If you wish, you’re still more than welcome to schlepp to a dealership to buy your car in person. However, it’s increasingly common for people to buy their rides online, perhaps from home while they’re in their PJs. That’s certainly convenient, but is it better? It’s not so cut and dried. Here are the pros and cons of buying a car online vs. in person.
Which Option is Cheaper?
Well, that kind of depends on how negotiations go. If you’re doing business in person in a store – a dealership – you can try to reach your figure the old tried-and-true way. If you’re buying your vehicle online, you can work with a salesperson for a price quote and possible discounts. There’s not much virtual haggling, though, and financing choices are more limited.
Which is Faster?
The truth is that the turnaround time is frequently quicker online. Yes, there’s every chance you can negotiate at a dealership and drive off soon after in your new whip. Still, there’s that whole “let me run this by my manager,” almost performative back-and-forth at the dealer that you don’t get as much online.
What About Test Drives?
The main downside to buying a car online is that there’s no test drive, although some online sellers are increasingly providing them at a time and place of the customer’s choosing. At a dealership, you can test drive the car, buy it, and drive away in it – often the same day.
So, Which Option is Best?
It depends. The main difference between the two ways of car buying is really the experience. The following are some scenarios that can help you decide:
When to buy online
As it turns out, if you do research by checking out the best online car buying sites before hitting the dealership, you might get a better deal. By shopping first for a car online, you can:
- Compare prices. If you know what cars of the same make, model, and year are going for, you’ll have more leverage at the dealership.
- Do tons of research. Factoring in insurance, registration, and taxes, learn how much it typically costs to get the vehicle you want.
- Filter your search. Get your choice down to a certain color, price point, mileage, and brand.
- Uncover more options. If you want your car right away, your choices at the dealer are basically what’s on the lot. When you go online you have more options, plus you’ll still be able to eyeball the ride before you make the purchase.
When to visit a dealership
If online research is not your jam or you just prefer talking in person, you might want to hit a store or two so you can compare options. Going to a dealer can help you by:
- Knowing prices. When searching online, you may only be able to find the average price for the car you want. At a dealership, there’s the sticker right there on the car.
- Talking to knowledgeable people. Any salesperson worth their salt should be able to help you find a car in their inventory that suits you.
- Comparing multiple dealers. You’ll have to invest more time, but it would behoove you to see how other dealerships price vehicles similar to what you’re interested in.
- Establishing a relationship. If you think you’ll be buying more cars at time goes on, it’s nice to have a dealership you can trust and count on.
When Both Options Work
For the most part, the pros and cons of buying a car online versus in person balance each other out. Sometimes, a hybrid method is best: you can compare vehicles and financing online, then swing by a dealership with the confidence that comes from preparation.