Online car buying has become more popular in recent years. Instead of having to go out to visit dealer lots, car shoppers have found it’s easy to see what’s available, set up test drives, secure financing, negotiate price and complete the purchase—all online, from the comfort and safety of home.

Shop With Safety and Ease

Understanding the virtual car-buying process ahead of time can help you score a great deal and make the whole experience a positive one. Here are the basics you should know.

Set a budget. Before you start looking at cars, it helps to get a rough idea of what your monthly payments will be. Use our car affordability calculator to factor in car-related expenses as you plan a budget during your car-buying process, including:

  • down payment
  • warranty options
  • title, taxes and fees
  • trade-in value
  • monthly ownership costs: financing, insurance, maintenance, fuel and depreciation

Do your research. Once you know your budget, consider any must-have features such as size, fuel efficiency or safety scores. Then, start researching cars online, filtering your search to match those features and your budget.

Get your financing squared away. By getting preapproved for your next car loan before contacting dealerships, it gives you an advantage to have financing in-hand when it’s time to negotiate price and close the deal. Navy Federal’s convenient application process makes it easy to get preapproved for a loan for the car you want at a low, competitive rate, putting you in a position to possibly get a better price from the dealer.

Price compare and get quotes. With your financing in hand and the knowledge of the type of vehicle you’re looking for, it’s time to shop. Hunt for the best deals by checking car-selling sites that pull inventory from multiple dealers, in addition to reaching out to individual dealers by phone, email or chat.

You can conveniently and easily research online vehicle makes and model pricing, compare features side by side, read reviews and view photos. You can even find manufacturer incentives and save with member-only pricing when you use our Auto Buying Program. Some dealers are offering new ways to conduct your vehicle purchase while minimizing personal contact, including online sales and home delivery.

Set up a test drive. Many dealerships offer online virtual tours of their vehicles. But once you’re ready to get behind the wheel for a test drive, they can often bring the cars to you. Just be sure you understand and feel comfortable with the test drive process, including any cleaning and safety procedures.

Ask for the Price and Perks You Want

You’ve narrowed down your options. You have preapproval. Now, with a market value in mind, contact the dealerships that have the car you’re interested in and the price you want. Keep it simple and focus on price before talking about dealer financing or trade-in. Car dealers have high inventory and may be willing to throw in a few extras. These may include: service and maintenance plans, spare keys, floor mats, mud flaps and even rust protection.

Get Your New Car Delivered to Your Door

When it comes to actually buying the car, all the paperwork can now be done online or delivered. Ensure you’re satisfied with the safety processes and purchasing arrangement before agreeing to buy the car. When you’re done, the dealership can bring the new car right to your door. Plus, they’ll pick up your old car if you’re trading in.

For dealers, the virtual experience is probably here to stay. For you, that means a more independent and flexible buying process, and less time sitting at the car dealership.

If you’re considering buying a new or used car, Navy Federal Credit Union is ready to help. Learn more about our quick and easy auto loan preapproval process.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.