Tips To Buy a Car Online During a Crisis

If getting a new car is on your essentials list during this tough time, consider these tips for a smart shopping experience.

Young woman standing outside next to a car holding a key

by TrueCar

NOTE: This article originally appeared on

The novel coronavirus pandemic has made routine activities exceptionally difficult for individuals and businesses. If you're in a situation where you need a car soon, possibly as an alternative to public transportation or due to an expiring lease, the good news is many dealers are offering enhanced services to assist buyers.

When you use the NEA Auto Buying Program, for example, a new “Buy from Home” badge indicates which TrueCar Certified Dealers are participating in this new program. With these participating dealers, shoppers can complete a lot of their paperwork from home and also have their vehicle delivered to them by dealerships that are performing extra sanitation procedures.

As strict hygiene, self-quarantining and social distancing have become the new normal, these tips can help ensure that you can do due diligence on your research and also take safety precautions while buying or leasing a vehicle.

Do your research online

Although test drives are one of the best ways to learn about a car, doing your research ahead of time can help narrow your top picks and save you time on the lot. We suggest reading or watching car reviews, comparing specs, and getting familiar with configurations. The goal is to spend less time at the dealership during this time, so take detailed notes to become more knowledgeable in advance.

Confirm availability and pricing

After deciding which model and configuration you’re interested in, you can use the NEA Auto Buying Program to confirm that the exact car you want is physically on the dealer’s lot. You’ll also be able to get an upfront price offer from the dealer, including fees that you’ll pay the dealership. You can also email or call the dealership to confirm availability and iron out as many details as possible to speed up the process once you’re there.

Inspect the car over video chat

Normally, it makes a lot of sense to let a dealer walk you through a vehicle in person. But in the interest of public health, it’s worth turning to digital alternatives. The good news is that technology has made it easier than ever to inspect a car from the comfort of your own home. With video calling services like FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, and Skype, you may be able to set up time with the dealer to check out a specific vehicle remotely.

Use online tools for loans and credit

Financing can take some time at the dealership, especially if you need to get approved on the spot. You can show up prepared by getting pre-approved online. Many dealerships have online forms to apply for a loan or credit, making it easy for the on-site staff to pick up where the online process left off. You can also apply online for financing with your bank or credit union. If you’re approved, let your dealer know, as they may be able to offer a more competitive interest rate.

Ask about vehicle delivery

From restaurants to groceries, at-home delivery is booming in the wake of the coronavirus. The practice is also catching on among car dealerships, many of which already offer the service for new vehicle purchases.

As a part of the “Buy from Home” option available at participating dealerships through the NEA Auto Buying Program, a sales associate can deliver your car to your home along with the paperwork you would otherwise complete inside the showroom.

Check dealership safety procedures

Before you head to the dealership, ask your salesperson what steps the organization is taking to keep you safe by minimizing your exposure to COVID-19.

For example, some dealerships have shifted employees’ functions and assigned staff to sanitation duty. Other stores are using disposable, single-use barriers around primary contact areas of the vehicle—particularly the steering wheel, driver’s seat and door handles—to keep hands off your new car as much as possible. Still, others are limiting the number of people at the dealership to 10 or less.

As a shopper, you can do your part by frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially immediately before and after your visit.

Connect with your dealer

After you’ve finalized details about pricing and financing in advance, ask the dealer if you can set up an appointment to show up, sign the paperwork, and pick up your new car. Although you shouldn’t expect to run into crowds at the dealership, scheduling an appointment with a dedicated sales associate will help keep your car-buying experience moving while minimizing your exposure to others.

If you’d rather not go to the dealership, ask whether they’re offering video conference calls and delivery services given the current COVID-19 environment.

The coronavirus situation continues to evolve, so it’s best to consult the CDCWHO, or your local public health department before you set up your dealership appointment.

We can help you shop online for a new or used car