InspectMyRide's Top 10 Holiday Tips for Buying a Car Online


buying a car (select to view enlarged photo)

ALPHARETTA, GA--Dec. 21, 2013: Does the holiday shopping season have you running on fumes? This time of year, crowded malls and bumper-to-bumper traffic drive more consumers to make their purchases online. For the loved one on your list hoping to find a new pre-owned vehicle under the tree, InspectMyRide.com is offering our Top 10 tips to safeguard your internet car-buying experience.

Find a car that fits your needs and budget

So who’s the special person this pre-owned vehicle is meant to surprise? Are you looking to purchase a used minivan for the soccer mom? Is there a 16-year-old driver about to get his first set of wheels? Keep the driver’s needs in mind as you research vehicles. Searching for the one that most fits your needs depends on establishing a budget that is realistic and helps you identify the various models in your price point.

Getting started with your online shopping

You’re ready to begin shopping, but don’t know where to start. Make sure you’re buying from a trustworthy private seller or dealership. To better your odds, shop on reputable online marketplaces such as eBay Motors or AutoTrader.com. Before registering or creating an account for any site, go through their buying guides for more information on how to purchase vehicles online. You may also want to check out InspectMyRide’s blog post featuring popular car buying sites.

Check out the seller

Once you’ve found the car you’d like to buy, find out if your seller is naughty or nice. To reduce your risks, there are several tools like eBay’s seller feedback rating. Browse reviews and experiences other buyers have had with your seller before making your purchase. You might want to proceed with caution if the seller has a lot of negative feedback or no ratings at all. Also make sure they have plenty of photos in the listing, as well as detailed description of the vehicle. No photos? No thanks!

Know the value of the vehicle

Do your homework. In this case, that means market research. Look for similar vehicles on sites like Edmunds.com or Kelley Blue Book to find the car’s market value. Make sure you know the options, colors, any warranties, and specific features on that particular model. All of this information helps you understand what the car is worth before submitting your first bid or offer to buy.

Get a vehicle history report

Companies like Experian Automotive help you understand the car’s history. Experian AutoCheck reports provide a comprehensive record of any reported accidents, purchase and registration dates, insurance claims, confirmation of a clean title, odometer verification and many more potential issues you definitely want to be aware of. Most reputable websites will have a link to CarFax or Experian, where you can purchase these reports.

If you have the VIN of the vehicle you’d like to purchase, ask the dealer if the previous owner has had any service work performed at the dealership. If so, the dealer may be willing to share the service records with you.

Pre-purchase car inspection

In addition to a vehicle history report, you may also want to protect yourself against inflated claims or misrepresentations by the seller. That’s why you should also consider getting an independent, third-party inspection (video). Online marketplaces such as eBay make this easy for buyers with a link to “Get an independent inspection” in each car listing from an automotive inspection company such as InspectMyRide. These professional auto services are a great way to help used car buyers make more informed decisions before they purchase a car online, especially if the vehicle is out-of-state. InspectMyRide’s nationwide network of trained field specialists will perform a visual auto inspection, take photos of the vehicle, and also take it for a quick test drive with the seller’s permission. In fact, if you purchase a Premium car inspection from InspectMyRide, a copy of Experian’s AutoCheck report is included.

Title and registration

Be sure to know your state’s title and registration requirements. Also, make sure the title is clean and clear, meaning there are no major physical issues with the vehicle, and there is no financial lien against the car being purchased. Your local Department of Motor Vehicles is a great resource for this information.

Vehicle financing

When you’re ready to buy, always be financially prepared to back up your bid or purchase offer. Some online sellers include their preferred payment methods and whether they require a deposit within 72 hours of the sale date. And remember to never send any amount of cash to an unknown source before taking possession of the vehicle. You may also want to work with companies like Escrow.com or PaySafe to assist with the private seller transaction. If paying with cash, eBay recommends using a PayPal Business or similar account to pay the seller for amounts greater than $2,000. eBay warns to never use instant transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram, because once you’ve sent the money, you are no longer protected. If you need to find a loan, both eBay Motors and AutoTrader.com have financing centers to help. You may want to pay for your vehicle through Roadloans.com, a trusted consumer lender.

Protect your purchase

Several sites offer vehicle purchase protection plans, which protect online car shoppers from fraud. Bear in mind, this is not an insurance policy or a way out if you decide you do not like the car. However, if you purchase your vehicle and later find out it was stolen, or there is a large odometer discrepancy, you can file a claim for reimbursement.

Get it delivered to your doorstep

Many car buyers don’t even consider how to get their vehicle delivered until after they have bought it. Basically there are three options: Pick it up yourself (which may involve transportation costs), have someone you know drive it to you, or have the car professionally delivered. If you have the time and money for travel expenses, you may want to get the car yourself– especially if you are not completely confident in the seller. Otherwise, find out how much it is to have it shipped through a professional company such as Ready Auto Transport. You should be able to get a quick and easy quote online based on the vehicle’s make and model, and the pickup and delivery destinations. Keep these tips in mind regardless of where you buy your next vehicle and you can get a great deal, avoid disaster and drive away with the car at the top of your holiday wish list.

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