Buying a Car Online vs. In Person: What’s the Difference?

When the time comes to buy a new car, there are many options available for buyers. You can either go to a local dealer in person or visit an online service to find the right car for your needs. The two options have many differences, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each before making a decision.

This article will provide an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of buying a car online vs. in person to help you make an informed decision.

Buying a Car Online

Car enthusiasts eying online purchases can explore a variety of avenues. Renowned platforms such as Carfax and Autotrader showcase listings, allowing buyers to filter their searches based on specific models, makes, and price ranges. Similarly, online auto retailers boast comprehensive applications that facilitate the entire buying process, from exploration to delivery. For those who prefer shopping locally, traditional marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace offer numerous local listings for a more hands-on purchasing experience.

Pros & Cons of Buying a Car Online


  • Variety: Online car shopping provides access to a broader selection of vehicles, more than any single dealership could ever hold.
  • Convenience: You can shop from the comfort of your home at any preferred time and take as long as you want to make your decision.
  • No Pressure: There’s no salesperson looming over your shoulder, trying to up-sell or make you buy on the spot.
  • Price Comparisons: The Internet makes it easier to compare prices from different dealerships and find the most competitive deals.


  • Inspection Limitations: You can’t physically inspect the car, and relying on photos or videos might not reveal all potential issues.
  • Test Drive: You can’t take the car for a test drive to understand how it handles.
  • Negotiation: You have fewer opportunities to negotiate the price of the car.
  • Delayed Gratification: Depending on the delivery service, it might take a few days to a week for the car to arrive.

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Buying a Car In Person

Despite the convenience of online car shopping, some people still prefer a more traditional approach. With this option, you can get the full dealership experience and ensure your new ride meets all your expectations before committing to purchase.

Pros & Cons of Buying a Car in Person


  • Personal Inspection: You can inspect the car in person and look for potential issues or damages.
  • Test-Drive: You have the opportunity to take the car for a spin and see how it handles on the road.
  • Negotiation: There’s room for negotiation. If you’re savvy, you might score a better deal.
  • Instant Gratification: Drive away in your new car the same day you purchase it.


  • Pressure: Salespeople at dealerships can sometimes be pushy, creating a high-pressure sales environment.
  • Limited Variety: Your options are limited to what’s available on the dealership lot.
  • Time-Consuming: Visiting different dealerships to find the perfect car can consume a lot of time.
  • Price Comparisons: Comparing prices between dealerships might require more effort than online comparisons.


Whether you buy a car online or in person ultimately depends on your individual needs, preferences, and circumstances. If convenience, variety, and ease of price comparison are your top priorities, buying a car online might be the perfect fit for you.

However, if you prefer a more hands-on experience, the opportunity to negotiate the price, and the ability to drive your new car home immediately, buying in person at a dealership might be more up your alley.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here; just make sure the method you choose aligns with your car-buying goals, and you’re good to go!

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