7 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Car Online

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3 min to read

In today’s digital age, buying a car online has become a convenient and accessible option for many customers. With so many platforms to buy and sell cars online, you can explore a wide range of vehicles and purchase one without leaving the comfort of your home. However, this convenience also comes with its fair share of potential pitfalls. In this blog, we’ll highlight the biggest mistakes to avoid when purchasing a car online.

Skipping thorough research

The excitement of buying a new car can sometimes lead us to skip essential research. Before making any decisions, spend some time researching the vehicle make and model you’re interested in purchasing. Carefully read reviews and compare prices from different sellers. Pay close attention to reliability, resale value and potential maintenance costs.

Falling for unrealistically low prices

If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Beware of suspiciously low prices, as they may be an indication of a scam or hidden issues with the vehicle. Compare the price of the car you’re interested in with similar models to make sure it falls within the expected price range.

Websites like Kelley Blue Book and TrueCar are valuable resources for easily comparing vehicle prices online.

Overlooking a thorough inspection

When you find a used car you’re interested in, don’t skip the inspection process. A pre-purchase inspection (PPI) will verify the vehicle’s condition. It will also uncover any issues.

Ideally, you’d be able to test drive the car and be present for an inspection in person. If that’s not possible or you aren’t comfortable doing the inspection yourself, find a trusted mechanic or inspection service to provide you with a detailed report.

In addition to a thorough inspection, make sure the seller provides many high-quality, detailed photos. Up-close images of every angle, interior and exterior, will help confirm the car’s quality and condition. If the seller doesn’t provide quality photos of the vehicle, that could be a potential red flag.

Finally, don’t neglect a vehicle history report for used cars. Request a comprehensive vehicle history report to uncover crucial details like accidents, title status and maintenance records. Services like Carfax can provide valuable insights into a car’s past. Don’t just trust the Carfax alone—if any accidents are reported, make sure they match with the condition of the vehicle and there are no additional major damages. You might also consider getting a used car appraisal or doing one yourself if you have the knowledge and resources to do so.

Failing to verify the seller

Before you go through with a purchase, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable seller. Check for any online reviews and ratings for the dealership or individual seller. Check for an address and phone number and be cautious if the seller only wants to communicate through email or text. Keep in mind some individuals may need to rely on text-based communication, so it isn’t always a deal breaker. Just stay cautious and use your best judgment when communicating with a seller.

Before purchasing a vehicle from eBay or another auction site, do some research on the seller. How many reviews do they have, and what is their average review score? Are they a first-time seller? This kind of information can steer you in the direction of a reputable seller and away from potential scams. 

Not completing all the paperwork

Don’t rely on verbal promises; always get the terms and conditions in writing. The purchase agreement, also known as a Bill of Sale, should include the final price, any warranties, return policy and all other important details. Verifying this paperwork before finalizing the sale will protect you from potential disputes in the future. 

Review the fine print and carefully read all documentation. Don’t feel pressure to sign any documents or agree to a deal before you’ve read and understood all the paperwork. Be aware of any hidden fees or additional charges that may apply to your purchase, unless they were agreed upon during your negotiations. Understanding the terms of the sale can save you from unpleasant surprises like hidden fees and terms of sale.

Rushing the payment process 

Once you complete all the paperwork, you’ll probably feel excited to seal the deal and get behind the wheel of your new ride. However, you’ll want to take caution and be patient with the payment process. Take your time during this process and only use secure payment methods. Be cautious of sellers who pressure you into making hasty decisions.

Not considering vehicle transportation

If you’re buying a car from a long-distance seller where you’d rather not travel back and forth, don’t forget to factor in vehicle transportation. You’ve already spent the time and money to find the perfect car, so the last thing you want is for it to arrive in less-than-ideal condition. Research reputable auto transporters to find the best trucking company near you and take precautions to avoid car shipping scams.

An image collage featuring a map of the United States, a car hauler truck, and person looking at a computer screen

If you’re just starting to research auto transport options, Montway Auto Transport is a great place to start. With our nationwide network of over 15,000 carriers, we’ve successfully arranged transport for over one million customers. These truckers have the equipment and expertise to transport all vehicle types, from cars, trucks and SUVs to motorcycles, golf carts, ATVS and more. Learn more about how auto transport works.

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