Useful Car Tips


February 12, 2019

Shopping for cars online is an ever-popular buying method that up to 86% of Americans do before visiting a dealership. This is for good reason, as this method of car buying can make the shopping experience easier and less time-consuming than others. Shopping for a car online often means having the ability to select such search options as model year, drivetrain (if you require all-wheel drive for example), mileage, and distance from you. Some sites even offer a built-in tool—a calculator that estimates the true value of the vehicle in the listing by comparing it to the used market for the same make and model.

This method of buying clearly has its advantages, but shoppers should still be careful. Listings should be evaluated carefully, looking for positive signs in the car itself as well as the dealership or individual. Let’s take a look at these tips and more to make your next time car shopping online safer for you.


Most sellers provide pictures of the car, which is ideal. If pictures are available, check them for any scratches, dents, or rust that the seller disclosed (or did not disclose) in the description of the listing. If tire photos are provided, especially up close, confirm that all four tires are of the same brand. This condition, if not met, could be a warning sign. Be sure to ask the seller about this issue if you note it. Pictures of the vehicle’s lights will probably not be put in the listing but are important parts to go over. Don’t hesitate in contacting the seller if contact information is available and you are respecting their preferred contact hours, if applicable.

Photos should be clear! If the posted photographs of the car are blurry, obscured, or under heavy shadow, it could be a red flag. Sellers who do so may be afraid to show undisclosed paint imperfections, tattered interiors, or any number of issues that may force them to negotiate with you and sell the car for a lower price. Some sellers point out every scratch and dent, while others may deliberately not disclose minor issues to the level the former do. Regardless of the pictures and their portrayal of the condition of the car, it’s always a good idea to take a look at the seller too.


Many car buying websites offer a system of reviews and ratings of sellers that buyers may choose to submit. Check out these rating and reviews if they’re available. Optimal sellers are of course those with the highest reviews, although rating isn’t always a sure sign. Research the seller through other channels as well if they’re a dealership. Most large dealerships have websites that provide additional information about the company and relevant financing details, if financing is your planned buying route.

A website browse should be a quick way to determine if the dealership’s financing conditions and prices are acceptable to you, as this information isn’t always provided in the listing. Further contact information should be provided on the website. If you’re interested and plan to visit or take a test drive at the dealership, note if the salespeople seem pushy to find you a date for you to come and buy the car. This could be another warning sign and mean that the car has been sitting unsold for an extended period of time.


When online shopping the car you’d like, it’s useful to reference more than one website. Here’s an example: CarGurus is an excellent resource on its own, but a second website like Carfax is a great complement that may pick up some listings not shown on CarGurus (and vice versa). While CarGurus offers useful features like hiding listings without photos and providing miles per gallon estimates, Carfax has a built-in Carfax report system for every listing. These reports generally show whether the car’s been in an accident, damaged, how many owners it’s had, as well as the date and time of each servicing. CarGurus has a similar system though it is not integrated with Carfax.

We hope our guide will help you choose the best car for your needs, either now or in the future. Try some of these tips out the next time you shop cars online and comment how your experience went. Happy car shopping!

Previous Article Next Article