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Buying a Car: Do You Really Have to Visit the Dealer?

If you’re interested in buying a car, you might be wondering if you really need to visit a dealership at all in order to do a deal. After all, many car shoppers don’t like the dealership process, whether it’s negotiating with a salesperson, waiting for financing or spending hours test driving various vehicles. So can you complete the entire car-buying process without visiting a dealer? We have the answer.

Much of It, Yes

In today’s world, you really can do a large portion of the car-buying process online or over the phone. Finding a car is easy, of course: You can use Autotrader to search through thousands of local listings and narrow down your search to the car of your choosing. You can search through new, used or certified cars; you can sort by make, model, body style, trim level, engine size and even color. This saves a lot of time that used to be spent traveling from dealer to dealer looking for the car you want.

Next up, you can call or email the dealer to get in touch. While some dealerships might insist that you come in for further negotiations, most will allow you to negotiate over the phone or via email if you make it clear that you can’t or don’t want to visit the dealer. You can also secure financing by providing the dealer with your pertinent information over the phone or by going to your local bank or credit union to get your own financing.

In this scenario, the only part of the process you’d have to do at the dealership is picking up the car — and some dealers won’t even require that, instead offering to drop off your car at your house and collect a few signatures for the paperwork.

We Don’t Recommend It

While it’s technically possible to buy a car entirely over the phone and Internet, we don’t recommend it. That’s because we find the test drive to be an integral part of the car-buying process. While you might read many reviews that say positive things about a car, it’s hard to know how you’ll feel about a certain vehicle until you’ve actually spent some time behind the wheel. You don’t want to discover after you’ve already signed the papers that you can’t see out the back or that the infotainment system is too complicated for you to easily use.

As a result, we suggest visiting dealers for at least the test-driving process — even if you carry out every single other act of car buying online or over the phone.

Car-Buying Services

It’s worth noting that shoppers interested in buying a car can now choose between a few different car-buying services that offer the ability to buy a car without visiting a dealer. These services locate a vehicle for you and can deliver it right to your doorstep, cutting out the need to deal with a dealer. Of course, their cars will be a little more expensive since they’re providing a service — and in many cases, you still won’t have the opportunity to test drive the vehicle before deciding on it. But these services can make the process easier for drivers who really don’t want to spend time in a dealership.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from its original content


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