The saying goes that, after our house, our car is the second most major purchase most of us will make. This is why it's so important to get that purchase right. But as we increasingly do our daily business on the internet, many of us are now looking to purchase our next car online. But how do you make sure you're buying the right car, at the right place, from the right person? Let's find out.
When looking for your next car online, look at a range of websites to get a feel for prices. This could include eBay, Autotrader, manufacturer websites or independent dealer websites. Don't always go straight for the cheapest and ask yourself why any particular car appears noticeably cheaper than all the others, because an unusually low price could be a warning sign that something is wrong with the car. Doing your research on a number of different websites will also give you a good idea of what your prospective purchase is worth, to make sure you don't pay too much. Do a national search rather than a local search, because car prices can vary by region, and you will limit the selection available to you. You'll also find a variation in prices depending on whether you buy from a private seller, an independent dealer or a franchise. Online reviews about the model of car you fancy will also help you make your decision. Websites such asParkers, Which Car and Autotrader carry excellent owner reviews so that you can hear from real owners about areas such as driving experience and reliability.
What to Look for In the Advert
Look for a detailed advert with plenty of information in the description and lots of photographs of all angles of the car, including areas such as the seats and alloy wheels which are most prone to wear and damage. If the description is brief or there aren't many photos, or indeed some areas aren't photographed, you should wonder why this is. Also read the text carefully to see what the seller says - phrases such as "HPI clear," "warranty" and "full service history" suggest a clean, honest, looked after car, whereas if important things such as mileage or service history aren't mentioned, you should consider what the seller's hiding. If you see the phrase "Cat C" or "Cat D", it means the vehicle has previously been written off by an insurance company, in which case you definitely shouldn't buy it without seeing it first. If you see “Cat N” & “Cat S” this means that there is structural (Cat S) or non-structural (Cat N) damage to the car that is repairable.
You may wish to conduct your own history check at HPI, to satisfy yourself, but always check the registration number matches the chassis (or VIN) number when you see the car. An HPI check will tell you if the car's ever been written off, has outstanding finance, or is stolen. Speak to the seller on the phone for more information, and in the case of a dealer check out their reviews on Trustpilot (Thame Cars has five stars on Trustpilot, since you asked!). If you're buying a car privately, don't pay a deposit before seeing it just in case the seller isn't genuine. If you're buying from an established dealer and you want to secure the car by paying a deposit, then pay it on the understanding that it can be refunded if the car isn't as described when you see it. Also consider requesting an independent inspection on the car - there are several companies that offer this, and any genuine seller will be happy for you to arrange an inspection.
If you've bought the car without seeing it, you'll need to consider how to finance it, and how to pay off the balance. If you're paying on finance provided by the dealer, then you'll usually be required to go to the dealership to sign off the paperwork. Speak to the seller about collection or whether they can deliver the car and consider the finer details such as buying car tax and insuring it. If you're not buying a brand-new car, it's always wiser to see the car itself before parting with the money, just to make sure that you've bought exactly what you thought you had bought.
Hopefully you'll find those tips useful in keeping you safe when buying a car online. Here at Thame Cars, we're happy to chat to you online, on the phone or in person at our dealership. You'll find excellent descriptions of our cars online along with plenty of photos, as well as the backup of our five-star Trustpilot reputation and the comfort of knowing that our nearly new cars are prepared to as new standard. If we can help you with your next purchase, do get in touch.