How to buy a new car online

  • More car manufacturers are offering online buying
  • Here's what to do if you're buying from the comfort of home
  • Parkers rounds up the car companies' offerings

Renault Virtual showroom in action

With online purchasing and delivery becoming the new normal in all walks of life, it's surprising to see that not everyone in the car market is offering the option to buy online. Given purchasing or leasing a new car is a much larger financial commitment than upgrading to the latest smartphone, though, it's easy to understand why online car buying is taking time to take off.

Despite that, there are a number of car companies that allow you to configure, finance and take delivery of your next car online. They can negotiate a new PCP deal contract, price up your trade-in, strike a deal and then deliver to you at a time and location that suits you.

Should I buy a car online? 

What are the benefits of buying a car online, versus visiting the dealer in person? Two early adopters of this system are Peugeot and Hyundai. The French company’s system is fully integrated with all parts of the car-buying journey, meaning every step of the process can be completed from the comfort of your own living room. The site is fully personalised, with individual finance options available.

Peugeot’s aim is to ‘encourage customers to take control of the buying process,' allowing you to build and customise your dream car while seeing your finance options change throughout the process. With each option you add or remove, you can immediately see the impact on your finance choices. 

Hyundai’s ‘Click to buy’ site also claims to make buying a car quick, easy, and transparent. The brand claims the whole process can be completed in less than five minutes if you’re paying with cash.  

No more waiting for your new car

The goal for online car sales to make your new car purchase quick, easy, and transparent. Once you’ve done your research and had ‘the moment’ where you decide ‘that’s the car for me’, you no longer have to wait to visit the dealer before you can buy your new car.

With the number of test drives decreasing, more consumers are approaching new cars with the same ‘I want it now’ attitude seen in the rest of the retail market.

Should I test drive a new car before I buy? 

There are undoubtedly many benefits to test driving a car before you buy, and discussing the nitty-gritty details of a vehicle with a dealer on the forecourt. But buying online doesn’t mean you can’t still test drive as many cars as you wish before you make your decision.

Many manufacturers offer extended 24-48 hour test drives with the car delivered to your home, particularly when registration plates change or a new model is introduced, so you can experience a brand that's completely new to you without having to approach an unfamiliar showroom.

Clicking to buy from your sofa removes the pressure we’ve all felt from a dealer keen to earn their commission that day. Now, you can test drive a car, go home to think about your decision, and then buy immediately from your laptop or mobile device – no return journey to the dealership required.  

No haggling required

Buying online will show you the price of your new car with trade-in, cash, and finance options available. But no more to-and-fro haggling with the dealer – what you see is what you get. Is this a positive step for buyers who want a transparent, easy purchase?

For some car buyers, haggling on price can lead to a seemingly great deal. For others, lacking confidence when confronted with an extroverted dealer, not haggling can make you wonder if you paid over the odds. Having one simple price from the very start could remove this uncertainty over your true deal.

Removing the doubt around trade-in values, it's possible to get bids from a range of buyers through services like Motorway. This takes away the uncertainty of whether the dealer's hiding a bad deal in the price to change, and gives you the flexibility of seeing those trade prices yourself.

The majority of discounted cars you'll read about come from stock, and your online order will usually be built to your specification, so you're not missing out.

Will there be anyone to help if I have questions? 

Peugeot states that its call centre will be available for consumers seven days a week, with one person allocated to you. You’ll be offered a variety of communication platforms to get in touch with your Peugeot representative – be it email, phone, or via social media. There is also a phone and email support system available for Hyundai Click to Buy customers. 

Will they be a decent substitute for discussing the intricacies of a new car face-to-face with an experienced dealer? Without a test drive, you won’t be able to point at that strange button on the dashboard and ask the dealer what it does. 

Online car buying habits

It's pretty hard to get a good hold on car buying habits, as buying new cars online is still relatively new, and not as popular buying physically.

However, Tesla has revealed that the most popular time for purchasing a Tesla in Europe is between 3pm-6pm on a Tuesday, with Wednesday following up closely as the second most popular day.

Tesla's retail experience differs to other car manufacturers because all new owners buy online. This can be done from home, or via a Tesla advisor over the phone or in store. 

Tesla says 75% of prospective owners place their order in their own home. Interestingly, in the Netherlands and Germany, more than half of Tesla buyers do so without test-driving.

What this means for you

We are all connected to the internet 24/7,. so it’s no wonder that the car market is catching up and offering sales online. Buying your new car online will speed up the process, giving visibility to all your finance options, and remove the pressure of commission-driven dealers. 

But there’s still a lot of worth in meeting your new car in person – finding out how it drives, whether it’s comfortable, and whether it suits your lifestyle. This physical presence simply cannot be replicated online. Our advice would be to continue test driving new cars in person, then leaning on online portals to buy your car if you’re not happy making that big decision on the spot.

The Parkers step-by-step guide to buying online

>> Choosing
>> Configuring
>> Making the deal
>> Delivery and collection
>> A-Z of who sells what online

At Parkers, we're here to help you choose your next car

1. Choose your car

This is probably the easiest – and also most difficult – part of the job. For many car buyers, deciding what car they want comes down to so many factors that it never comes down to a simple question of what's the biggest, fastest or most economical car for your money. So, we'd definitely recommend starting with the Parkers car chooser tool - which allows you to narrow down your choices of cars based on how you use them, and how highly we rate them.

Next, armed with your list of favorites, you can compare several choices by feeding them into our Car comparison tool, which will allow you to get a good handle on how they stack up against each other. If you then decide what's the best for you, it's time to take the next step...

2. Configure the car on the manufacturer's website

Volvo V60 Polestar engineered - configurator

If you’ve never configured a car before, this can be great fun. Basically, you're presented with the car in its most basic form, then you're able to choose the colour, engine spec, interior trim and options. Most tools are fully interactive and will allow you to see what the car looks like along each step of the way.

Of course, the price of the car can vary wildly depending on what spec you choose, but that's not so bad, as most configurators will keep track of the typical cash price or monthly payment as you go. This is obviously a great piece of functionality as nearly everyone shops online with a monthly budget in mind.

It's worth bearing in mind that many car manufacturers don't yet progress further than this stage, but that's covered in the links below.

3. Work out the deal

Here any equity (where the car is worth more than the remaining payments) left in your car is yours to put towards the deposit on a new finance scheme, cutting your future monthly payments. Be sure to value your car, and know what you're facing before you go into the deal. Be aware that the value of your car could also be less than expected depending on how used car values have changed during the contract.

4. Arranging delivery or collection

Car manufacturers like buyers to complete the deals in the comfort of their showrooms so you get to sign the contract, have a decent handover, and make a special occasion of your new purchase. But in light of the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this won't be an option, as dealers hibernate and contact is kept to a minimum for all but the most essential tasks.

Some are offering home delivery and collection respecting social distancing and essential travel guidelines – and we suspect this option will become widespread as car manufacturers adapt to a new way of working. We'll keep this list updated as new information comes in.

5. Where to buy a car online

This list is regularly updated to reflect current online ordering options and delivery availability. Where delivery is dependent on dealer it's important to include your location when enquiring

BMW

Yes, you can buy online

You've been able to buy a new BMW online since 2015. The process starts by configuring a car and then selecting the option to 'build' and then 'buy'. You can pick the details for your vehicle, as well as choose their preferred retailer, finance and payment terms. The car would be delivered to the selected dealership first where you can then liaise with their retailer to specify a collection or a delivery.

>> Configure and buy your BMW online

Citroen

Just configuration online so far

The current range of vehicles are available to configure online and it is possible to reserve a car online, once you have tailored a vehicle to your exact requirements. All Citroen dealers are able to offer a home delivery service.

>> Configure a Citroen online

Dacia

Yes, you can buy online

You can configure and buy a new Dacia online. It's possible to pick the details for your vehicle, as well as choose a preferred dealer, finance and payment terms. The car would be delivered to the selected dealership, where a new 'Select and Collect' service has been introduced – you collect the car, but strict social distancing and sanitisation routines are employed by supplying dealers.

>> Configure and buy your Dacia online

Ford

Just configuration online so far

Ford is working hard to embrace online car buying in the UK but isn't quite there yet. You can currently configure a new Ford car, van or pickup. Buying online is limited to the 'Send to dealer' button at the end of build and price for payment to be taken and order confirmed. Ford confirms that it will deliver to your home, dependent on the dealer. It intends to roll it on with the launch of the new Mustang Mach-E, which is online sale only. You can pre-order the new car here.

A Ford spokesperson confirmed that, 'from mid-2020, when full PCP, cash and lease packages are added, part exchange and home delivery options will also be available.'

>> Ford Mustang Mach-E online
>> Ford model range configurator

Honda

Just configuration online so far

You can only reserve the new Honda e online, and all other models are available on a configurator. Honda cannot arrange delivery, but a spokesperson concluded that, 'if a customer has already ordered their car, this would be something they would need to agree with their dealer.'

>> Configure a Honda online

Hyundai

Yes, you can buy online

Hyundai was a click to buy pioneer in the UK, and has been offering online sales here since 2018. In a statement, Hyundai has confirmed, 'our updated Click to Buy site will be up and running again by 1 April so customers will still be able to research, configure and buy a new car online should they wish. Deliveries will be delayed until non-essential movement is allowed.'

>> Configure and buy a new Hyundai online

Jaguar/Land Rover

Yes, you can buy online

You can purchase and configure cars online and get remote vehicle demonstrations from home, home delivery for new and used vehicles when the situation allows it, and well as collection and delivery service for vehicle servicing, repairs or MoT (again when conditions allow)

>> Configure and buy a new Jaguar
>> Configure and buy a new Land Rover

Mazda

Just configuration online so far

You can fully configure a Mazda online, but can't yet buy online. Home delivery is at the discretion of the dealer. Currently some dealers are running a collection and delivery service, particularly for the vulnerable, for service and MoT.

>> Configure a Mazda online

Mercedes-Benz

Yes, you can buy online

You can configure models online, select a model and click ‘build your car’. You can then view any cars matching that configuration that are available to buy immediately. The online showroom features all of available new and used car stock online – each with a specific offer.

>> Configure a Mercedes-Benz online
>> Buy a new Mercedes-Benz online

Peugeot

Yes, you can buy online

You can fully configure a car on the Peugeot website, and it's possible to both order and buy online (both PCP and cash purchase) and have the car delivered to your home. 

>> Buy a Peugeot online

Renault

You can't yet buy a Renault online or strike a deal, but there's a virtual showroom where you can learn all about the car and ask questions to product experts. However, the dealers now offer a new 'Select and Collect', where you can collect the car, with strict social distancing and sanitisation routines employed by supplying dealers.

>> Visit the Renault Virtual showroom

Skoda

Just configuration online so far

You can fully configure a car online, but currently cannot order a car online through the Skoda website. A Skoda spokesperson said: 'It would be worth pointing people to the Skoda Virtual Showroom, where instead of physically going into a retailer, a tour host will give them a live overview online of the car in the virtual car showroom.'

>> Configure a Skoda online
>> Visit the Skoda virtual showroom

Suzuki

Just information online so far

So far, it is possible to configure and check specification and pricing of a new car online. It is not possible to online purchase, deliver or trade-in online.

>> Suzuki model range details

Tesla

Yes, you can buy online

Technically, Tesla only sells online. That's because whether you do it from home, or via a dealership, it's all done online. You can either order from new, or from cars in stock via the website and Tesla Chat and Virtual Consultation.

All car buying is online and can be undertaken from home via Tesla's Virtual support team. Customers who buy online can return the car after seven days/1000miles if they’re not happy. Tesla can also organise a 'touchless test drive' online, where you can try before you buy. Held at the Tesla showroom, the car is unlocked for you, and at this point, fully cleaned, it's ready for you to test following a video tutorial on screen. You'll need to register with Tesla for this.

Tesla Chat provides customers with the option to inquire with any questions they may have before buying. There's online guidance and advice regarding all aspects of the order experience and vehicle configurations. All help can be given over Tesla Chat and an order can be placed over chat with the advisor. Virtual Consultations are purposely designed to prepare a customer for their Touchless Test Drive experience without the need for someone to accompany them.

>> Configure a Tesla online
>> Buy a new Tesla online

Vauxhall

Just configuration online so far

You can fully configure a Vauxhall car or van online. Beyond that, a Vauxhall spokesperson confirmed that being able to buy online and have the car delivered are 'all coming soon.'

>> Configure a Vauxhall online

Volvo

Yes, you can buy online

Since 2019, you've been able to buy a new Volvo online as well as configure it. Interestingly, although Volvo offers you the chance to buy, it won't deliver, preferring dealer pick-up.

>> Volvo car configurator
>> Order a new Volvo online

            

Want to find out more about car finance? Take a look at the links below:

>> PCP finance: can I get out early? 
>> Payment holiday advice for car finance 
>> Payment holiday advice for car leasing