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Car buying online vs. at a dealership Advertiser Disclosure Advertiser Disclosure We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our goal is to help you make better financial decisions by offering you financial calculators and interactive tools that provide objective and original content, by enabling users to conduct research and compare data for free and help you make informed financial decisions. Bankrate has partnerships with issuers including, but not restricted to, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Discover. How We Earn Money The products that are featured on this website are provided by companies that compensate us. This compensation can affect the way and when products are featured on the site, such as for instance, the order in which they appear within the listing categories and other categories, unless prohibited by law. This applies to our mortgage or home equity products, as well as other products for home loans. This compensation, however, does not influence the content we publish or the reviews that you see on this site. We do not include the vast array of companies or financial offerings that could be available to you.


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6 min read Published October 28, 2022

Authored by Rebecca Betterton Written by Auto Loans Reporter

Rebecca Betterton is the auto loans reporter for Bankrate. She is a specialist in helping readers in navigating the ins and outs of securely borrowing money to purchase an automobile.

Edited by Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor

Rhys has been writing and editing for Bankrate since the end of 2021. They are passionate about helping readers gain confidence to manage their finances through providing concise, well-studied and well-researched content that breaks down complicated topics into manageable bites.

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Should I buy my next car online or at a dealership?

It’s all about the kind of experience you like. If you enjoy personal communication, dealerships are the preferred option. If you prefer to handle the purchase at home, stick to online.

In the past, buying a car required a trip to your local dealership to pick the next car from the selection in the showroom. Today, drivers can order vehicles from their homes and in certain cases , have them delivered. Both purchasing options have advantages and disadvantages. Online buying comes with convenience and ease of negotiations. Think about which one is the best fit for your requirements prior to beginning your search. Car buying online vs. dealerships online

Traditional dealership


* More vehicle options * Easier to compare vehicles * Fast and responsive customer service

* Prices that are more flexible * Manufacturer incentives Expert advice


* No test drive * No negotiation * Potential extra fees

* Larger time commitment * Harder to walk away * A tinier selection of vehicles


The driver who prefers shopping at home and prefers to stay clear of any pressure from salespeople.

A driver who excels when it comes to negotiations and appreciates the relationship which comes from working with a dealer.

What to look out for

Buying sight unseen can carry the risk of a higher risk. Do some research on models to ensure you’re getting a good vehicle.

And a marked-up loan can ruin all of your hard negotiation. Pressure can push you into a vehicle that doesn’t fit.

Cars can be purchased online in the period of the pandemic, local dealerships began to offer alternative options. It gave customers the chance to check out available vehicles within the region before heading out for the dealership. Although it is a good option to shop online, it will necessitate a visit to a dealer. Other ways to shop that are more seamless have become popular since local retailers have moved online due to sheer necessity. Online retailers like CarMax, Shift and -just to mention some enable customers to shop and arrange for pickup or delivery from the comfort of their home. Advantages to buying cars online The primary perks of buying the next vehicle online come from the ease of purchasing and the direct support online. A wider selection of vehicles Local dealerships can only offer what’s readily available, and with remaining supply chain issues the availability is even less. Shopping online offers a much greater number of cars to shop from. You can also filter your search to specific models, makes and prices — without the stress of a salesperson over your shoulders. Easy to compare vehicles more vehicles available, comparison is the key to . Whatever notes you make it’s hard to truly compare two vehicles on a dealer’s lot in a side-by-side comparison. On the internet you can check out the features and costs for all the vehicles you have your eye on. Friendly customer service when shopping from home removes any interaction with a person, but shopping online provides excellent customer service — depending on the vendor you’re working with. Many online sellers, such as Carvana, for example provide a chat feature that allows customers to ask specific questions throughout the entire process. There are disadvantages to purchasing a car online While buying an automobile online has the benefit and comfort of shopping from your home, there are important disadvantages to be aware of. You can’t test drive the car when you shop online, you’ll not have the opportunity to inspect the car in person until the moment you’ve signed the line. In the absence of a test drive, you could purchase a car that doesn’t fit your needs. If you’re shopping online for a car, look for sellers that provide a return policy such as a seven-day return time — so you don’t have to buy an unsuitable car. No negotiations Most online vehicle websites offer no-hassle prices. If you’re tired of , this can be a plus. But it also means that there is no extra room in the price. When you visit an established dealer, it’s likely that you will be able to cut the cost through negotiations, however when shopping online, the price advertised is the price you will pay. Potential extra fees While fees are not a necessity when it comes to car buying, shopping online tends to carry an additional cost. If you decide to have your vehicle delivered, for example, you will have to pay an additional fee that can be as high as 1,000 or more, on marketplaces like Vroom as well as other handling fees which can be avoided when you work with an agent. Buying a car at the dealership Visiting the local dealer is the most obvious option when it comes to purchase a used or new vehicle. Dealerships cater to specific vehicle models, prices, and kinds. But these establishments can carry a negative reputation, so it is wise to consider before arriving. Buying a car today also requires some due to the current price of new cars that are caused by supply chain issues as well as . Which, unfortunately, aren’t likely to return to normal prices until 2023’s spring. With all this said you should be prepared to pay some more when you buy the brand new car directly from a dealer. Benefits of buying a vehicle from a dealer Choosing the traditional route gives drivers the excitement of getting the most competitive price as well as the expert guidance of a salesperson. Prices that are more flexible. While the prices differ from those you see advertised on the vehicle window, it’s possible that with negotiating skills, you can reduce the cost of the vehicle. It isn’t an advantage for those who shop at your home. Manufacturer incentives Dealerships may provide buyers with financing options or rebates additional to those offered by manufacturers to sweeten the purchase from them. While not every available is identical, many of them can be used to boost your down payment , or provide you . Professional advice Nothing is as valuable as the personalized guidance that a sales associate familiar with the business can offer. This especially rings true if you’re looking into different options for your vehicle like . There are so many bells and bells that vehicles now come with, it may be helpful to get someone guide through the procedure. The disadvantages of buying a vehicle in a dealership The amount of time it takes to buy the car could be a long-term commitment, and can cause anxiety for cautious buyers Consider the disadvantages of buying from a dealership. Larger time commitment When buying online, you can close your computer and get your new car arrive in the next day, but buying at a dealer isn’t usually as seamless. You’ll need to block out time to travel to the dealer’s lot, walk around to explore different options, and finally meet with a salesperson. The entire process is exhausting and sometimes still make you miss the dream car of your dreams. The harder it is to walk away when salespeople are on hand to assist you in your car-buying journey and having someone at your side during the whole process isn’t easy for those who are on the fence. It also makes the decision to walk away from a bargain very difficult. Unless you are a strict shopper who is prepared to say no, consider the comfort that comes with the ability to close the site or “walk away” when shopping online. There are fewer vehicle options, and dealerships have fewer options than online sellers. Commonly, dealerships sell one particular brand of vehicle. For instance, if you’ve got your sights at the brand of Nissan but you only have an Ford dealer close by, shopping online is the best method to look into other possibilities. What can you do to get the most deal no matter where you shop. Regardless of where you intend to buy your next vehicle, there are a few cardinal rules to keep in mind when you’re trying to drive to the most affordable price you can get. Stick to your budget. Cost should be the primary priority when you shop, and consider the car loan to know your estimated monthly expenses. Along with that consider all the costs associated with ownershipmaintenance and also included. You can apply in for loan prequalification. Look out for lenders that provide prequalification, which is the best way to lock in expected monthly payments. Also, make sure that you’re able to afford your vehicle prior to signing. Look at for the total amount, not the monthly payment. The , the less your monthly payments could be, however this is not always the best choice because you might incur more interest in the end. Understand your credit score. Your serves as the main factor in your ability to pay off your loan. Understanding this can put you in better position to judge whether you’re getting the right rates. Shop around. It is not just essential when it comes to automobiles, but is also essential to obtaining the most suitable loan. It is recommended to before making a decision on a loan. Utilize cars purchasing apps. Benefit from the latest technology by using , at and off the dealership lot. These apps allow users to compare cars and also provide you with real-time price estimates. Tips for Bankrate

If you’re looking to get the best of both worlds, consider talking to your local dealer via email ahead of time. Be sure to mention what you’re interested in, your purchase timeline and inquire about incentives available.

The bottom line is to have a pleasant and stress-free experience. Therefore, the choice between an online store or dealership depends on the best fit for your requirements. If you’d rather the assistance from a trusted sales rep opt for the traditional option. But if the thought of dealerships creates more fear than excitement, think about the simple online process.


Writen by Auto Loans Reporter

Rebecca Betterton is the auto loans reporter for Bankrate. She specializes in assisting readers to navigate the ways and pitfalls of taking out loans to purchase the car they want.

The edit was done by Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor

Rhys has been writing and editing for Bankrate since the end of 2021. They are committed to helping readers gain the confidence to control their finances through providing concise, well-studied data that is broken down complicated topics into bite-sized pieces.

Auto loans editor

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