Most car shoppers start the buying process bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, excited to test drive and pick out their next ride. Unfortunately, the process can quickly take a turn in the direction of time-consuming and overwhelming. Between hours of test driving, price negotiations, and stacks of paperwork, the dealership experience can be stressful and exhausting. Recognizing the need for an easier alternative, companies like Carvana and Vroom have emerged to take the entire used car buying process online. Despite their growing popularity, buying a car online isn't for everyone. We cover the online car buying options, the pros and cons, and who should shop online vs. go into the dealership.
Online Car Buying Sites
There are many sites that let you digitally search for cars in your area, get a price quote, and set up a time to go in and test drive. Here at Web2Carz, you can even get auto financing online. While this can cut down on the time it takes to browse vehicles, negotiate and purchase, it doesn't eliminate the physical visit to the dealership. If you'd prefer to stay in your PJs instead of getting dressed up and making the hike to the dealership, car shopping sites like Carvana and Vroom come to the rescue. These car buying sites allow you to browse used cars by make and model, body type, engine options, and price. Once you find a vehicle you like, you can purchase right on the site via electronic forms and the car will be delivered to your door.
You may have driven past one of Carvana's giant car vending machines and wondered "what the heck is that?" Carvana lets you search cars on their website using 9 filters including price, financing, make and model, year, mileage, body type, features, color, and fuel efficiency. Once you select a vehicle, you can take a 360-degree look and check out its features, CarFax report, and a 150 point inspection.
If the vehicle fits your needs, you can move on to the financing step where you can see the estimated monthly payment based on your credit score, income, and down payment. Carvana even lets you get prequalified for an auto loan before you purchase the car so you can compare auto loan rates. If you're not looking to take out a car loan, you have the option to purchase with cash and e-sign all the financial documents right on Carvana's site. You can also sell your vehicle and apply a trade-in towards a down payment.
Once your purchase is complete, your car will be delivered to your door, or for a fun alternative, you can stop by one of Carvana's 25 car vending machines to pick your car up in person. Once your car is delivered or picked up, you'll have 7 days to test drive it and see if it works for you. If the car isn't what you expected for any reason, you can return it for a full refund with the 7-day Money Back Guarantee.
Vroom is a similar car shopping site to Carvana. Although there are fewer filters, you can still search for your perfect used car by make and model, body type, year, price, or miles. Once you find a car that sparks your interest, you can browse through the exterior and interior photos and details like the warranty, and the number of previous owners. All of Vroom's vehicles pass a thorough inspection and come with a free CarFax vehicle history report to give you more confidence in your purchase.
Financing your vehicle is also possible through Vroom's website for a one-stop shopping experience. They partner with major banks such as Chase, Capital One, Ally Bank, and TD Bank and they also accept your own approved car loan. Vroom's application process takes as little as 5 minutes which can save you time compared to sitting in the F&I office waiting for the financing to get squared away.
Once you identify the vehicle you want to buy, you'll create an account and choose how you'll pay (finance through Vroom, use your own financing, or pay cash). You can appraise your current vehicle to trade it in and finalize the purchase by uploading pictures of your driver's license and proof of insurance, place a refundable deposit, and sign off on the purchase. Your car will then be delivered to you within 10-14 days of ordering. The shipping fee for a Vroom vehicle is $499 and it is non-refundable. Like Carvana, Vroom gives you 7 days to test drive and you'll be able to return the car for a refund on the purchase price.
Pros and Cons of Buying a Car Online
If your previous car dealership experiences have left you with a bad taste in your mouth and you're not excited to set foot into a dealership again, sites like Carvana and Vroom sound like they were created just for you. Before you start browsing cars and looking up your closest Carvana vending machine, however, you should consider all the pros and cons of buying your car online.
There are many benefits to buying a car through online sites like Carvana and Vroom including a less stressful shopping experience with no haggling involved. It is also a one-stop-shop for browsing, financing, and trading in your car all from the comfort of your home - no pressure from pushy salespeople. In addition to saving yourself from the stressful dealership experience, you'll save yourself plenty of time. It's not uncommon to spend an entire day at the dealership between the test drive, price negotiations, and stacks of paperwork. Just the financing step alone can take a couple of hours at the dealership, but Carvana and Vrooms' financing applications take just 5-10 minutes in comparison.
The process of buying a used car online seems almost entirely hassle-free, but it doesn't come without some drawbacks. Unlike going into a traditional dealership, buying a car through Carvana or Vroom restricts you to only used cars and only the limited inventory that is available through these sites. Another disadvantage that will be a dealbreaker for many shoppers is that it is not possible to test drive the car before you buy. While you do get the 7-day test drive period after you purchase the car, if you don't like it, you have to deal with the hassle of returning it. More importantly, you won't be able to test drive a handful of vehicles to compare before deciding the one you want to buy.
Should You Go into the Dealership or Buy Online?
So, who should try out an online car shopping site instead of going the traditional route of a dealership? If you've decided that you want a used car and don't feel the need to test drive many different vehicles (you want to replace your Toyota Corolla with another Toyota Corolla, for example) Carvana or Vroom may be for you. If you hate haggling and pushy car salespeople and you're looking for a no-nonsense used car shopping experience, it's something to consider.
When should you go into the dealership to buy your car in person? If you're not sure whether you want to buy a new car or a used car, or if you haven't decided which model is right for you, going in and test driving multiple vehicles is a better choice. You can still save time and headaches at the dealership by doing the bulk of the research and financing online before you go in to buy the car.
Check out available cars in your area and take notes of the prices for the used cars you're interested in or get a new car price quote directly from the dealership. Use these numbers to help you negotiate a fair price on the car you ultimately buy. You'll also want to apply for car loan pre-approval so you can compare financing offers and go in prepared to buy the vehicle. These steps may not cut the shopping time down to match online car buying sites, but they will make the entire experience faster and less painful.