back to articles | May 08, 2024 | Moses Mwangi

Categories: Tips & Insights For Car Buying

10 Essential Tips for Buying Car Online in 2024

Buying a car online offers a tempting alternative to traditional dealerships because of the wider selection and the ability to browse from your couch.


The convenience and accessibility of online shopping have extended to nearly every aspect of our lives. Whether you want groceries, medicine, electronics, or even a car, there is a merchant just a click away.

Buying a car online offers a tempting alternative to traditional dealerships because of the wider selection and the ability to browse from your couch. However, navigating this virtual marketplace requires a different approach. While it offers undeniable advantages, it comes with its own set of challenges. This guide will discuss ten essential tips to help you buy a car online in 2024.

Is it really safe to buy a vehicle online?

In 2024, almost all businesses have moved online. In fact, many of these businesses do not even have physical stores, only online ones. Car dealerships have not been left behind: many have established themselves in the online space. A market valued at $237.93 billion in 2020 is estimated to hit $722.79 billion by 2030.

Moreover, there are many car-buying websites where you can find a vast inventory of new or used cars. These sites allow buyers to narrow their search based on specific criteria like price, make, and model. However, is it safe to buy a vehicle online? Yes, but you must do due diligence. You need to weigh the pros and cons to determine whether it will work for you.

Pros of buying a car online

  • Convenience: You shop from home at your own pace—no commuting to dealerships or dealing with salespeople.
  • Wider selection: You can access a broader inventory from a larger geographical area. A single click on your phone or laptop will get you tons of results. You are not limited to your local dealership.
  • Possibly lower prices: Because of the increased competition among online sellers, you will likely get better deals than local dealerships.
  • No pressure: There is no pressure from salespeople to sign a contract or choose a particular car. You have all the time to check out the vehicle you want.

Cons of buying a vehicle online

  • Can't physically inspect the car: You rely on photos, videos, and the seller's description, which may not reveal everything.
  • Higher risk of scams: There are plenty of websites that exist online purely to scam people. Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, and never send money upfront without secure payment methods.
  • Test driving can be more difficult: Some online sellers may offer remote test drives, but it's not always an option.

Tips for buying a car online in 2024

If, after weighing your options, you still want to buy a car online, it is vital to understand that purchasing a vehicle online differs from the traditional ways of buying a car. Here are tips to keep in mind when buying a car online:

Know your needs and set a budget

Before going online to look for a car, clearly define what you need in the car. How many passengers will you have, how often will you drive the vehicle, and what terrain will you cover? Do you prioritize fuel efficiency, cargo space, or safety features? Do you prefer gasoline-powered, hybrid, or electric vehicles?

Once you understand your needs well, set a realistic budget that factors in not just the purchase price but also insurance, gas, and maintenance costs. Remember to include the loan repayment and down payment in your budget if you are financing the car through an auto loan. The total monthly cost of the car should not exceed 20% of your net salary. Go online and start researching the vehicle you want and how much it costs. If the one you want is above your budget, maybe you can settle for a used car.

Secure financing upfront

If you are buying a car through a loan, you must get quotes beforehand. Getting pre-approved for a loan helps you set realistic expectations about what you can afford to spend and simplifies the buying process. Shop for the best rates from banks, credit unions, or online lenders like myAutoloan. Knowing your financing options beforehand empowers you to negotiate a better deal and avoid surprises at checkout.

Chose a reputable online dealership

Once you have the car you want and the budget in mind, choose a reputable online dealership. Look for a dealership with a positive online presence, customer reviews, and a well-designed website. Verify they are licensed and check their return policy and warranty options. Don't be afraid to contact them directly with questions – a responsive and transparent dealer is a good sign.

Understanding the dealership buying process

Every online dealership has its own buying process. Familiarize yourself with the chosen dealership buying process. Look for any hidden fees, taxes, or delivery charges associated with the purchase. Understand their negotiation process, and don't be afraid to present your research and market value data when negotiating the price.

Get a vehicle history report

A vehicle history report is paramount when buying a used car. It reveals a car's past, including accidents, repairs, and ownership changes. This information is crucial for understanding the car's overall condition and potential red flags. Most online dealerships offer vehicle history reports as part of their service, but you can also obtain one independently.

Virtually inspect the car and test drive

Because you may be unable to inspect the vehicle in person, virtually inspecting and test-driving the car is vital. Here, high-quality photos and videos are essential. Request detailed shots from various angles, both inside and out. Don't hesitate to ask for a video walkthrough highlighting any imperfections. Some online retailers may even offer virtual inspections via video calls, allowing you to ask the seller to focus on specific areas based on the information you gleaned from the photos and videos.

Do a virtual test drive to get a feel for the car. You can get a feel for the interior layout, see how the controls are positioned, explore the infotainment system, adjust seats, and virtually experience the legroom and headroom.

Hire a third-party vehicle inspector

If unsatisfied after the virtual tour and test drive, hire a third-party inspection service. A certified inspector can physically examine the car and provide a detailed report on its condition. They may uncover hidden issues that photos and videos might miss. There's always an inspector to take a look regardless of where you or your dream car is in the United States.

Review return and warranty policies

Before finalizing the purchase, thoroughly review the dealership's return and warranty policies. Check the return timeframe, any limitations, and what the warranty covers. A good return policy lets you return a car if it isn't what you expected upon arrival. Avoid a car with no warranty, as it means the dealer won't pay for any issues or needed repairs.

Stay vigilant against online scams

As mentioned above, research is your friend when buying anything online. Ensure the website or dealership you are working with is legit. Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, and protect your payment information.

Inspect the car upon arrival

Once your car arrives, inspect it thoroughly as stipulated in the agreement. Check out the color shades, the wheels, and any marks or dents on the exterior, and report any discrepancies to the seller immediately. You can also take it to a mechanic for a second opinion to ensure you get what you paid for.


Buying a car online is nothing new in 2024. It is popular for buyers who prefer convenience and a broad vehicle selection. However, it also comes with several challenges. Luckily, the tips in this guide will help you buy a car online successfully. Remember, preparation is key. Research thoroughly, prioritize safety measures, and don't hesitate to walk away from deals that seem suspicious.