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Buying a Car Online vs. at a Dealership

6 April 2020 AutoMarket, Tips & Advice

Back in the day, dealerships used to be the only place to buy a car. The world is very different today. Thanks to the internet, you can now find your dream ride at the touch of a button. You can browse and compare different models and their features, and easily access reviews and recommendations in real-time. Essentially, you can shop for a car online just as you would clothes or electronics.

That being said, many people still prefer to go to dealerships in person. One of the main reasons for this is that face-to-face interaction with a sales representative allows customers to negotiate the price and terms of financing. Many consumers are simply old-fashioned and enjoy the experience of physically going to the dealership and browsing their models.

So, which is best? Online or dealership? Luckily for you, we’ve compared the two so you don’t have to.


While cars for sale will come with a set price tag, there is usually some wiggle room. How much wiggle room will depend purely on your negotiation skills. While most will find it easier to negotiate in person, it can be done virtually too.


At a dealership, you can negotiate price in the traditional way. Remember to be firm but polite and, most importantly, realistic.

Here are some other tactics that might win you a lower price:

1. Don't negotiate. Tell the salesperson that you'll sign the paperwork the minute they hit your target figure. Politely decline any counteroffers, give them your phone number, and leave. If the price you've proposed is within the realm of possibility, they'll call you at some point.

2. Follow up on Saturday or Sunday nights an hour before closing time. Call and ask to speak with the salesperson or manager with whom you dealt. Remind them of your interest to keep you at the front of their mind. If your offer is realistic, the promise of a last-minute deal before closing might tempt them to agree – especially on a slow day.

3. Follow up on the last day of the month. Again, salespeople and managers are often under pressure to close deals before the month ends. A deal that didn't make sense on the 25th might make sense on the 31st depending on targets.

4. Follow up on days that have had bad weather. Inclement weather can negatively impact car sales. Call and remind the salesperson or manager that you're happy to come down when they meet your offer.

5. Rinse, wash, and repeat. Repeat the process with a couple of other dealers in your area. Make sure they have the car you want, and put your plan into action.


You can also snatch a bargain online by dealing with an online salesperson, who is often more likely to give you a quote right away and offer fixed discounts.


Turnaround time

Buying a car online is often the faster option. However, delivery/collection wait times will vary based on the seller and the location. While sometimes you can drive your new car home from the dealership that day, it’s usually a slower process. There can be a lot of back and forth around price which takes time. The online market is more fast-paced and salespeople don’t tend to waste your time.


Shopping experience

The overall experience is generally superior at a dealership. Some people find it more exciting to browse cars in person and to interact with salespeople face-to-face. After all, a car is a significant investment. One of the main drawbacks of buying online is that you don’t get to take the car for a test drive – you’ll have to do that before. When you visit a dealership, you can take the car for a spin then and there. However, if you’re more concerned with speed, efficiency and practicality, shopping online may appeal to you more.


When to buy online

Buying your next set of wheels at a dealership has its perks, but you can get a much better deal if you’ve done your research before showing up. When you’re shopping online, all of the information is in front of you. It allows you to:

  • Compare prices. Look for cars of the same make, model and year to compare prices. This can give you more bargaining power at the dealership.
  • Research thoroughly. Find out how much it usually costs to buy the car you want, considering insurance, registration and taxes. Then learn what to look for in a used car or how to pay less for a new car.
  • Filter your search. Narrow down your search by selecting a specific colour, price range, number of miles and brand.
  • Find more options. When buying from a dealership, your choices are limited to whatever is available on that lot. You have more choice when you go online and will still be able to view the car in person before you buy.

We recommend when buying a car online. Motor Matcher has a Car Research Tool that will help you answer all your car-related questions and will also teach you about buying cars online and even in dealerships. Motor Matcher also has the Buy A Car Tool that will guide you on your decision.

When to visit a dealership

If you don’t like online research or would prefer to talk to someone about your options, you’re better off making the trip to the dealership. Shopping in person allows you to:

  • Know the prices. An internet search may only return average prices for the vehicle you’re interested in if it’s not available online. By visiting a dealership, you can see the actual sticker price of the vehicle along with its features.
  • Talk to an expert. Salespeople can give you first-hand advice and assistance.
  • Compare two or more dealers. Although it might take more time, you can visit multiple dealerships to sniff out the best deal.
  • Test drive different options. Visiting a dealer means you can test drive your options and find a car that’s comfortable for you.

Another benefit of shopping at a dealership is relationship building. If you plan on changing cars regularly, having a dealer you can trust can win you the best deals in the years to come.

When both make sense

Our evaluation suggests that shopping for a car online versus in-person balance out. For the best deal, you would ideally do both. Take the time to compare cars and financing online, then visit a dealership with a game plan so you can negotiate with confidence.


Where can I buy a car online?

If you’ve decided to buy online, choose your website carefully. Each one is different so pick a reliable source that meets your needs. As always, we recommend Motor Matcher when looking for a car online.

At Motor Matcher, everything we do is modelled around providing customers with the right tools and empowering them with rich information, helping customers make sound decisions when buying and selling cars. We offer a faster, simpler way to compare new and used cars online, creating an ideal and safe marketplace for all car buyers and sellers.

For more information, please visit