Buying a used car online

Buy a car and have it delivered to your door with a 14-day money-back guarantee. Read on for our guide to buying a used car online

BuyaCar team
Apr 29, 2022

You can find your perfect car for a great price without having to spend weekend after weekend traipsing around your local, or not so local, dealerships. It's possible to simply buy a car online, from the comfort of your own home, and have it delivered to your door.

Rather than used car showrooms, auctions and private sellers being the main places to buy a used car, you can now easily browse through thousands of used cars online and even go through the entire purchase process from home, offering a convenient and hassle-free alternative to traditional used car buying.

Not only can you narrow down the make and model that you want, but you can also apply for finance - or pay cash if you prefer - place an order, and have your car delivered to your door, without having to step outside.

Advanced technology and strong consumer protection laws now mean that buying online gives you just as much reassurance as if you travelled to buy from a physical car dealer, and even more rights, including the ability to return the car for a full refund.

And with the ability to order and apply for finance in less than 15 minutes, getting a good deal doesn’t need to take days or cause hassle. That's why sales of used cars online are growing at record rates. Consequently, buying a car online is becoming an option for more and more drivers.

Is buying a used car online safe?

Reputable garages check a car's history, mileage and condition which means that you can rely on a vehicle’s quality without seeing it. Not only is buying a used car online easy, you'll also benefit from a 14-day money-back guarantee because this format is classed as distance selling. This means you are free to return the car for a refund if there are any issues.

In addition, trusted online sellers include a warranty with every car that they sell, backing up the checks with a guarantee and covering you for a specified period of time if anything should go wrong. Scroll down for our full guide to buying a used car online or click on one of the links below to jump straight to any of the particular sections.

Buying a used car online

Money-back guarantee

By ordering online and having the car delivered to your door, you’ll automatically benefit from distance-selling regulations - just as if you ordered a pair of socks online and had them posted to you. Most importantly, this means that you have a 14-day money-back guarantee. If you decide that the car isn't right for you, you can send it back and have your money refunded.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 allow you to drive the car a reasonable distance to try it out and still receive a refund if you decide to send it back. But if you want to return the car after a few bumps and scrapes, or have used it for a week’s worth of long-distance commuting, then your refund would normally be adjusted to account for the reduced value of the vehicle.

Buying an approved used car online

Choose an approved used car from an online seller and you can rely on it being thoroughly checked and inspected before it’s delivered to you. These cars are generally in very good condition, with reasonably low mileage, and have been cherry-picked from car manufacturers' approved used schemes.

Every vehicle is inspected - from its mechanical parts to its paintwork, and its history should be checked too, to ensure that there’s no finance outstanding, the mileage is genuine and that it hasn’t been involved in a serious crash.

Most approved used cars also come with a warranty as standard, providing an extra safety net in the unlikely event of there being any issues.

You'll also need to make sure that, once your used car purchase is complete, ownership of the car is transferred to your name if you're paying for the car outright. You won't technically be the owner of the car if you're paying for the car with finance.

Test driving a used car when buying online

The advantage of online car buying is that you can search for cars from across Britain and find the best price without stepping out of your house. If the best value car is 400 miles away, that shouldn't matter because you can often have it delivered to you.

This does mean, however, that test drives aren’t possible before you purchase the car. That’s where the 14-day money-back guarantee comes in. Once your car is delivered, you’ll have two weeks to ensure that you’re completely happy with it.

That’s plenty of time to ensure that child seats fit, you can get comfortable behind the wheel and there's enough space for the dog or everything you'd need to take on your annual big family holiday. If it doesn't work for you, then you’ll be able to return it.

Arranging tax and insurance when buying a used car online

You’re free to choose the best insurance policy for you when buying a car online. Once you’ve placed the order for your car, you’ll need to arrange this yourself, as you would if you were buying from a standard dealership.

It makes sense to get a quote as soon as possible, as these are usually guaranteed for several days potentially up to several weeks - and often quotes are lower the further ahead you get them. Once your car’s delivery date has been confirmed, you can then arrange for your insurance to start on that day.

If you’re purchasing on finance then it may be possible to roll the cost of your first year’s insurance into your monthly payments with some providers. This may be cheaper than paying monthly with your insurer, as car insurers often charge very high interest rates.

You will be able to tax your car once it is delivered, as you’ll need the official licensing document - the V5C - that comes with the vehicle. This is a fast and simple process that can be done online or over the phone.


Guarantees when buying a used car online

You should expect a warranty with any used car being sold online: if the seller is promising you a quality car, then they should reinforce their claims with cover that protects you if things go wrong - though do bear in mind that warranties don't cover everything and used cars will have wear and tear and some components that will need to be replaced sooner than others.

For nearly new cars, the cover you get is likely to be the remainder of the warranty that the vehicle came with when new. As new car warranties typically last for three years - and in some cases you get cars with a five year's manufacturer warranty or even seven years' manufacturer warranty - cars of less than this age will typically include that. If the original warranty has expired, then you will typically get an additional used car warranty.

For further peace of mind, you may want to consider extending the warranty yourself with third-party cover. You may be offered a discount if you pay for this when you buy the car, so it's worth getting quotes elsewhere for the same cover to see which offers you the best value.

Buying a used car online and having it delivered

With delivery to your door, you really don’t need to leave your house when buying a car online. Many companies will deliver from Monday to Friday and you’ll normally be able to choose the day of delivery and be given an estimated time of arrival on the day.

If you are purchasing on finance, then the lender will typically require the car to be delivered to the home address that’s on the finance paperwork. Cash buyers can choose to have their car delivered elsewhere: to a work address, for example.

Depending upon the company, buyers can choose to have their car driven to their door - which is typically the cheapest form of delivery - or there may be the option to have it brought to you on a transporter.

If you are part-exchanging your existing vehicle, then this would normally be picked up from your home. If possible, this will be done on the same day that your new car is delivered.

Buying a used car online: checklist

Once you’ve ensured that the cars you're looking at have been checked and guaranteed, there's less need to worry about the specific condition of individual models, so you can focus more on getting the specification you're after.

It’s important to check that you’re getting everything that you expect because car manufacturers regularly alter the amount of standard equipment that is fitted to their cars. An example of standard equipment levels changing comes in the form of the BMW range; models built after September 2015 should have sat-nav, as all BMWs have been fitted with navigation as standard since then.

If you’re getting a model that was built a year earlier, however, then you’ll need to look at the equipment fitted to specific models you're considering to see if it’s included. Furthermore, many cars come with optional extras, sometimes totalling thousands of pounds, so pick the right car and you could get far more in-car kit for your money than you might have expected. If in doubt, you can always ask the seller to confirm which extras are fitted to individual cars.

Even nearly new cars can be unpredictable; don’t assume that they will have the same equipment that is fitted to brand new models. You can quickly check the standard specification of used cars for sale by looking at the descriptions and images provided. However, if you're not sure of anything or there's limited information available, it's worth checking with the seller to be sure what you get for your money.


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