How to buy a car online

Online shopping is incredibly convenient, but should you buy a car this way? Here's everything you need to know...

Using computer to shop for cars online

Now that we're all used to shopping online, it isn't surprising that many car manufacturers are enabling customers to buy a new car without setting foot in a showroom. Most car brands have introduced this functionality to their websites in the past couple of years, allowing you to either buy a car they have in stock or put in a factory order for a car in your preferred spec. 

Some car makers are adopting something called the agency sales method, which means they’re selling the car directly to you, rather than you making the purchase through a franchised dealer, and this type of sale can be done entirely online, with the buyer visiting a showroom only to collect their new car. 

New car buying

Buying direct from the manufacturer isn't your only option, either. Many franchised dealers are now set up to sell cars online, too, with staff trained in providing potential buyers with bespoke video walkarounds of cars they’re interested in, and able to provide all the information on a specific vehicle, including finance details

However, there are some important things to consider before you go ahead and buy a new car online. Do you have the same consumer rights when you buy online? Can you negotiate a discount on an online purchase, and what if the car is faulty? And, finally, should you buy a car without sitting in it or test driving it? On this last point, our advice is that you should try a car out before committing to buying it, but most other potential hurdles are easy to overcome.  

Is buying a car online safe?

Buying online actually gives you more protection than buying at a dealership, because the sale is covered by the rules in the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013. Most significantly, these include a 14-day ‘cooling-off’ period, during which you are entitled to hand the car back with no questions asked.

Person checking their laptop

Just bear in mind that you are covered by this only if you don't visit the showroom; if you go there, for example, to fill in some paperwork, you'll be subject to the terms and conditions set by the dealer in question.

What if my new car is faulty?

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you the right to ask for a full refund in the first 30 days if your new car proves to be faulty.

Car on back of breakdown truck

In addition, if a problem is found after 30 days, but within six months of purchase, you can request a repair or a replacement vehicle. The onus is on the seller of the car to prove the fault wasn’t present when it was sold; if they can, and you’re likely to have known about it, you won’t get a refund.

Buying a car through What Car?

What Car? has been reviewing cars for 50 years, plus we've long had a team of Target Price mystery shoppers, who haggle on your behalf so you know the maximum price you should pay.

However, we are now using this information to make buying a new car at a discounted price even easier, via our online New Car Buying service, which brings together What Car? approved dealers who will compete for your custom.

You can request quotes on as many different cars as you like. And it’s all done through our website, so the dealers can’t see your personal details until you decide you’re ready to buy.

Frequently asked questions about buying through What Car? >>

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