BBB: Tips for buying cars online

Fourth of July is approaching, bringing car sales and deals with it. Among COVID-19, online car sales have been increasing in popularity. However, this makes aspects of the car buying process, like financing and payment terms, more difficult to understand. Knowing the best ways to handle online car sales is important. In 2019, BBB received nearly 200 complaints against the auto industry. Between January and May 2020, 99 complaints were made: a higher monthly rate than last year.

Use these tips from your Better Business Bureau to guide you through online car purchasing:

Set a budget. Determine the most you are willing to spend each month on a car payment. This budget should include additional expenses, such as insurance payments, gas, routine maintenance, etc. Stick to this budget, even if a salesperson wants you to consider paying more.

Research thoroughly. When considering purchasing a vehicle, determine what kind of car suits your needs. Do you need more space in a family car? How important is fuel economy? Ask yourself these questions, then research different models from different manufacturers. You should also research the best prices at different dealerships. Consider sales, such as Fourth of July sales, when buying.

Prequalify for loans. Most dealerships offer in-house financing for their customers, but you can find lower interest rates by financing with your bank or credit union. Being prequalified for a loan also helps you set your budget and allows you to set a price range, which dealers will have to meet in order to make a sale.

Take a test drive. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for test driving a car, even during a pandemic. You will want to take a test drive to ensure the car handles the way you want it to. Call the dealership and see what processes they have in place for conducting test drives. If possible, schedule an appointment to cut down on your time spent inside the dealership.

Complete the sale. Final contracts are often signed in person, but with more car sales being done online, vehicle deliveries are becoming more common as well. If your dealership offers this option, you may be able to sign paperwork upon delivery. This allows you more opportunity to practice social distancing, even while buying a car.

To find more tips on online car delivery, or to find an accredited dealer near you, visit us at

Emily Gaines is a public relations coordinator with the Better Business Bureau for the Heart of Texas.