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How to get a good deal when buying a car online

Posted at 1:32 PM, Jan 19, 2021

The pandemic has changed the car buying process and more people are now willing to make the purchase online. About 45% of car shoppers say they'd do that now with a new car, according to a recent study from J.D. Power.

J.D. Power says the tools have gotten better over the last nine months to buy a car online. It's more common now to be able to do things like sign your contract remotely.

But there are still things you may want to consider doing in-person before you buy online.

“I think there's still touching, feeling, sitting inside the vehicle, test driving it, understanding that maybe in advance going in and driving the vehicle making sure it has not only the features, but room that they're looking for,” said Chris Sutton, Vice President of Automotive Retail at J.D. Power.

He says when it comes to price online, you need to see if it's a price range or the exact price you're going to pay. That exact price is going to depend on where you live and what incentives you're eligible for in your specific zip code.

You also need to do your homework ahead of time looking at the inventory.

“They should go online, look at the dealer’s inventory and look, do they have two of these online? In which case, you may not have a lot of flexibility around pricing here,” said Sutton. “They only have a couple of them or if they have say 40 or 50, maybe you have a little bit more flexibility.”

If you are financing or leasing, Sutton says you need to have a good understanding of your credit ahead of time, so you know if you're getting a fair deal there.

You also need to prepare ahead of time if you're trading in your old car. There are tools online that can show you the value of your trade-in. You can't have the same conversation about it if you're buying online.