Is it safe to buy a car online?

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Buy a car online

In an age where online shopping is the norm, you may wonder if it is safe to buy a car online. Many wonder if you can really trust the process of purchasing a car online and how to avoid potential scams. 

Even though it is safe to buy a car online, you need to be aware of the potential risks involved with this purchase. Read more to learn what to look out for when searching for a vehicle online.

Where is the safest place to buy a car online?

Shopping at reputable online websites prevents you from falling prey to online car sales scams. There are three main categories of sellers that tend to promote online car sales, let’s see which ones are the most trustworthy. 

Private sellers

When looking for a car online, it is important to find a reputable seller. One of the riskiest ways to purchase a car online is to search through Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, or eBay. Even though these websites may provide great deals on cars, it is hard to trust private sellers. 

This is because these websites do not have thorough consumer protections set in place. Therefore many buyers are susceptible to being scammed through fake information or images of the product.

Online car marketplace

Online car marketplaces like Carvana, Autotrader, or Carmax, can be a safer option for buyers when looking to purchase a car. However, it is important to read through reviews and whether the owner is verified. 

Additionally, ensure that this online car marketplace has secure transactions. Some of these marketplaces are prone to hacking attacks due to a large amount of money being transferred. It is important to be extremely cautious when providing personal information online to these websites. 

Franchise dealership

Franchise dealerships have online websites where you can purchase their products. Even though this is the safest way to purchase a car online, it is also the most expensive. 

However, they will deliver the car to your home and offer lending options for their products. Brands such as Ford, Kia, and many more offer these services and special deals that are only available on their website. 

How to buy a car online safely

The safety of your personal information and bank account is the top priority when it comes to purchasing an expensive item online. There are certain steps you can take to protect yourself when it comes to making a large purchase. Here are some of the most important ones. 

Do your research

There are many ways to purchase a car online, however, not all of these platforms or sellers are trustworthy. It is important to do your research on these online platforms before purchasing a car to ensure the product’s information is accurate and that your personal information is protected. 

How you can do this is by checking reviews on the company, looking for connections to well-known dealerships, seeing how many transactions the platform has completed, the platform’s consumer protection rights, and whether it has secure transactions. This information can substantially help you decide whether this online platform and seller is a credible source.

Verify the sellers identity in person

Unless you are purchasing a car off of a trusted platform, such as Carvana, you should do some research on the private seller’s identity. If you cannot meet the private seller in person, see if you can talk with them over the phone. 

You can ask for additional specific pictures of the product to make sure the photos posted are in fact accurate. Additionally, see if the website you found this private seller on has set up procedures to protect your personal information and their refund policy on these types of transactions. 

Make sure your payment is secure

If a seller asks specifically for a form of payment through cryptocurrency, Money Gram, or reloadable debit cards, this request raises a red flag. There is no reason to conduct a car purchase through untraceable currency. 

Additionally, you should not purchase a car online if the seller requests payment via wire transfers or cash-only deals. If the seller does not have the best intentions for this deal, this could leave you more prone to getting scammed. If you’re paying online make sure the payment source is secure, eBay motors and can help make secure payments.

Check websites

There are several ways to check if a website is a reliable source. This includes seeing if the company is a trusted institution, is an expert in this field, if it is updated, whether it is a secure connection, and reviews of the platform on other sites. 

Additionally, be aware of small details such as grammatical or spelling errors along with the site’s overall design. You should always check the online site you are buying from to make sure they are legitimate and be wary of links sent to you from private dealers. 

Ask for specifics on the vehicle

It is extremely important to know as much information on your vehicle as you can before purchasing it. In dealerships, you can physically see and test-drive the vehicle prior to purchase, however, buying online does not grant you this luxury. 

By asking specific questions about the car’s quality, it can help you fill in some blanks. Additionally, if this is not an option, ask for the VIN and copy of the vehicle registration to know the car’s history report. 

Get a mobile vehicle inspection

To ensure the information provided online is factual, you can hire a company to do a mobile inspection on the vehicle prior to purchase. This can be helpful for those looking to buy a car that is not located within your area.

It can also make it possible for you to see a professional report regarding the car’s condition. Some reputable companies that do inspections pre-purchase include the Lemon Squad and Alliance Inspection Management. 

Protect yourself when closing the deal

If you are getting the car shipped to you from a private seller, it is important that you protect yourself. However, if this transaction will be in-person it is crucial to choose a safe location that is not your home address.

Additionally, if you are having your vehicle shipped, you should use a reputable shipping company such as Direct Express Auto Transport. This ensures that your vehicle will arrive safely and allows you to track where your product is.

Keep your emotions out of it

Scammers use your emotions against you in order to get what they want. If you find a vehicle that is in pristine condition and at an extremely low price, do thorough research prior to any sort of transaction. 

Do not feel bad for asking questions and wanting to do extra procedures prior to finalizing a deal. Additionally, since car purchases do deal with a large sum of money, take your time before making a decision. 

How to protect yourself when buying a car online

Whether it be for convenience or the best deal, purchasing a car online is a viable option. However, you should always take extra precautions prior to purchasing a vehicle from the internet. 

Make sure the platform and the seller are both credible sources to ensure that the information regarding the car is truly factual. Even though it is typically safe to purchase a car online, you should conduct thorough research and ask for background checks to protect yourself from a potential scam.


Is it safe to purchase a car online?

Yes, it is mostly safe to purchase a car online. However, there are some websites and sellers who try to deceive buyers with false information on a product to finalize a deal.

What’s the best way to buy a car online?

Buying a car from a franchise dealer is the safest way to purchase a car online. However, these dealers tend to offer more expensive pricing on their products.

How can I protect myself when buying a car online?

Make sure it is a credible website, do a pre-purchase car inspection through a reputable company, ensure the transaction is through a traceable form of payment, and identify the seller prior to purchase. Additionally, know your consumer protection rights, refund policy, and whether the platform has secure transactions.

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