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Buy a Car Online

Buy a New Car Without Leaving Home

As more people look for online or contactless solutions for everyday services, many banks and credit unions across the country offer customers and members the ability to get pre-approved loans without having to step foot in a branch. This is especially helpful when looking to buy a new vehicle.

Here are four easy steps that will help you purchase a new car online.

1. Budget and Research

The first step might seem obvious, but it is important in making the entire process go as smoothly as possible. Take a look at your finances and family budget to determine how much you are able to spend on a monthly car payment.

Important financial factors to consider include: increase or decrease of monthly income, ability to comfortably make a previous car payment, gas or maintenance costs, and other new or planned monthly expenses.

Use United Federal Credit Union’s free car financing calculators to estimate payments, see how much car you can afford, and even determine if it’s better to buy or lease a car.

Once you know how much you can afford, research the types of vehicles that fall within your price range. It’s beneficial to know the different options and packages on the vehicle you’re looking to buy. Visit the manufacturer’s website and determine what comes standard and what’s extra. Don’t pay more for a sunroof or backup camera if those features aren’t important to you.

Finally, decide the best place to purchase your new ride. There are several online options including from your local dealership’s website, direct from the auto manufacturer like Ford, GM, or Toyota, or through websites like Autotrader, or CarFax.

Make sure to research local availability for the car you want, and confirm that the photos posted online are of the actual vehicle you intend to purchase.

2. Complete a Loan Application Online

Once you know how much you can afford, and have researched which cars fit your price point, you’ll want to get pre-approved for your auto loan. Pre-approval is an important step—and valuable tool—in the car buying process. Not only do you have peace of mind working with your trusted bank or credit union, a pre-approved loan also gives you an advantage when negotiating a final sales price (more on that in Step 3).

Most financial institutions have an online loan application that is safe, secure, and gets the financing process started in a few minutes. Most applications will require you to provide information such as:

  • Is the car new or used
  • Amount requested for loan
  • Home address
  • Monthly housing payment
  • Information about you (including Social Security Number)
  • Contact information (phone and email)

When you have completed your loan application, your bank or credit union will review your request, run a credit check, and contact you by email or phone if your loan has been approved. This can typically take between 1-5 business days depending on your financial institution’s policy.

3. Negotiate a Fair Price and Finalize the Sale

Similar to negotiating a price in person, you’ll also want to work with the dealership or seller to get the best deal possible on your new car. Ask for price quotes if the sale price is not already listed online, and in either case, ask for the total price to be itemized. This way, you can see exactly what you are paying for and where you might have room to negotiate.

Question add-on charges or other service fees—often times this is where you have the most bargaining power and can potentially save you thousands of dollars. Also, make sure you have quotes from competitors on a similar vehicle. Even a slight difference in sales price could prompt your seller to match a lower competing offer, giving you the price you want on the car you prefer.

Finally, always remember to stick to the final sales price. Politely tell the seller that you are not interested in discussing monthly payments, trade-ins or other discount incentives. Remember when you got pre-approved by your financial institution in Step 2? Now it really is to your advantage. With your payments already secured through bank or credit union, you can continue to focus the conversation with the seller on the sales price and nothing more.

4. Sign Documents Electronically

When you feel comfortable with the deal and are happy with your purchase, ask the seller if they have options that allow you to sign required paperwork electronically. The same goes for your bank or credit union.

Many companies and financial institutions allow you to e-sign loan documents or purchase agreements securely. Check with each party about specifics and what you might need to provide (e.g. scanning your driver’s license or providing your credit union’s routing number).

At this point, you’ll want to be as responsive to the seller or loan officer as possible. Reply to emails promptly and sign and send necessary documentation as soon as you are able. This makes the last part of your online car buying experience much more enjoyable.

Once the final paperwork is complete, the seller will contact you about when and how to pick up your new car. Some may require you to stop by in person, and others might offer a drop-off/delivery service.

The Bottom Line

Being able to purchase a car when and how you want is the ultimate in convenience. The usual car-buying steps are the same, but now you have new tools at your disposal that let you find the perfect ride and the perfect loan.