Pitfalls of buying a car online

While shopping online for a vehicle offers many advantages, there are also some pitfalls of buying a car online that you need to be aware of. Not knowing these things can cause you to make a poor decision, or even worse, get ripped off by an unscrupulous seller. Some of the things you need to consider when shopping online are:

  1. Online car seller scams
    There are a wide number of online car seller scams that you need to watch out for. The first thing to keep in mind is that “if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.” If you remember this, you’re far less likely to get taken by a scammer online.
    Make sure if you’re buying a car that you cannot take physical possession of (i.e. it will be shipped to you) that you only use a documented and approved, buyer-protected method of making payment (such as through Ebay). Scammers often tell potential buyers that they use “Carfax Buyer Protection” or “Yahoo Buyer Protection” or some other “service” that doesn’t even exist. They may even send fake emails to convince the victim that the payment protection service they have referenced is legitimate.
    The bottom line is that because car-selling scams abound on the Internet (and it seems that a new one surfaces regularly) you need to be VERY careful if you are thinking about buying a car that you don’t take physical possession of at the time you give the seller money.
    A good article about these types of scams can be found at MSNAutos.
    Remember also that even if you are confident that the seller is legitimate and you are buying in a way that protects you from scammers, you still don’t get to see the car in person, inspect it, or test drive it. That alone is a good reason to not purchase a car this way.
  2. Getting what you want
    Shopping online can still be somewhat dicey when it comes to getting exactly what you want. There are so many different options and car configurations that even when you try to be as specific as possible online you still may end up getting a price quote from a dealer that leaves something out. Until you actually go to the dealership and see the car for yourself in person, you can’t be sure that you’re getting everything in the car that you want.
  3. Getting the lowest price
    You can get a great idea of the price you’ll pay by shopping online. But, you won’t know what you’ll actually be paying until you visit the dealership and negotiate the final price with the dealer. Be aware that the online price quote is only valid for the specific car that the dealer has in stock and will not be valid if the car has been sold… and is not final until you have actually signed the purchase agreement with the dealer.
  4. Closing the deal
    State franchise laws don’t allow a purchaser to complete a car deal online. You will have to finalize any dealer purchase (new or used) at the dealership from which you are purchasing the car. In a private seller deal, the entire process can be done online but you need to be very careful in the instance where you are not physically taking possession of the vehicle at the time you give your money to the seller (see 1 above).

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