The World Wide Web has expanded shopping opportunities for everything from vacation packages to groceries and has allowed shoppers to find just the right products and services at the best prices. Thanks to companies like Amazon and eBay, merchandise can be ordered from across the country and be at your door in a few days, but most people only consider shopping online for vehicles within a short driving distance from home. However, websites like Autotrader.com, Cars.com, eBay, and Craigslist allow you to venture outside your local driving area and search nationwide for the exact make, model, and year vehicle you want.
This method of car buying is catching on as more people realize they do not have to spend days going from one dealer to the next or chasing down private sellers all over town. Instead, you can search thousands of vehicles from the comfort of your home while wearing your pajamas and sipping a cup of coffee in a fraction of the time. Of course, buying a vehicle online does present a few issues that usually do not come up when shopping locally. These include finding a way to inspect the vehicle before you buy it and then figuring out how you are going to get your new ride home.
Do Your Due Diligence
Once you have found a car online that you are just in love with, you first need to be sure the vehicle is in the condition the seller claims. Heaven forbid the deal should go south and if you have not employed the necessary safeguards you can end up holding nothing but an empty wallet and a broken dream. To keep from getting yourself in a tough situation, follow these tips to protect yourself:
1) Check the VIN
The VIN, or vehicle identification number, should be included in the listing. You can use the VIN to check the vehicle history report through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System online at no cost. Pay website services like Carfax.com may give you more information.
2) Check the Vehicle Safety Rating
You can check crash test reports at www.nhtsa.gov/ratings and any vehicle recall notices at NHTSA.gov
3) Confirm the Car Meets Your State’s Requirements
If buying a car out of state, you must check that the vehicle will meet your state’s motor vehicle laws. Failure to do this may result in you not being able to register the vehicle once you get home. This is especially true for states with strict emission standards, like California. The “standards” are the state’s laws that establish the amount of pollutants the vehicle is allowed to release into the atmosphere. Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will be able to provide all the needed information.
4) Vehicle Inspection
Irrelevant on where in the country the car is located, you need to test drive and inspect the vehicle before buying. Ideally, you should go to inspect the vehicle in person if at all feasible. If it is not possible, then have it inspected by a qualified and independent mechanic. Do not use a mechanic who works for the dealership you are buying the vehicle from as the mechanic will almost certainly be biased.
5) Maintain Comprehensive Records
If something should happen, even if it is not anyone’s fault, you will want documented evidence of the deal you agreed on in writing. It is always better to be safe than sorry so be sure you create and keep a thorough documentation trail.
6) Negotiate the Best Price
Haggling over the price of a vehicle is one of the expected steps in buying or selling an automobile. However, for whatever reason, people are sometimes afraid of negotiating for things they buy online. When making an offer remember the old saying, “If you’re opening offer doesn’t embarrass you, it is too high.”
Getting Your New Vehicle Home
If you go to inspect the vehicle in person, then you will be able to drive the vehicle home yourself. Most states will issue what is known as a “trip permit” which is a temporary short-term registration. The permit is issued by the motor vehicle department in the state you are buying the car and allows you to operate the vehicle for a specific number of days. This should not be confused with a temporary tag that is issued by your home state until you receive your permanent license plates. If you cannot go to pick up the vehicle yourself, are purchasing an inoperative vehicle, or one that is not road-worthy, you will have to locate an auto shipper.
Referred to as an auto transport company, an auto shipper will transport your purchase across the state or the country. Auto transport companies provide nationwide service, so it does not matter where in the country you live or what state the vehicle is located. You can live on one coast, such as in California, and the vehicle can be on the other, like in Florida or New York, and the company will ship the vehicle to you. However, just like buying a vehicle, you must do your research on shippers. Follow these guidelines:
- Choose a transport company that is highly rated and has been in business for a while. This will help ensure your vehicle will arrive safely, and promptly and be shipped at a fair price.
- Get several quotes from various shippers to get a feeling for what that average industry cost should be and consider the quote with the service they offer. However, be very wary of quotes from companies that seem too good to be true because they will be from a less-than-reputable shipper. Several factors will affect the cost of auto transport. These include:
- The pickup and drop-off location and the distance the vehicle is being transported.
- Whether you require open or enclosed transport.
- The vehicle’s size.
- The age and condition of the vehicle. High-end vehicles, such as custom and antique cars, typically require more care and attention so costs will be higher.
- Check online reviews to see what previous customers have to say about their experience with the transport company. Shy away from shippers that do not have many, or no, reviews as this is an indication, that they have not been in business long enough to have established a track record.
- Decide on an open or enclosed carrier. Open carriers use trucks like the ones that deliver cars to auto dealerships, whereas enclosed carriers use fully enclosed trailers that provide the vehicle greater protection. Open carriers are typically more readily available than enclosed carriers, so it is easier, and faster, to ship a vehicle via open carrier than by enclosed carrier. However, open carriers leave the vehicle exposed to the elements. Most common vehicles will be fine to ship via open carrier, but enclosed carriers are warranted for vehicles that have significant value, such as antique or highly customized vehicles.
- Be sure to ask the carrier what documentation you need to give them and what ones they will provide to you. Be certain to get photographs of the vehicle before the carrier takes possession as evidence in case the vehicle is damaged during transport.
Understanding the Shipping Timeline
While it is understandable that you want to get your hands on your new ride as soon as possible, the standard time it takes to transport a vehicle up to 2000 miles is four days to a week. Like cost, several factors will affect shipping time. These include the distance, traffic, weather, and the pickup and drop-off locations. Note that the pickup and drop-off dates can also affect transport time as the carrier’s availability may be limited and there may be dates when you cannot be available.
Using a professional auto transport company can take the stress and hassle out of moving your vehicle. The process of having your vehicle shipped by a reputable auto transport company is not particularly complicated or time-consuming and can usually be handled with just a couple of phone calls and a few minutes online. If you need to have an auto shipped across the state or the country, American Auto Transport can deliver your new purchase to you promptly and at a fair cost. They will work with you to schedule shipment on the dates that work for you. American Auto Transport also transports vehicles for snowbirds heading south for the winter and north again in the summer and can also ship your vehicle if you are moving across the country.