How To Buy A Car Online: A Comprehensive Guide

By Alexi Falson on 20 Oct 2021
image for How To Buy A Car Online: A Comprehensive Guide A transaction like purchasing a new car should be smile-inducing and fill your heart with joy, rather than induce a heart attack.

Technology has, thankfully,  made the process of buying a new car a safe, streamlined and convenient process, but there are a number of steps to the process you should consider before jumping into the world of online car purchases

What started as a relatively niche offering from one or two manufacturers has fast-become one of the most popular and flexible ways to step into your dream car, without the need for leaving your home. Better still, some of the best services on the market can even organise an inspection, test-drive and final delivery of your new car to your home or workplace.

In the wake of major advancements in how new cars are showcased and sold to the buying public online, let’s take a look at how the process of buying a new car online has been made easier, safer and more confidence-inspiring in recent years with the advent of online car purchases. 

Can You Buy a Car Online? 

In recent years, the process of buying a new car online has become more accessible to buyers. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the transition in a major way we inspect and purchase cars, with a massive trend toward online purchases, which effectively eliminated the need to physically approach a dealership for an inspection or negotiation.

In the modern automotive landscape, more than a handful of major manufacturers are now allowing customers to buy their new car online, and more will add the ability to buy online, organise contactless deliveries and provide you with the equivalent of a digital showroom to compare different colours, interior options and features. 

What are the Benefits of Buying a Car Online? 

One of the major benefits of buying a car online are the massive potential cost savings, due to both the bargains available online, and the elimination of a number of costs that dealerships otherwise factor into your purchase. A major example of this are the costs that a dealership incurs with renting property, paying staff and purchasing new stock, all of which, in one way or another, will likely trickle-down into the price that you’re paying for your new vehicle. 

A major concern, too, for those in the market for a new car is the added stress that dealing with a dealership face-to-face can induce. There is always a spectrum of buyers, from those merely assessing their options on the market to those that are ready to buy on-site, and online purchasing is more welcoming to those that aren’t in a massive rush.

Fortune often rewards these patient buyers with added savings, as more competitively-priced vehicles and plate clearances come to the online market. The final significant benefit of purchasing online is that it’s a simple and straightforward process to get multiple quotes in the space of a few minutes, allowing you to more accurately compare market prices to make a more informed decision. 

  • Potential of finding a bargain 

  • Ease of price comparisons 

  • Eliminating overhead costs for the dealership that make their way to your drive-away price 

  • Welcoming for those not in a rush to purchase 

  • More flexible financing options 

  • Reducing the stress of face-to-face price negotiations 

  • Added flexibility of inspecting and purchasing from home 

  • Avoiding up-selling and unethical tactics at the dealership 

What are the Major Steps to Buy a Car Online? 

Now that we’ve covered the pros and cons of buying a new car online, let’s talk about how you can best prepare yourself ahead of the process, compare the market, find the best deals, organise a convenient inspection, secure the most attractive financing options and negotiate the best possible price. 

Research and Comparisons 

As with all large financial transactions, the first step on your journey of finding a new car starts with a healthy amount of market research, consuming car reviews and comparisons, as you whittle-down a shortlist of vehicles you’re interested in. OnlineAuto’s comprehensive list of car reviews is a great place to start, giving you a clear, unbiased opinion of all major manufacturers and makes on the market. Reading these reviews and conducting your research will help you compare not only prices, but different features out there on the market, and inform you as to how comfortable or practical a vehicle is. 

Once you’ve finalised a shortlist of cars, it’s time to compare the market, and compare what’s on offer within a vehicle’s range. Typically, any given vehicle is offered in three or more variants, with the entry-level model receiving far less features and equipment than the mid-range and flagship models.

If you’re looking for a particular set of features, it’s essential that you check if they’re on offer in the base model, or whether or not you’ll have to pay extra to upgrade. On the flipside, though, if you’re simply looking for the best deal possible, opting for the entry-level variant can potentially save you thousands. 

Another helpful tip here is to not only look at vehicles by their segment, but also look at other areas of the market that you might not have necessarily considered when you first started your search. In the context of finding your next car online, tunnel vision is the enemy of a bargain, so widening your search net and reading reviews online are the best places to start. 


Now that you’ve found your dream car, whether online or at the dealership, it’s time to organise vehicle financing on the best possible terms. While you are the best judge of your financial options, here, there’s a number of key considerations. Taking a look at not only the interest rate, but how this could change over the next five years or so, as well as the loan terms, which can range between one to seven-year, depending on your circumstances.

Typically, the shorter the loan term, the less interest you’re going to pay, but this requires more substantial month-to-month payments, while longer term financing deals will likely see additional interest added to the contract. 

Some of the best ways to compare car loans and vehicle financing involves taking a close look at: 

  • Interest rates 

  • Loan terms 

  • Minimum repayments 

  • Fees 

  • Insurance requirements 

For those more interested in leasing, rather than purchasing the vehicle outright, services like a Novated Lease are another cost-effective way to step into your dream car. This involves an agreement between you, your employer and the financier, allowing a proportion of that vehicle’s finance and the costs associated with owning the vehicle to be deducted from that employee’s pre-taxable income. 

Test-Drives and Inspections

While you might think that visual inspections are more relevant to used cars than new ones, the process of buying a car online isn’t complete without a thorough visual inspection and test-drive. Admittedly, new cars are far less likely to have any defects than a used vehicle, but they aren’t perfect, either, nor are the people in charge of looking after them on the lot. 

New cars can commonly have minor blemishes, scratches from previous test drives and even defects in the paint work, which you won’t notice in photos posted online. In terms of a transaction valued at tens of thousands of dollars, you simply can’t rely on the honesty of the vendor, which is why it’s essential you inspect the vehicle top-to-bottom before you finalise a purchase.

You also want to take note of the amount of kilometres on the odometer, which should be extremely low if it’s being sold as a brand new car. If there are hundreds, or thousands of kilometres on the clock, it should be listed - and priced - as a demonstrator model, rather than a new car. 

In terms of test drives, try to take the vehicle for the longest-possible trip that the vendor will let you. Cars are complex, and they require more than a simple trip around the block to get an idea of the engine’s power, the suspension’s comfort or things that will drive you crazy in the long-term like massive blindspots, narrow seats or ergonomic concerns.  


While everyone loves a bargain, it’s important to be realistic about prices when you’re negotiating. Whether you’re dealing with a dealership in person, or negotiating prices online, it’s essential that you take a look at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), which will give you an indication as to the absolute cheapest price for that vehicle.

Once you factor in things like on-road costs, the price you’re paying for that vehicle is likely to be above the MSRP, however, with registration and insurance sorted, you can drive that car off the spot legally, and start enjoying your new car.

It’s worth noting that on platforms like our car buying service, we can help not only find your preferred vehicle, but also give you a list of multiple quotes for you to compare, which are often some of the most competitive prices on the market.

This is the result of the bulk buying power that you’ll enjoy while using OnlineAuto’s services, which can save you thousands on the purchase of a new car, and at the very least, will give you a clear picture as to exactly how much that car is worth for your future negotiations.  


Alexi Falson

Alexi is an automotive journalist and road tester hailing from Byron Bay. He has an affection for both cars and motorbikes, a great admiration for the simplicity of old-school engineering, and a fascination of new technology making its way to modern cars. When he's not road testing, you'll find him surfing, hiking or helping people find their dream cars.

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