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Should You Buy Your Next Car Locally or Online?


Thinking of buying a new or used car? You might wonder if you should make the traditional trek to the dealership or shop online. Both approaches have benefits and drawbacks – it depends on what you need from the experience.  

Here are some key differences between buying a car online vs. buying from a local dealership. 


It’s important to know what you’re looking for in a vehicle before you start shopping. If you know the exact make and model you want to purchase, online buying can help you quickly find the best deals. If you aren’t sure what kind of car you want, you may need help narrowing your options. Even if all you know is that you want heated seats, a dealership can help you pinpoint models offering that feature.  


Sitting in and test driving a vehicle helps some buyers confirm that it’s the one they want. For others, this process can feel overwhelming, and they might feel pressured into making a decision before they are ready.  

If you choose to buy a vehicle online, you can’t test drive the actual car until it’s delivered. You also won’t be rushed into making your decision by inhaling that alluring new car smell, either. Many online dealers will let you return a vehicle if it isn’t for you after all, although you may have to pay for return shipping. Bottom line: If you need to touch, see, and experience the car you are purchasing, you will likely prefer buying at a local dealership. 


Your schedule is busier than ever, and you may not have time to spend walking through car lots. Maybe you only have your lunch hour to decide on your next vehicle purchase. In that case, online buying offers convenience – it can be done anywhere, anytime – and often, it offers delivery right to your driveway. Local dealerships have standard business hours and may be a considerable distance from your home or place of work.  


Many local dealerships are small businesses and play active roles in their local communities. If supporting a local business is an important part of buying your next vehicle, you might consider doing so through a local dealership. They have to compete with the same prices as online retailers, and they're likely to match or beat an online price. 


Whether you buy a car online or at a dealership will depend on your unique situation. You may find the best option is using both methods: shopping online to compare vehicles and financing options, and then visiting a local dealership so you can negotiate with confidence. 

No matter which option you choose, SLFCU will offer a competitive rate on your next new or used vehicle loan, and you'll have 90 days before your first payment is due.

Visit to apply for your loan, get preapproved to know how much you can spend, or find additional car buying resources.

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