In our Part 1 post a few weeks back, we talked about the importance of checking out a seller and researching any vehicle before you make the decision to purchase it online. In today’s post, we’re going to touch upon buying from a dealership online and how to handle payments. To that end, we have two major recommendations for you:
1) Don’t Assume Dealerships are Better Options
Often, online buyers feel more comfortable purchasing cars online from established dealers than from an individual. However, such faith may just as easily go unrewarded. Even with an established dealer, you could very well lose your deposit or lose out on the car of your dreams.
In many cases, online shoppers believe that a deposit should give them the so-called “first right of refusal” to change their mind, recoup their cash, and walk away from the deal, but sadly, that’s not how it works. If another patron walks into the dealership and buys the car between the time you make a deposit and when you actually take delivery of the vehicle, the vehicle can be sold. What’s more, there’s no guarantee your deposit will be refundable. In some cases, dealerships may require you to purchase another vehicle from them or forfeit the deposit.
Although a trail of emails can help bolster your claim, an email is not a contract. However, emails may be structured like a buyer’s order, the document that spells out the car you intend to buy and agreed-upon price, giving you more power to get a deposit back. So be sure to read all the fine print in every email you receive from the dealer before you relinquish a deposit.
When shopping with online dealers, use to your head – and your gut – to avoid problems in the first place. As you would with any seller online, establish contact as quickly as possible and ask questions. Remember that promises don’t mean much. Anything that’s said over the phone should be considered useless because it is extremely hard to prove unless it is recorded, so try to get anything promised to you in writing prior to sending a deposit.
2) Play it Safe When Making Payments
When it comes time to make a deposit, never send a check or money order and never make a wire transfer. Your money will be irretrievable once a check has been cashed or a money order has been collected.
Instead, make payments over a secured browser (look for a lock icon in the address bar and a URL that starts with “https”) and pay with a credit card, which will protect you against fraud. Credit cards are typically your best line of defense when buying online. Federal protections spelled out under the Fair Credit Billing Act limit your liability to $50 when cards are used to make unauthorized purchases. And some cards, like Visa, have zero-liability protection for cardholders.
If you don’t get the vehicle that was promised – either because a fraudulent seller stole your money or a dealer sold it to someone else – and if you used your credit card to make the deposit, you can turn to the credit card company for assistance in retrieving your money. American Express, for example, offers customers who don’t receive items they paid for the option to begin a dispute resolution process simply by calling the company and making a request. If you use your card and don’t get what was promised to you, then you should call a customer service agent right away so that a representative can begin the process to resolve the dispute fairly.
PayPal is another safe payment option. Use it to draw money from a credit card and to make your deposit to a seller. The maximum you can spend using a PayPal account is $4,000 for one-time single transactions and up to $10,000 for PayPal members.
If you buy a vehicle on eBay Motors, you may also be protected up to $50,000 through its Vehicle Purchase Protection Program, which is designed to shield buyers against certain losses due to some kinds of fraud, including if you pay for or make a deposit on a vehicle you never receive. However, to qualify for this program the transaction must be completed through eBay Motors.
And remember, like anything else, there are terms and conditions and fine print associated with all of these online payment options, so be sure to research each of them carefully.
Well, there you have it – buying a car is a daunting task no matter how you decide to go about it. But hopefully, after reading this blog you will feel a little more prepared if you decide to make your next automobile purchase online!
Have you had any dealings with buying a vehicle from a dealership online? Lost the car you were hoping to purchase or the deposit you put down? Let us know in the comments section below. As always, we appreciate your feedback!