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Reliable Internet Buying Tips And Tricks: Is It Safe Buying A Car On The Internet?

Updated on January 31, 2012


In this day and age of everything being available on the Internet, does it seem improbable that you can actually buy cars online?

No but then on the other hand, is it safe to buy a car on the Internet?

Some say not in light of the numerous scams that have cropped up.

But does that mean that it isn't safe to buy a car on the Internet?

No....but.....with all the scams going on, it's really important to know a little bit about buying cars online.....what to look for and what to walk away from!

With a little knowledge behind you, it is possible to buy a really good car and get a sweet deal on the Internet. 

I know because two people I know have done it and never regretted it.  They got super good deals and great cars so that's why I personally know it's possible!

Let's take a look at some of the do's and don'ts of buying a car on the Internet.


Is it Safe Buying A Car on the Internet

Let's examine how it is safe to buy a car on the Internet.

Do your homework. Know what the car you're wanting to buy is worth.....bottom line...and then you can't be taken. Check sources like the Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds True Market Value. Know how much you can afford. That doesn't mean how much you WISH you could afford. Have it calculated out to the penny....if you pay it off in 3 years you obviously are going to save a heap of money. Know the best interest rates you can get and know how many years you want to carry the debt for if you're not paying cash. You notice this is the first suggestion. Without doing your homework you should never go online to shop for a car.

Avoid dealers. Well, actually yes and no! Some people say to avoid them at all costs but actually if you know that the deal is "sound" and the only place you can get the car online is from ebay (they have dealers listing cars from all over the country), you just need to be street smart about how you check to make sure the deal and the car are legit.

No photo, no deal. Don't even consider cars if there isn't a picture! I know it's prejudiced but let's face it....if someone isn't computer savvy enough to post a picture, and they're selling on the Internet....hel-lo? About the only time I'd take a pass on this is if the car was right in my neighborhood and listed on CraigsList where I could actually go there and see it for myself. No picture, no deal!

Be prepared to be overwhelmed! Especially if you're shopping on ebay, you are going to have your car socks knocked off. There are thousands of cars to choose from. There are dealers from all over the country but to avoid being victim of a scam, just don't buy a car that needs to be shipped. That's simple. Arrange for shipping yourself and payment so you can't be the victim, or better yet, buy a car in a city that's within driving distance to where you live. Go pick it up yourself. I have a friend who drove to Portland, Oregon and got a beautiful Subaru off CraigsList. They took their loan with them and were ready to talk turkey after speaking with the people on the phone. They had an inspection lined up and a test drive, and having seen the car online, they put a "hold" deposit on it. They drove 2-1/2 hours to check it out and drove home with it!

Be realistic and use your head! If the car is older, don't be surprised if it needs some work. But make sure that the work doesn't' exceed what the car is going to be worth or if it is seriously a good deal. If there is a story about how it needs minimal work, probably should think why wasn't it done before they put it up for sale? Likewise, if it sounds to good to be true, it usually is !

Some Tips on Buying Cars on the Internet

Buying a Car On the Internet

You can download a carfinder that a lot of folks use to search craigslist with. You can perform multi-city searches, nationwide searches or state searches. Check it out at this carfinder search engine.

You can also download a desktop classified search tool to search both eBay and Craigslist.

Most of all, in thinking about purchasing a car on the Internet, use the best tool of all....your intuition. It's free and it has a pretty high success rate!

Just use common sense as in most things in life and you'll find that it is safe buying a car on the Internet as long as you exercise proper caution and know what you're looking for, what it should cost, etc.

If you think something isn't right about the seller or the deal, just take a walk. There'll always be another car! It beats being scammed.

Most of all, don't fall for the shipping the car to you gimmick and making payment up front. Arrange things yourself and make sure that you will actually get the car!


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    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Hanna~!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Very well worded and well laid out hub with good advice.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      No kidding, Micky - I'd rather be mushing anywhere anytime but it just doesn't seem to work out that way for me....dang! Do you have one of those running your dogs thing on your bike? I could get one of those....hmm....another hub and food for thought~

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      Buying a car is almost as bad as listening to a political announce but it lasts forever. Great write!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      I know, Dolores - I'd probably shy away from it but I am hearing more and more people are doing it! I guess I'll think about it....that might be as far as I get though!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Audrey - I can't imagine buying a car online but a friend of mine sold his Mustang online. A guy came halfway across the country for it, bought it and drove home. And it already had a lot of mileage on it. Who knew?

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      It is a little weird to think about but it really does work....if you know what you're doing!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, I'd never think to buy a car over the internet... what an interesting concept! Thanks for addressing it :D

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      As usual, BJ, you always remember the one thing I forgot! That is a very helpful thing to know how to do although it seems their interpretation of knowing how to drive and my interpretation of whether they know how to drive varies widely!

      Gus - Thanks for stopping by.....and that's definitely a good comment to post up just in case. It's nice to know that some things go well and others I guess not so well but I'm going to always probably go with Craigslist just because I know friends who've used it and it worked perfectly. I buy on ebay but I think I'll pass on buying a car there....or trying to sell one!

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 

      8 years ago from USA

      Howdy Audrey - Good advice for folks to follow if they want success buying and selling cars (or most anything) on the Internet. I sold a truck using Craigslist and a concession triler on eBay. The first of those sales went nicely, but the eBay buyer won the auction and never took delivery or paid for the trailer. That screwed everything up for the second highest bidder. I guess that's called "try and try again."

      Gus :-)))

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Very thorough examination of the subject, Audrey. My oldest son has bought and sold cars on the Internet so I know it is possible to do so successfully.

      Just one caution, you might mention. The buyer must be certain he or she already knows how to drive!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Katie - My Katie sold hers too on Craigslist and have a friend as I said who bought a beautiful car! Totally neat if you know what you're doing and think I'll give it a go next time.

      Movingfinger - You are 100% right on - the only way I'd do it is to go check it out but I'm old and I never trust anything but what I see for myself.

      Darski - I may surprise you - think I may fold as it's just a lot of work!

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      I know how much you love the contest, so you are going to keep me really busy all, my dear friend this is a fantastic hub, rate up peace & love darski

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice article. However, I would recommend identifying cars online and then physically seeing them before buying it. There are too many issues (as brought out) to consider and there is no way to check them online (Bad battery, tyres, leaks etc).

    • katiem2 profile image

      Katie McMurray 

      8 years ago from Westerville

      Good to know! People do buy cars online. I sold a car in ten minutes after posting it on Craigslist. Just saying it happens. You've pointed out some very good and vital points when it comes to buying a car safely on the Internet. :) Katie


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