Even in today’s web savvy world, many of us are still resistant to buying a car on the Internet. Why? It’s often times cheaper, you don’t have to deal with the incessant hassle of annoying sales people, and you can get just as much information online, if not more, on the vehicle you’re considering. Of course, there are some risks, but overall, you’re safe from scams if you do your research and be careful.
If you can’t meet the seller in person, you should at least talk to them over the phone to ensure reputability. This doesn’t mean the seller isn’t trying a scam, however, but it does give you some added peace of mind. A great resource to use is an online escrow service such as Escrow.com. The seller does not receive payment until the car has been delivered to you and you’ve approved it.
There are some things you can do to safeguard the online car buying process. The majority of people buying a car online buy from the dealership’s website, but don’t get complacent. You still have to do your research. This includes performing a BBB search to check out the company’s reputation, as well as a WhoIs search to find out who the owner of the website is. Look for companies that are well established.
If you choose to go with a private sale, you may be attracted to classified ad websites like Craigslist. Don’t take the seller’s word for it. Always talk to them on the phone or meet in person if possible. Get basic info like the seller’s name so you can match it to the car’s registered owner. They should take a photo of the vehicle’s title and provide that to you as well.
When buying from sites like eBay Motors and Auto Trader, featuring dealerships and private sellers on their sites, check seller ratings and look into buyer protection programs, such as the eBay Buyer Protection Program.
It’s a good idea to run an Intelius Search report, at a cost of just $1.95 on the seller. For around $50 you can run a background check without having a Social Security Number. Be sure to run a CarFax report too, which is basically a vehicle history report showing if the car has ever been in an accident or undergone repair. You’ll get access to things like Ownership History, Title Problems, Accidents & Service to the Vehicle. All you need is the VIN or license plate number to get a report, which costs about $40 for one and $50 for five. Before you spend the money, make sure you’re serious about the car.