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5 Steps to Take When Purchasing a Car Online

by Keylen Villagrana | Nov 3, 2021 12:55:40 PM

Online car sales are taking the U.S. by storm. Nationally, nearly 30% of U.S. new car sales last year were completed online. Before the pandemic, less than 2% of vehicles were purchased digitally.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been a catalyst for the sudden spike. But it was only a matter of time before online car sales became a common practice. What feels bizarre to some is a preference for others, especially younger consumers.

Pushy salespeople, piles of paperwork, unnecessary fees, and downtime are common drawbacks of purchasing a car in person. Buying a car online on the other hand, consumers experience less pressure and more convenience.

In fact, customer satisfaction in the car buying process reached an all-time high in 2020. Those sentiments are a departure from the results of a recent BBB study that found car dealers to be among the most complained about types of businesses. Industry experts say dealerships that are willing to adapt to a digital-centered approach will thrive the most.

Downsides of Purchasing a Car Online

Consumers have the option to either purchase a car using a mix of online and in-person tactics or complete the entire process online. While online car retailers are becoming major competitors, it’ll take some time before the majority of the population is comfortable purchasing a car online.

Better Business Bureau has seen a major uptick in complaints against major online car retailers. The most common issues consumers are reporting include:

  • Cosmetic deficiencies or body damage were not visible in the listing photos.
  • Delayed registration paperwork preventing consumers from driving their vehicles.
  • Trouble contacting the company or being passed around multiple departments thus receiving conflicting/inaccurate information.

While shopping for a car online has its conveniences, the bottom line is consumers aren’t able to take the recommended steps before purchasing a used vehicle. Missing that opportunity complicates the buying process, especially for such a huge purchase.

If you’re looking to purchase a new or used vehicle online, Better Business Bureau recommends you take the following proactive steps to prevent any major inconveniences.

Research, research, research.

Since you don’t have the sales representative’s expertise to help you pick your dream car, you’re going to have to gather your own intel. Frankly, that’s why most people enjoy purchasing a car online. They can take their time shopping without the pressure of a salesman looking to close a deal. Think about size, safety features, gas mileage, storage capabilities, maintenance cost, etc.

Once you are set on a few options, visit a local dealership and ask for a test drive. That way you are able to make a confident decision when completing the transaction online.

Look at multiple outlets.

Keep your options open. Leverage the benefit of having a wider selection of inventory as opposed to being limited to a handful of dealerships. Look at national online sites as well as local sellers. While major online car retailers claim to have straightforward pricing, some dealerships may be willing to negotiate a price to prevent losing business.

Take full advantage of the return policy.

Time is ticking the moment your vehicle is delivered. Major companies such as Carvana and Vroom offer a “no questions asked” seven-day return policy with a full refund. Thoroughly inspect the vehicle as soon as you receive it and then take it out for multiple test drives. Have a third-party mechanic inspect the vehicle for potential issues.

Understand the warranty details.

Research the company that handles the warranty claims for the car retailer. Use trusted sites, including BBB.org to view volume of complaints, common issues customers are experiencing, how the business is responding, consumer alerts or potential government actions. Ensure you understand the terms and conditions so that you meet the criteria for submitting a claim, including regular maintenance conditions, receipts, eligible repair shops, etc.

Keep track of all communications. BBB can help.

Since online car retailers tend to be larger in size, it might be difficult to contact the company in case issues arise. This is especially the case if your registration paperwork is delayed and you’re unable to drive your car. When contacting the company, try multiple methods and keep track of the date and time, your representative’s name and, specifically, what was said. If you are still experiencing difficulties, you have the option to submit a BBB complaint to speed along the process.

Did you know? BBB’s Auto Line helps consumers and businesses resolve vehicle warranty, lemon law, and class action disputes in a hassle-free, timely, and cost-effective manner. Click here for more information.

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