Buying a car online has become much more commonplace over the last several years. Smartphones and social media have opened up brand-new avenues for online car shopping, and the increasing popularity of smartphone and social media usage 

More than 50% of car shoppers report that shopping for a car at a car dealership causes them feelings of anxiety and/or discomfort. An overwhelming majority of car shoppers also admitted that they would be thrilled to be able to buy a car from the comfort of their own home, and most of these respondents even reported that they would not mind forgoing a test drive altogether in exchange for the ease and comfort of online car shopping. 

The commonality of shopping for a car online in lieu of buying a car in person at an official car dealership was already gaining ground before COVID-19 hit, but the onset of the worldwide pandemic definitely sped up an overwhelming shift from in-person to remote car shopping—especially among U.S. consumers. 

Widespread stay-at-home orders and mandated social distancing measures have motivated many car dealerships to bolster their online shopping options over the past several months and have driven many consumers to buy their next vehicle online rather than in person. 

Buying a car online can be a satisfying and rewarding experience for many drivers, but it also has the potential to feel unfamiliar and lead drivers to feel stressed and/or overwhelmed. All signs point to online car shopping being the way of the future, however, so it’s important to get used to the process of buying a car online as soon as possible to stay ahead of the curve. If you’re in the market for your next vehicle, read these 5 top tips on how to buy a car online and get the best possible results. 

  1. Explore Home Delivery Options 

Primarily as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it has caused for car dealerships, many auto dealerships have begun offering home delivery options for drivers who purchase a vehicle from them online. 

These home delivery options vary depending on the dealership, but they generally involve a dealership employee delivering your new car directly to your driveway. This process prevents you from having to visit a car dealership in person at all and allows you to complete the entire car-buying process from the comfort and safety of your own home. 

  1. Don’t Skip Negotiations 

Negotiating the price of a car can be stressful for many consumers, but it is also often a key step toward getting the best deal on the car of your dreams. 

Buying a car online does not mean you have to skip the negotiation process. Do thorough research online and make direct contact—preferably via phone—with several different dealerships to ask about their prices, home delivery services, financing options, warranties, return policies, etc., etc. 

If your preferred dealership isn’t offering the best prices or financing options, let them know about the offers you’ve received from competing dealerships. You might be surprised how quickly additional special deals can pop up once you start negotiating. 

  1. Choose Certified Pre-Owned Over Used 

If you’re in the market for a new-to-you car, go with a certified pre-owned vehicle from an official car dealership instead of choosing a standard used car—especially if you’re shopping online. 

Certified pre-owned cars are used cars that must meet certain strict standards of quality, be only a few years old or younger, and have fewer than a certain number of miles logged on them in order to qualify for an automaker’s certified pre-owned program. 

While certified pre-owned vehicles tend to be a little more expensive than standard used cars, their high quality and the guarantees and warranties that come with them offer additional protections for online car buyers that are generally worth it in the long run. 

  1. Seek Out Flexible Return Policies 

Finding a car dealership that offers flexible return policies and guarantees on their vehicles is important when buying a car online. When you shop for a car online, you buy it without actually seeing it and without test-driving it. 

To avoid regret or buyer’s remorse, it is important that you make sure you have the option to return any car you buy online without significant fees or penalties before you make your purchase.

  1. Try a Virtual Test Drive 

Because many car buyers value test-driving a vehicle before they buy it, many car dealerships have begun offering free virtual test drive options for online shoppers. 

While a virtual test drive isn’t quite the same as an in-person test drive, it helps make up for the disadvantage online car buyers have because they are not able to drive a car in person before they buy it.