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Whether you want to use the Internet to prepare for a visit to a local auto dealer or complete the entire purchase online, you will feel empowered once you research your options. This is equally true whether you are looking for a new or used car, and you will have a clearer picture of what you need and can afford if you read up on various models before you buy. These days, there is no easier way to research your vehicle purchase than by browsing online.
How Online Shopping Works
Convenience and the desire to find exactly the right vehicle at the best possible price is what prompts consumers to shop for such a major purchase online.
By researching your purchase on the Web, you can determine the going price for a particular model that interests you, along with its fuel economy, safety ratings, options, and color choices. You can check out consumer websites to see how your target car held up in objective testing, and opinion sites will have feedback from those who've bought a similar car.
To decide on the specifications you want and find out the pricing for options on a new car, the manufacturer's website is the place to look. Be aware, though, that you will still need to take your wish list to a dealership to get the actual car. Current legislation prevents manufacturers from selling directly to buyers in the United States.
If you visit a quote-request site, you will be able to configure a model of new car as you choose and e-mail those details to a third party or dealership. Your response will come via fax, phone, or mail, according to your selection, with a price quote stating the vehicle's availability.
Shopping for a Used Car
Unless the car you want to purchase is certified by the dealer, you will want to find out its used car history. This should tell you if the vehicle was stolen or involved in an accident.
The best way to do this is by ordering a vehicle history report, which will use the car's vehicle identification number (VIN) to report on the title history of the car, where it was owned and how many owners it's had, whether it suffered any collisions or other damage, whether it was leased or was used as a fleet vehicle, and more.
If you plan to make your purchase through an online auction site such as eBay, you will need to investigate the seller. If something seems questionable, consult the Better Business Bureau, your local automobile association, or your local police department.
To avoid complications when you buy a used car, make certain that all the paperwork to transfer ownership to you is complete and accurate. You should also be aware that if the offer seems too good to be true, it could very well be a scam, such as an attempt to sell a flood-damaged vehicle.
Financing Your Purchase
Despite what the ads tell you, be aware that 0% financing is really intended for buyers with an outstanding credit rating. In addition, you might have to pay the car's sticker price in order to get this interest rate, leaving you no room to negotiate for a better price if you finance the car through the dealership.
Instead, in some cases it's smart to arrange the financing before you buy the vehicle. Even if you purchase the car on the Internet, you can have your own financing in place before you click "Buy." Your credit union or local bank is a good place to start, or you can borrow against a line of credit if you have equity in your home.
Buying a Warranty
When it comes to buying a warranty on a used car or extended protection on a new one, one size does not fit all. When deciding whether to shell out the extra cash, you should consider the warranty being offered by the manufacturer or dealer, the "reliability quotient" of the model you are buying, and your particular driving situation. Factors to think about include:
- Whether your driving is mainly on the highway or through town
- The number of miles you drive each year
- The climate and conditions in your area
- Whether your car is kept in a garage or exposed to the elements
When you've finally settled on your dream car, an in-the-flesh test drive will help you determine how suitable the car you have chosen really is for you, and it can assist you in evaluating your local dealership as well. If you can, ask a friend to accompany you, and test the same model at two or three dealerships. When you do, don't only drive the car yourself―test it as a passenger as well, checking out both the front and back seats.
You should see how the car handles on both flat and hilly terrain, how it parks, and how it maneuvers on turns.
You've gleaned all the Internet has to tell you about your chosen car, and you've put in your order. Right before you go to the dealership to take delivery, make certain that:
- Your driver's license is current and carries the correct address.
- Arrangements for financing and insurance on the vehicle are complete.
- All the required sales and transfer documents are in order.
- You have a list of features and options to verify that the car you are given meets the specifications you were promised when you placed your order.
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