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Buying cars online: Advantages and disadvantages

The internet has revolutionized how people research, shop and buy goods. That’s true for major purchases, just as it is for minor ones.






Even for something as expensive, significant and variable as a vehicle, you have a variety of ways to shop for, and buy, cars online—but it’s important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of buying cars online.

The benefits of buying cars online:

  1. Lots of search opportunities

You have a wide range of options when it comes to looking for a car online. Dealerships and used car businesses – from your local dealer to national operations like Carmax – let you browse available vehicles online and review technical and design specifics. Many of those sites also allow you to begin the purchase process, although, in some cases, you will have to eventually make a phone call or in-person visit.

Beyond dealerships, there are companies that specialize in online car sales directly or facilitate them through another business, like TrueCar, Carvana and CarsDirect. If you decide to complete your vehicle purchase online, make sure you have shopped your financing options before starting the process. Direct online care sellers often offer financing, but it may be more economical to use financing from your financial institution instead. Make sure you have all of the details in advance.

  1. Direct price and term comparisons

Although not every individual dealer site will offer complete information about making a purchase, they generally offer basic information. Meanwhile, larger online retailers tend to feature more specific pricing and financing details. Cars sold by individuals will include an upfront price. You may occasionally have to fill out a form or send an email, but it’s easy to see costs as well as financing terms and conditions. Certain sellers also offer upfront pricing with no expectation of negotiation or haggling – a major benefit, if that appeals to you.

The drawbacks of buying cars online:

  1. The distance between you and the car you want

The convenience of shopping online comes from creating a virtual car lot that’s far larger than any that could exist in the physical world. That also means you’ll likely need to make the trip to inspect a vehicle you’re interested in. In certain cases, where the retailer is a business that offers guarantees about a vehicle’s condition, you may not feel you have to conduct that inspection. If you’re buying a car from an individual or used-car provider that doesn’t make such promises, you’ll need to make the trip to look at the car yourself and, ideally, pay a mechanic to inspect it. Of course, regardless of whom you by the car from, you’ll also need to arrange to pick it up or have it shipped to you.

  1. The potential for fraud

The nature of online sales also comes with the potential for cybercrime and scams. Be aware that cybercriminals may create a false lookalike website mimicking an established car dealer or online car seller. Lookalike websites aim to trick online shoppers into providing sensitive information like personal or payment details. Additionally, individuals selling a car may misrepresent the state of the vehicle. Be especially careful of prices that seem too good to be true as well as any insistence that you use a specific escrow company or a link shared by a seller. Research the person or business selling the car and walk away if anything seems suspect, purposefully hidden or too good to be true.

Shopping for and buying cars online can be a convenient way to view hundreds of options and compare your financing opportunities. Just be sure to tread carefully and make sure the dealer, website or individual has a credible offer.

UMB personal banking solutions offer convenience and simplicity to meet all of your past, present and future financial needs. From home loans to auto financing and everything in between, see how UMB personal banking can work with you to find the right products for your life and lifestyle.graphic line break
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When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s Web site and go to Web sites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other Web sites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.