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9 steps to buy a car online Advertiser Disclosure Advertiser Disclosure We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our goal is to help you make smarter financial decisions by providing you with interactive tools and financial calculators as well as publishing unique and impartial content. We also allow you to conduct your own research and evaluate information for free and help you make sound financial decisions. Bankrate has partnerships with issuers, including but not limited to, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Discover. How We Earn Money The deals that are displayed on this website are provided by companies that compensate us. This compensation can affect the way and where products appear on the site, such as for instance, the order in which they may appear within the listing categories in the event that they are not permitted by law. This applies to our mortgage, home equity and other home loan products. However, this compensation will not influence the information we publish, or the reviews you see on this site. We do not cover the vast array of companies or financial offers that may be accessible to you.

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7 min read Published on August 23, 2022.

Written by Naomi Mannino Written by Contributing writer

Naomi Mannino is a contributing writer at Bankrate. Naomi writes about loans and banking.

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

Rhys has been editing and writing for Bankrate since late 2021. They are passionate about helping readers gain the confidence to control their finances with precise, well-researched and well-researched content that break down complex topics into manageable bites.

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In 1976, Bankrate was founded. Bankrate has a long experience of helping customers make smart financial choices.

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They ensure that what we write is objective, accurate and reliable. The loans journalists and editors focus on the areas that consumers are concerned about most — different kinds of loans available and the most competitive rates, the most reliable lenders, ways to repay debt, and more — so you can feel confident when investing your money.

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There are money-related questions. Bankrate can help. Our experts have been helping you manage your money for more than four decades. We strive to continuously provide our readers with the professional advice and tools required to succeed throughout life’s financial journey. Bankrate follows a strict standard of conduct, so you can rest assured that our content is truthful and accurate. Our award-winning editors and journalists provide honest and trustworthy information to assist you in making the best financial decisions. Our content produced by our editorial team is factual, accurate and uninfluenced through our sponsors. We’re honest about the ways we’re capable of bringing high-quality content, competitive rates and helpful tools to you , by describing how we make money. Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. We receive compensation for placement of sponsored products andservices or when you click on specific links that are posted on our website. This compensation could affect the way, location and when products are listed in the event that they are not permitted by law. This is the case for our mortgage, home equity and other products for home loans. Other elements, like our own rules for our website and whether the product is available within the area you reside in or is within your self-selected credit score range could also affect how and where products appear on this website. While we strive to provide the most diverse selection of products, Bankrate does not include details about each financial or credit item or service.

In the , the purchasing of automobiles online has exploded among Americans. This trend is here to stay. As a savvy consumer, it is important to learn how to locate the most affordable car deals when shopping online. There’s an easy way to access the vast amount of information to help with the online buying process. The Manufacturer’s Recommended Price (MSRP), trade-in values, financing, incentives inventory, expert reviews and reviews from customers — every detail you require is readily available online. Use all of these details to become a knowledgeable shopper. 1. Make a budget. The first step is to decide how much you can spend. This means calculating both regular and one-time costs. The cost of fuel, as well as your down payment all contribute to the cost of purchase and ongoing monthly cost that comes with owning a vehicle. It is important to be aware of the interest you will pay as it has the biggest influence on your monthly installment and overall cost. Buyers with better credit scores will be offered more competitive than buyers with less credit scores. Bankrate’s expert advice: having at minimum a 20% down payment, and not spending more than 10 percent of your monthly budget for all car expenses, including repairs and insurance. 2. Get preapproved for a loan To get the best deal on the car loan explore your options and by a lender prior to approaching any dealerships, whether either in person or online. Credit unions, banks, and online lenders have preapproval periods that allow you to view your possible interest rate and monthly payment to help you shop wisely. When you’ve got preapproval you can utilize it to leverage your loan . Dealer financing can result in huge markups and a loan online first will help you find the most affordable deal. “When you’ve agreed on a price, present the dealer the financing you have secured and ask if they can beat that rate,” says Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor for Kelley Blue Book. “Sometimes dealers have little-known incentives attached to manufacturer-sponsored financing, which could save you money.” Bankrate tip: By prequalifying for a loan in advance, you’ll know your interest rate, which plays a significant role in how much your monthly payment will be and the total cost over the life of the loan. 3. Find the ideal vehicle for you. Most people are already using the internet to determine and discover the most information possible about the make, model and other options. Websites provide experts’ reviews and reviews of hundreds of vehicles, detailing the most suitable vehicles for a variety of types of lifestyles, according to CarGurus Director of Editorial Matt Smith. “And with YouTube, shoppers no longer need to walk the vehicle lot in order to take a good view of the cars that are appealing to their interests,” Smith says. It is possible to do the majority purchases online to cut down on time spent at the car dealership. And in some cases, dealers will offer completely online buying processes, although it may not come with the ability to negotiate price. Bankrate tip: It can still be a good idea to see a car in person before signing a sales contract. Contact the dealership and ask a salesperson to take pictures of the vehicle for you however, you must always try a test drive and mechanic inspection prior to purchasing. 4. Find out the worth of your trade. Knowing the value of your trade and considering other methods to sell your old car can provide more money toward the new car’s purchase price. You can always sell your car to the dealership, but it is important to be aware of how much it can be sold for prior to accepting a deal. The majority of people use Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds to assess the value of their used cars. In addition, car shopping and research websites like CarGurus use algorithms to determine the anticipated value of trade-ins for cars based on their features like age the mileage, its location and features. There are three methods to dispose of your old vehicle. You can do them online, too. You can trade in your old car to a dealer, even if you don’t intend to purchase from it. You can also get an offer on your vehicle via the Instant Cash Offer tool on AutoTrader.com which is a website for buying and selling new and used vehicles with participating local dealers. Sell your car privately for cash. Look up your model and make online for price and availability on sites like eBay as well as Craigslist. Sell it to a used car dealer, such as CarMax as well as Carvana. Get a guaranteed cash price and compare the price with the one you’ve seen on the internet. Bankrate tip: Don’t just choose the convenience and exchange your used vehicle to the dealer, where you’ll most likely get the lowest price for it. Request quotes and use them to use as leverage in negotiations. 5. Find local inventory If there’s a small amount of the car you want on dealer lots There’s less of a chance you’ll be able to get a good deal, so be sure to check what local dealerships have in stock. Call a variety of dealers and inquire on availability of the car you’ve been thinking about. However, if you are not able to find dealerships that permit you to fill out the application on line, you should look to private auctions. There are many websites that help buyers and sellers connect, and you may be able to find a good deal by skipping the dealership completely. You might also think about shopping with a mix of in-person and online dealers such as TrueCar. This will allow you to effortlessly browse through inventory at the national and local levels to keep your search broad, especially if you would like to purchase a specific second-hand model. Bankrate advice: Search for cars with two VINs (vehicle identification number) in the listing and pictures that show the exact vehicle that is sold instead of stock images. 6. Contact local dealerships for price estimates. After your online research is complete and you have found a dealership, call them for price quotes via the internet. There are many dealerships that have departments devoted to online sales. Regardless of whether you email the sales department via their website or fill out an inquiry form on the website of the dealer it is best to contact an individual who is able to provide you with a quote. “The higher the amount of quotations you have the more the chance you have in concluding the deal,” advises Quincy Reeves, the editor who is the editor of Consumer Reports. “But remember that most dealers are likely to be reluctant to give the best price without some certainty that you’re going to buy from them.” Bankrate tip: Be as specific as you can about the your model, make, and other options and inquire with several dealers for their most competitive prices. Compare them with the research price ranges as well as one another to determine which is best. 7. Evaluate trade-in value and financing When you’ve negotiated the price with a couple of dealerships, negotiate the trade-in value and financing. Simply ask the dealer for the most favorable price on your exchange. “Trade-in valuations have risen dramatically between the years 2020 and 2021. Therefore, if someone is looking to buy new vehicle and has a used vehicle to trade in, they must always see how much the dealership is willing to offer,” says Smith, of CarGurus. The prices continue to increase for used cars and this means that you could get an even better deal in 2022. It is also possible to make mention of AutoTrader.com’s trade-in value at participating dealerships. When you’ve received quotes for your trade, you can compare them and choose if you’ll agree to a dealer’s offer, sell privately, or take an offer offered by a used car dealer like CarMax. Make sure you inquire about financing incentives and rebates. In the event that you’ve got a voucher or preapproval from your lender, you can use them to describe being a cash purchasereliminating financing and down payment out of the equation that profits the dealer. Ask if the dealer can offer you anything better. Bankrate tip: If you’re eligible for one, look into any additional rebates or incentives before accepting the deal. It might appear to be an offer that is better initially, but you may pay less in interest with an alternative lender which has lower fees. 8. Negotiate online If the initial price quotes that you receive are within the price range, which is of the price at fair market and invoice, you may make use of these two numbers to ask dealers for their best prices. “It’s ideal to first ask what’s the dealer’s best offer. It’s not necessary to disclose any information about other negotiations or offers you’re in with another dealer unless it’s for benefit you,” DeLorenzo says. “Use these figures to determine whether the dealer could beat the other offers. If not, remember you are in charge and you can relocate your business to another place.” Make sure that the price estimates are detailed in an email and remember to ask if any extra fees are withheld or included. Things like “customer service fees,” -that are a matter of negotiation and can be removed -they can add thousands to the overall cost. If one dealer gives you a price that you like and you want to send the quote to a different dealer to get competing bids, especially if you know exactly what the price quotes include. Bankrate tip: Never quote your monthly budget to a salesperson for a car. This will allow the dealer to include whatever they can into the amount you are quoted and still meet your budget. Concentrate on the total cost and make use of it to negotiate your vehicle. 9. Take a test drive and sign the paperwork By now, you should be working with the dealer that has the car you want to purchase and offers you the most favorable bargain. At this stage there is a chance that you will need to visit the dealership to finish the purchase contract, sign any required documents for financing and collect your keys and vehicle. But many dealerships are also currently delivering vehicles and other paperwork right to your driveway and allowing this last procedure to be completed from your home. Whatever route you take, look over the final contract carefully. Review all of the details and request explanations of any additional charges or any documentation for fees that look questionable. Make the appointment of a technician to examine the vehicle, even if it’s new. Do not finalize any paperwork until you’re sure that the finance and car are the one you’re looking for. Bankrate’s tip: Finance and insurance representatives may try to sell you add-ons however be firm in telling them “no,” and only add something to your if there is no better method of obtaining the product or service. The bottom line Buying cars online or performing the majority of the legwork online before going to a dealer will save you both time and cash. Get prices, browse local and national inventory, compare current vehicle prices as well as prepare for negotiations. Using the abundance of information accessible on the internet to your advantage will eliminate much of the anxiety of purchasing an automobile. Find out more

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Written by a contributing writer

Naomi Mannino is a contributing writer at Bankrate. Naomi is a writer on loans and banks.

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

Rhys has been writing and editing for Bankrate from late 2021. They are committed to helping readers gain the confidence to take control of their finances with precise, well-studied information that breaks down otherwise complex topics into manageable bites.

Auto loans editor

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