Car Buying

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

RELATED READING
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon

author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2015

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.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: Do You Really Have to Visit the Dealer? - Autotrader