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Smart Shopper's Guide to Buying a Car Online

Buying a vehicle is a major purchase decision. Proceed with caution, and make sure that you get the best price, and the best financing deal.

This guide:

Compares the advantages of auto leasing vs. buying

Describes the reasons to buy new or used

Explains why direct financing can save you cash either way

If you only have a few simple questions, check out the online car buying f.a.q.


Get the lowest auto loan rates:

Capital One Auto Finance offers the lowest auto loan rates in the country, for people with all types of credit ratings.

Apply with Capital One whether you are buying a new or used car, or even if you are buying from an individual. Whatever your choice, you will save thousands.

Auto loans
Click here for your quote


If you have poor or no credit, click here to apply for special financing.


What's in this short guide

Depending on where you are in the purchasing process, we offer four mini-guides to help you through the decision making process.

For shoppers who want a new car but can't decide between leasing and buying, we've offer some answers in a breakdown of the leasing game, with pros and cons, and a profile of the "ideal lessee".

If you know you want to buy, but are trying to decide whether to spring for a brand new vehicle or try your hand with a used car, read our new vs. used comparison page.

If you're a lot further along in the process, we can still help. We have two mini-guides to researching, pricing, and buying cars online. They'll help you decide which online tools and sites are worth your while. Read the used car buying guide or the new car buying guide.

And last but not least, we cover financing, maybe the best use of online resources of all (and the aspect of the process that you have the most control over.)

About online financing

Whether you buy new or used, getting a direct loan from an independent source will only help your position.

It gives you a degree of flexibility and power at the bargaining table that you wouldn't otherwise have. Going to the dealership (online or off) with a pre-approved loan is like negotiating with cash in hand.

And you'll be able to haggle for the lowest price on your car, without having to mix financing costs up into the equation.

We believe that the cheapest most convenient independent financing is available right here, online. Online loan application processing is free and fast, and the lenders pass the savings onto you.

There's a reason consumer advocates consistently recommend outside financing for auto loans. It puts bargaining power and flexibility in your, the buyer's, corner. And online financing is probably the least expensive and most convenient way to get there.

Read more about direct financing in our guide to online car loans.

Sidebar And don't forget about auto insurance. You're going to need it! Click on these links to learn more about saving on your premiums, and about auto gap insurance for new or leased vehicles.

Finding your car

Still looking for the perfect car? Try Autobytel, our favorite online auto purchase site. They have thousands of new and used cars listed, and your dream ride might be only a mouse click away!