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Key steps to take if you’re thinking of buying a car online – new or secondhand

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The world at your fingertips: Spend time browsing and comparing what’s on offer. Photo: Olga Yastremska/New Africa, Africa Studio

The world at your fingertips: Spend time browsing and comparing what’s on offer. Photo: Olga Yastremska/New Africa, Africa Studio

The world at your fingertips: Spend time browsing and comparing what’s on offer. Photo: Olga Yastremska/New Africa, Africa Studio

MORE of us are getting used to the idea, and practical necessity in many cases, of buying a car online – be it new or secondhand – from the comfort of our living rooms.

As we have reported here previously, many dealers are exceptionally well geared up to sell new and used cars via hi-tech digital platforms. So it is no longer rocket science and not, I suggest, a reason for waiting another six months (July reg), or year (2022), if you would normally be of a mind to buy.

Maybe you’ve done it all at this stage – dealers say so many people are exceptionally well versed when they come to purchase, with only minor details outstanding.

But I believe there are many only now getting around to the idea of buying a car remotely, due to the prospect of a protracted lockdown, who could possibly benefit from a bit of a steer in the lead-in time to purchase.

You may not have to physically go near the dealership to do a deal, but I advise you to make some decisions before you wade into too many. You can waste a lot of time – yours and others’.

The better focused you are in trimming your options to a couple or three models, the better you are likely to fare. And the happier you are likely to be with your purchase.

I think is it also really important that you don’t rush into buying something because it is available rather than being exactly what you want (you might have to wait quite a while for your specific preference).

It depends on the degree of compromise you are prepared to accept.

Anyway, here are some simple steps worth considering to take you from browsing with interest to signing the deal with conviction.

*It’s likely you have more time on your hands these dark evenings, so you (collective you: partner, family member etc) can carry out a wide sweep of what is out there in your price range. You have the world at your fingertips. There was never a better time to compare and contrast what’s on offer because there are myriad options. There are serious deals out there.

*After your extensive first trawl, try to settle on body style and size (hatchback, saloon, crossover, SUV etc). Same again or change? I think that is a great help in keeping focus on what is relevant, and eliminates distractions. Sometimes having too much choice is as bad as having too little.

*Decide on engine type for the road ahead. This is where you need to ask serious questions for 2021: Is it time to think electric, hybrid, PHEV, or does your mileage and lifestyle still warrant diesel or petrol?

*Take your time, keep some notes on important elements and questions that arise throughout. It is easy to forget. And never be afraid to ask (email, text or phone).

*As soon as you have narrowed your range, touch base with the relevant dealerships (you may have already done so in the course of your trimming process).

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*Vitally important: Establish the Cost to Change with each dealer if you have a trade in. Dealers can value your car to within a few euro. It’s done via an online device that lets you send pictures of your vehicle so they can asses s its worth. Keep totally fixed on how much it is going to cost you to move up the years. That’s the core of any transaction.

*Establish how much the suggested deal will cost in monthly repayments, if relevant. Stress-test your finances to be sure you can afford the outlay if you were to suffer reduced income.

*By this stage the dealer(s) should have sent you a video on the car you’ve discussed – including colour, spec levels etc. Take your time checking what’s on board. If you don’t want something – such as interior trim colour or such – you have to decide whether to wait until one with your preferred colour arrives. You have to live with it for a long time, so you might as well get what you want.

*You can repeat these exercises with a couple or three dealers and that gives you great peace of mind that you get what you want. Wrap up the deal, decide if you want to collect or have the car dropped to you.

There: you’ve bought a car online. Best of luck.

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