How to Buy a Car Online Without a Dealer

by Heather Inks

Buying a car is a major decision and expenditure. For many buyers, it's also a stressful event. Negotiating a car's price and arranging financing are two aspects of the car purchase many consumers would rather avoid. Some car buyers are worried they'll get pressured or manipulated into buying a car they don't want. If you don’t like dealing with car dealers or high-pressure salesman, then buying a car online without a dealer might be a good option for you. Besides avoiding a high-pressure situation, you can find exactly the car you want without venturing away from your home computer.


Apply for financing with several local banks and online banks if you will need to secure credit financing for your new car. Sometimes it takes a few days to a few weeks to get through the application process.


Decide on the style or classification of car you want to purchase. This is best done by weighing your needs. Do you drive a few kids all over town? Consider sedans, SUVs or minivans. Do you haul cargo? Consider pickups and vans. Is speed or style your priority? Consider sports cars, convertibles, luxury cars or sporty coupes. When you know what type of vehicle you'll drive, libraries, bookstores and websites can help you narrow your search to a few candidates.


Determine the age range, production years and mileage you would accept. For instance, maybe you want a car that's less than three years old with fewer than 30,000 miles of wear. Or maybe your wishes are more specific: You know you want a 1982 Corvette.


Post a wanted ad in online newspapers and community boards like Craigslist for the car you want. Include the makes and models, production years and miles that would be acceptable. Also include preferred colors as well as colors that you definitely aren’t interested in purchasing. For instance, a post might read, “looking for a a black 2005 Audi convertible with less than 70,000 miles. Not interested in convertibles with over 100,000 miles, that are older than 2004, or with white fabric interiors.”


Search for cars matching your description through online newspapers,, eBay, and car clubs. There are a bounty of such sites; use a search engine to find one.


Run a VIN (vehicle identification number) check, a lemon check, and a title search on the cars you find online that you are interested in buying. Make sure the car has not been wrecked or flooded.


Make arrangements with the online seller of the car to see the car in person and to have a mechanic or local shop check out the condition of the car--unless you are qualified and experienced enough to do so yourself. It might help to bring an additional person with you for the meeting.


Ask questions. How many owners has the car had? What is its accident history? What mechanical work has been done? What repairs are necessary? Bring your list of questions or a notepad so you can write notes about the car's history down for future reference.


Buy the car if you like it and are comfortable that it is sound, using credit financing through a bank, the online money-transfer website Paypal, or cash.


  • close Try to see the car in person before purchasing a car you found online. Pictures don’t always show everything.

About the Author

Heather Inks is a social entrepreneur who educates on improving communities and the world. She is an educator, writer, photographer, artist and model who has taught K6-12th grade and public educators. Inks is a life coach specializing in personal, career, educational, dating, health and fitness, and gifted children issues. She has been educated at fine universities including graduate work at Stetson University.

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