The way we buy a car today has evolved massively from, say, two decades ago. Rather than purchasing the latest Auto Trader magazine and hoping a good car was within a decent distance away, we now have the ability to see and buy cars all over the country from our living rooms thanks to the rise of online classified adverts. Though a much more convenient way to buy a car, it’s not without its risks and things to take care of. Here are our dos and don’ts to buying a car online...

Do shop around

The great thing about buying a car online is that an entire country’s worth of classified adverts are at your fingertips. Check a number of sites and a number of listings to see what cars are out there before deciding on a purchase — you might find a better deal on the next page you’re visiting.

Do research

The internet is a giant bank of knowledge, and that’s something that should be taken advantage of. Look at owner’s forums and professional reviews of a car to gauge what to expect from a motor you’re looking at — be it a brand-new or used car — and also seek out potential issues that could arise with a car.

Do check a car’s history

Take advantage of the DVLA’s website to check basic background history of a car to see its MOT history. It’s free to access, and requires just the vehicle registration.

We’d also suggest forking over the few quid for one of the many background check services available online. These can show information such as outstanding finance, theft history and if a car is written off. This could help avoid a potentially disastrous purchase.

Do message or contact the seller

Don’t be afraid to give the seller of a car you’re looking at a message or a call. Ask any questions about the car you may have, and see if you can get as much information as possible from them. If things seem a little bit sketchy about the sale, then don’t be worried about backing out from it.

Do arrange a viewing and don’t buy ‘sight unseen’

Though the internet is wonderful for many things, it can’t yet let us see cars for sale up close and personal from the comfort of our homes. We’d say it’s a must to see a car before exchanging any cash, as things may not appear all that an online advert may suggest.

Don’t send money through dubious sources

If you’re looking to purchase a car online and a seller is demanding up front payments through strange sources before allowing you to see the car – or even if you’ve committed to a purchase over messages – don’t be afraid to walk away. Though most car sellers will have the best intentions, it’s always possible scammers could be out to trick you.

That said, auction websites like eBay will require payment if you’re bidding on a car — though there’s plenty of measures in place on their side to protect consumers from scammers.



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