Shopping for a Vehicle: Dealership vs. Online Buying

In the age of the internet, purchasing a vehicle has never been more accessible. But should you head to the dealership or click through to an online sales platform? Let’s explore the benefits and drawbacks of both approaches.

online car purchase

Buying at a Dealership

Until not long ago, the sole method to purchase a new or used vehicle was in person at a dealership. Distinct from the vehicle manufacturers, modern dealerships seldom stand as independently owned entities. Instead, many are overseen as part of extensive corporate conglomerates.

Pros of Purchasing at a Dealership

The following are the advantages of purchasing a vehicle at a car dealership.

Personal Experience

You can interact with salespeople and see cars firsthand, ensuring the best fit for you and your family.

Financial Choices

Dealerships allow you to explore various financing options, like leasing or trading in your old vehicle.

Test Drives and Inspection

Used car buyers benefit from the ability to test drive and inspect the vehicle for any undisclosed flaws.

Cons of Purchasing at a Dealership

Just as there are advantages to purchasing at a dealership, there are some distinct disadvantages to consider.

Time Suck

Going from one dealership to another can eat up time, not to mention the additional hours spent on price negotiation and paperwork.

Additional Costs and Pressure

Some dealers might include extra fees or hard-sell add-ons. Watch out for warranty clauses that may tie you to a specific dealership or aggressive sales tactics.

Buying Online

With the advance of the Internet, all kinds of retail opportunities have sprung forth, including car purchasing. Keep in mind, though, that state law usually requires consumers to liaise with a car dealership to close the loan.

Pros of Purchasing Online

Let’s examine some of the advantages of purchasing your next ride online.


You can shop at your pace and explore options across different locations without leaving your home.

Stress-Free Shopping

No need to negotiate face-to-face or deal with pushy salespeople. Many new and used car platforms enable an entirely online buying process.

Varied Options

Whether you know what you want or are just starting your research, online shopping provides a wide selection, including customization for new cars.

Cons of Purchasing Online

Buying online isn’t completely rosy, however. And for the following reasons:

Limited Negotiation and Financing

Online platforms may have rigid pricing policies and limited financing options.

Lack of Test Drive

You might miss the opportunity to feel how the car handles, especially for used or high-mileage vehicles. Some platforms offer a trial period, but always read the fine print.

Potential Hidden Fees

Shipping and transportation fees can add unexpected costs if purchasing from a distant location.

Your Next Vehicle Purchase

Whether it’s the face-to-face interaction of a dealership that appeals to you or the ease of online shopping, knowing the advantages and disadvantages of both paths empowers you to make an informed decision for your vehicle purchase.


Nerad, J. R. (2021, February 12). Pros and Cons of Buying a Car Online. J.D. Power.

Writers, S. (2022, April 9). Thinking about buying a car? Here’s what auto experts say you need to know. CNBC.

See AlsoOnline Car Buying Tips and Tricks

Photo under license from Adobe.

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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