Commercial insurance article archive
A guide to buying a car online
In a world in which online shopping is increasingly popular, the car market has long been seen as one of the last bastions of tradition, with many buyers convinced they need to try before they'll be willing to buy.
As car dealers start to make the move to online selling, however, with a number of websites now dedicated to selling vehicles over the internet, the tradition of "tyre-kicking" could be on the way out. Is the internet about to take over the car market? And does it matter if it is?
Online shopping is already well established, both in the UK and overseas. In December 2005, internet retailers experienced a bumper shopping season, with sales increasing up to 80% on the previous year. Reasons given for the rising popularity of the internet store include the lower prices generally on offer online, combined with the comparative ease of shopping: who wouldn't want to escape the madness of the Christmas shopping season, and have gifts delivered straight to the door, rather than having to struggle through increasingly frantic crowds to find them?
In the automotive industry, however, the internet has been slower to catch up. In general terms, people looking to purchase a high-value item such as a car will be more likely to want to actually see the vehicle before splashing out on it, and to take it for a test drive. That’s something that can't be done from the comfort of your arm chair, and this, combined with the higher risk of paying a few thousands pounds over the internet, perhaps explains why the new car industry is one of the last to make the move online.
For used cars, of course, there has always been a healthy online market, with sites such as eBay Motors and Autotrader allowing motorists to list vehicles for sale and arrange private sales in much the same way as the used car section of the local paper has been doing for decades. It was only a matter of time before dealers of cars, both new and used, saw the potential of the online market. The result: a growing number of websites designed to allow those in the market for a vehicle to track one down and buy online, as easily as completing the weekly online grocery shop – or almost.
The benefits of buying a car online are obvious: with far fewer overheads than their "real world" counterparts, online dealers are able to offer vehicles at much lower prices, and to bundle up the price of the car itself with a range of finance options including insurance and road tax. Unlike new car dealers, who tend to work only with one manufacturer, online garages will offer a wider range of makes and models, and with vehicles delivered to the customer's door no matter where they are in the UK, there's a much wider choice of car, too. Looking for a particular model, in a specific colour? Relying on local garages could mean a long wait, and lot of "window shopping" as you visit different dealers looking for your dream car. When you buy online, on the other hand, you can simply plug the details of the vehicle into the company's website and take your pick from what's available.
There are downsides too, of course. Perhaps the biggest of these is the fact that, in many cases, you're buying "sight unseen", with only a picture and the seller's description to go by. While the dealers insist that this isn't a problem – once you've found a car you're interested in, simply pop along to your local dealer and ask for a test drive to make sire that the model really is what you're looking for – drivers know how much one car can differ from another, even if the make and model are the same. Not being able to see the vehicle you're buying also means you don't have the opportunity to pick up on any scratches, dents, or other problems which the dealer may have overlooked in their description.
Your next problem may be delivery time. When most of us purchase a new car, we're keen to take possession of it as soon as possible. If that new car is located at the other end of the country, however, you're in for a bit of a weight. Most online dealers will do all they can to get the vehicle to you as quickly as possible, either shipping it by truck or train, or having it driven to your door, but you may still be looking at a few days delay at least. Some online dealers may also charge extra for delivery of your vehicle, so remember to factor this cost into your bedget.
Once you've weighed up the pros and cons of buying a car online, it's time to start shopping. At www.buyacar.co.uk, the process is a straightforward one. Simply use the search form on the front page of the site to browse the vehicles on offer, then click to add the car to your virtual "garage", where you can request a quote on finance or even request a part exchange on your current vehicle. Once you've made the decision to buy, you'll be sent a Vehicle Order Form, which you must sign and return, along with a deposit. Finally payment is due prior to delivery.
At drivethedeal.com, meanwhile, once you've selected your car and received a quote, your details will be passed to the UK dealer, who you'll deal with from that point on. A deposit of £500 is required, with the rest of the payment being due on delivery of your car. Twelve months road tax and a three year warranty are also included.
It's not just independent dealers who are selling online, though. Companies such as Autosave are also getting in on the deal, offering savings of up to 26% on showroom prices when you purchase a vehicle from their website at http://www.autosave.co.uk Current offers include savings of over £2500 on a range of Citroen Picasso models and even greater savings on a Fiat Ulysse 2.2 JTD Prestigio people carrier. The new car you've had your eye on may be more affordable than you think…
29 Aug 2006