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Buying a Car Online? Here’s What You Need To Know

From clothes to groceries, you can buy just about anything online these days. And for a growing number of consumers, that list now includes cars.

A vehicle is one of the largest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. (That’s why having the right auto insurance matters, too.) With that in mind, you may think buying a new car, truck or SUV sight unseen would be enough to scare away most buyers.

However, the market for online auto sales is growing.  And many car shoppers are finding they prefer it.

So, how can you buy a car online? And more importantly – should you? Here’s what you need to know about the world of internet car shopping.

Discover great rates from local people who care. Get a free auto quote now.

Where can I buy a car online?

The internet has changed the way people research and buy cars. Today, most traditional auto dealers also display their vehicle inventories online. This allows you to search for the perfect car across the U.S. using search engines like AutoTrader or

If you’re looking to complete your entire purchase online, there are several options. Some popular online car sales sites include:

  • Carvana
  • Shift
  • Vroom
  • eBay Motors

What are the benefits of buying a car online?

Here are some reasons some shoppers opt to skip the dealership and head to the computer:

  • Selection: Unlike your neighborhood car dealership, buying a car online allows you to choose from a large national inventory containing thousands of new and used vehicles. 

  • Price: A recent study from car search engine found that people who bought a vehicle online saved an average of $185 or 0.8%, depending on the model. But keep in mind that you often can’t negotiate online car prices the way you can with a salesperson.

  • Transparency: When you buy online, you get the details of your car’s pricing and fees upfront. 

  • Convenience: Buying a car online means you can shop 24 hours a day to find the right make, model and year for you. Because you’re making the purchase from the comfort of your home, you won’t spend half your Saturday signing paperwork at the dealership. And your car can be delivered right to your door.

  • Return policy: Since you won’t have a chance to test drive your new car, many online auto sellers offer a return policy. It usually ranges from 5 to 7 days after your purchase, although this doesn’t apply to cars bought from individual sellers on sites like eBay.

Are there any disadvantages to buying a car online? 

For all the benefits of online car buying, there are some downsides, too:

  • Test drives:  For many shoppers, not getting a feel for how your new car rides and handles before the purchase can be a deal breaker. You can always test out a similar vehicle closer to home, but you won’t get to experience the ride of your new car firsthand if you buy it online.

  • Inspections: Buying a car can be a big decision to make off online photos alone. You won’t get a chance to “kick the tires” before your internet purchase. And while most online sellers claim to thoroughly inspect their vehicles, it may be worth paying for a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) out of your own pocket. The peace of mind can be worth the cost, and it could save you from any potential surprises.

  • Service perks and warranties: Your local dealership can give you access to perks like loaner cars or service discounts. And if you’re purchasing a used car, factory certified warranties can be more generous than what you’ll get from a third party.

  • Delivery cost: If you’re buying a car from out of state, you’ll need to get it to your garage somehow. Whether you fly to pick up your car and drive it home, or have it delivered to your door, be sure to factor in any delivery expenses you’ll incur.
  • Local impact: When you buy from a local business in your community, the impact of your purchase stays local, too. When you buy local, that helps strengthen your local economy and it creates jobs, too. The American Independent Business Alliance calls that the "multiplier effect."
  • Personal service: For many people, a big purchase (like a new car) is more than just a transaction… it’s about strengthening a business relationship. When you buy from a local dealer, you have a go-to person you can trust to treat you right and be there for whatever’s next.

Auto Insurance for New and Used Cars

With so many ways to buy car insurance these days… why does it make a difference to work with a local insurance agent?

At ERIE, we believe great service – and the human touch – never goes out of style. By getting to know you personally, your local ERIE agent can help you make sure you’re confident in your coverage… no matter where you bought that brand-new ride.

Learn more about auto insurance from ERIE or check out these related stories from the Eriesense blog.

One more thing: Remember, new cars depreciate the moment you drive them off the lot… or that snazzy car vending machine. Learn how ERIE’s Auto Security Coverage Endorsement* can help protect your investment for just a few extra dollars per month.

*A vehicle is considered new when it is less than two years old. Eligible vehicles must carry both comprehensive and collision coverage and replacement value must be based on a comparable model. The endorsement is sold on a per-vehicle basis, not per policy, and contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. Please note that New Vehicle Replacement and Better Vehicle Replacement do not apply to leased vehicles; only the Auto Lease/Loan Security Protection applies to leased vehicles. Coverage is not available in all states. Please refer to our disclaimer and talk to an ERIE agent for policy details.

ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York).  The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company licensure and states of operation information.

The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of July 2022 and may be changed at any time. 

Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. 

The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states.  ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York.  ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia or New York.  ERIE long term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York. 

Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.

Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer questions you may have before you buy.