There are both advantages and disadvantages to shopping online. When it comes to cars, bikes, boats, or any other vehicle, viewing online can certainly take a lot of hassle out of finding and buying a car. Some car manufacturers, including Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, are even piloting new approaches to online sales, called ‘digital dealerships’, in response to a younger generation that prefers to shop online.
However, having online options don’t mean you should caution to the winds. No matter how much knowledge you build, it isn’t advisable to buy a vehicle online without viewing it first. The facts offered about a vehicle, and the photographs provided, are no substitute for viewing it in person and having a test drive.
Research into the make and model will tell you which problems to look out for, and you can be sure these won’t be mentioned in the online listing or advert. You do need to see it to check for problems that could prove highly expensive in the long run.
Online browsing allows you to compare prices in your local area, and also find out if it’s worth travelling to a different area to buy, as prices differ between regions. Like property agents, car dealerships know they have to have an online presence if they’re to attract the business and build solid reputations.
Their vehicles are listed on the big car sales sites, and these in turn lead you back to their websites. The website is their shop window, so it’s where you’re going to see the best of their offers.
Many would agree that the biggest advantage of viewing online is dodging the forecourt sales pitch. If you need to email or ring the dealer for a price quote for a new car, you’re more likely to get the information you want, without the heavy persuasion.
Sales pitches are based on manipulating the customer’s largely emotion-driven response, and salesmen are highly trained in setting up a conversation to have the outcome they prefer, rather one that puts you first.
Forewarned is forearmed - with time to consider prices and dealers, you can approach a car, bike or caravan dealer with all the facts at your fingertips. This means you have a better chance of entering the conversation from a position where you can’t be manipulated into a purchase. It also means that if you do start to negotiate on price or extras, you are starting with a cool head and knowledge of the marketplace.
When asking for the price, be sure to check that everything is included in a ‘drive away’ cost, so there are no hidden extras. Check it against typical market prices, using specialist sites such as www.redbook.com.au.
If you do enter negotiations online, make sure you still have the option to view the vehicle before signing on the dotted line. A good dealer will not object to this, as they will be confident in their stock and, if they sell to you, it will have been an easy sale. Some may even deliver if you live nearby.
The important point to remember is that even if you find your car from a dealer online, you don’t need to buy all the extras they offer. You certainly don’t need to take up their finance offers, as you are entitled to – and should – shop around for the deal that best suits your individual circumstances.