sold each year on websites such as eBay motors, Carvana, and others. But buying a car online isn't like buying a pair of socks from Amazon. Rather, it's a big purchase that requires a great deal of research, some smarts, and a bit of know-how. Here's a foolproof guide to buying a car online:

What to Check For

Even if you're unable to see the car in person, the internet will provide most of the details you need. For example, car buying guides like the Kelly Blue Book can give you the estimated value of any car.

When researching your vehicle, look through the recent selling history and search for feedback. Look at multiple sources.

Obtain the car's VIN number and acquire a vehicle history report. This is the most important thing to do when checking your vehicle, as it will tell you about a car's ownership, reported damage, maintenance, and repair history. It will also help confirm that the seller is, in fact, the actual owner which is step one in avoiding a scam. While there are free history reports available, paying for one is ideal -- the fees go toward accessing certain databases the free sites cannot touch. Additionally, by obtaining a report from a reliable third-party source (vs. one provided by the seller) ensures that the information is as accurate as possible and that the report hasn’t been “doctored” to hide negative facts about the vehicle.

How to Negotiate Fees

If you have the opportunity to negotiate a price, obtain all quoted prices and costs and keep an itemized list. This is a great way to ensure that you aren't hit with any hidden "customer service fees." There are also a number of websites and apps that will provide information on recent purchases of similar year, makes and models to help you determine fair market value. And remember- if the deal sounds to good to be true, it probably is. An unusually low price often indicates a potential scam or something is seriously wrong with the vehicle.

Think of price negotiation like it's a game of poker. Don't reveal your own personal finances or the payments you can afford. Don't be the first to show your hand!

How to Safely Transport Your Car

If you've ordered your car online, it's likely that you'll need to pay for its shipment -- especially considering 75% of all cars sold online were purchased as an interstate transaction. As far as car shipping goes, the prices will vary based on the distance, kind of car, and desired shipping time.

Before shipping, make sure that there is proper documentation of any pre-existing damage. Better yet, find a car company you can trust that can safely transport your vehicle, whatever make and model it is. Look for a company with a great deal of transparency. The U.S. car shipping industry is a $14 billion industry, with plenty of companies looking to offer you honest, and dependable auto shipping services.

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