How to Buy a Car Remotely

There are many ways to shop for a new car, but with today's technology, remote car buying is a growing trend. Learning how to buy a car remotely can expand your selection of cars to choose from when going through the car buying process.
By Paul M.
Updated May 25, 2021
how to buy a car remotely
Why trust our opinion?

Our content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our and how we make money.

There are many ways to shop for a new car, but remote car buying is a growing trend. 75% of consumers would prefer a remote car buying experience, according to a KPMG study. Learn more about this process before purchasing a car, registration, and auto insurance online.

How Remote Car Buying Works

In many states, you can purchase, register, and insure a vehicle from somewhere else. In other states, however, you must be present in person to perform one or more of these actions. Review how it works in your state before attempting to close on a vehicle remotely.

When shopping for a vehicle remotely, here are some key features to compare:

  • Make and model

  • Year of manufacture

  • Mileage

  • Price

  • Level of wear, including interior stains, paint scratches, rust, etc.

  • Options, such as a third row of seats, leather seats, or all-wheel drive

Be sure to ask for plenty of images if you’re purchasing a used vehicle. The listing may already have multiple photos, but the seller may be attempting to hide an interior stain, engine issue, exterior dent, or paint scratch.

Ask for a pre-purchase inspection to avoid major mechanical issues. You should still attempt to schedule a test drive before making an offer, but a thorough inspection by a licensed mechanic can point out any preventative maintenance or major repair tasks that need to be performed.

Research your chosen make, model, and year of vehicle for any known problems. If possible, consider test driving one near you to get a feel for your new ride.

Remote Car Buying Options

Shopping online for vehicles doesn’t reduce the number of purchasing options. You can still review new and used cars from private sellers and dealerships. There are pros and cons to each, so shop around to find the best deal on your next purchase.

Remote car purchasing can mean a number of things. Some buyers make an offer, sight unseen. Others schedule an inspection and negotiate the price before scheduling a test drive. However you wish to purchase a vehicle, consider the following options and the pros and cons of each.

Private Seller

In many cases, you can receive a better deal on a used car from a private seller. Private sellers don’t have the same overhead as a dealer, so you can expect lower rates while still giving the seller a great deal.

Most private sellers know more about the history of the car. You should still request an inspection rather than trusting the seller about the service record of the car. This gives you more information about the condition of the car. From there, you can choose to negotiate the price or decline making an offer.


If you choose to purchase a car indirectly through a dealership, you can contact them by phone or through the dealer website. One advantage of choosing to purchase remotely from a dealer is that you may receive more detailed information and photos. Dealers can also assist with financing and registration.

Not all dealers are willing to work with buyers that are not in person, but some specialize in distance sales. Carvana and other online marketplaces help guide you through the process and offer car delivery. This service may increase the total cost of purchasing a vehicle, but it can be a convenient option.

Find the right plan for you!Compare insurance carriers in your area. It's 100% free.Get Quotes

Benefits of Buying a Car Remotely

Shopping for a new or used vehicle can be exhausting. It can also bring you in close contact with a number of private owners or dealer associates. Consider remote buying to enjoy these benefits.

Distanced Shopping

Whether for health or safety reasons, distanced shopping allows you to compare and contrast vehicles without coming in contact with other individuals. Touchless car shopping is also becoming popular because you don’t have to deal with aggressive sales tactics.

Expanded Search Area

Don’t settle for the only vehicles available in your area. Buying a car remotely expands your search area to help you find great deals on your dream vehicle.

This is useful whether you’re buying a rare sports car or an everyday SUV. Rare vehicles can be hard to find in a small search area, but buying remotely gives you access to a nationwide search area. Expand your search area for everyday vehicles for dozens or hundreds of options, not just a handful.

Convenient Comparisons

Whether purchasing a new car from a dealer or a used one from a private seller, remote shopping can make it more convenient to compare two or more options. You don’t need to take extensive notes when viewing a car, but you can compare listings side by side to weigh factors like mileage, cost, and age.

Disadvantages of Buying Remotely

There are some situations where remote buying isn’t a practical option. It can be as simple as not having the ability to test drive the car, to incurring additional costs or liability. Review these limitations of remote car sales before you make an offer.

Additional Costs

From shipping to online listing service rates, there can be additional costs to purchasing a vehicle online. Expect to pay up to $1,000 for transportation on an open truck, or even more for closed truck transportation. This cost may be worthwhile if it’s inconvenient for you to travel great distances, but it’s a factor you need to consider as you shop remotely.

Increased Liability

Carefully consider your vehicle before making a remote purchase. You may not have the same opportunities to kick the tires or take a test drive. There could be a greater chance of purchasing a make and model you’re not happy with or a vehicle with maintenance issues you didn’t notice.

Even if you’re not a skilled mechanic, there are some basic maintenance issues and comfort features you will probably notice with an in-person inspection and test drive. Purchasing a vehicle without seeing it means you’re trusting the seller and a qualified mechanic to deliver a vehicle that’s comfortable and reliable.

Legal Restrictions

Many states require you to register a new vehicle in person. Others allow online registration as long as the vehicle was purchased in your home state. Check local legal requirements before preparing to purchase a vehicle remotely.

Online Auto Insurance

Auto insurance is an essential step in purchasing a vehicle. Whether you’re making an in-person offer or buying remotely, review the requirements in your state and the steps to get insurance.

Insurance Requirements

You must get car insurance to legally drive your new vehicle in most states. If you already have a policy, it’s easy to add a vehicle. Otherwise, you need to reach out to a reputable insurance agency to request a quote.

Dealerships typically require proof of insurance before you can drive off the lot with your new or used car. Even if you’re purchasing from a private party, it’s a good idea to insure your vehicle before getting behind the wheel. Most banks and other lenders also require proof of insurance before receiving financing.

Auto insurance protects you and your vehicle. Covering your car immediately means you won’t have a lapse in coverage. Any lapse can increase your premiums.

Some policies have grace periods. These features vary between policies but may cover you when you first purchase a vehicle. Without a grace period, you may need to wait to drive the vehicle after you purchase it until you receive coverage.

How To Receive Affordable Coverage

Start the process by gathering the necessary information:

  • Names of any drivers in the same household

  • Birthdates of any drivers

  • Your address

  • The vehicle identification number

  • Your current or most recent insurance information

Shop for insurance online to compare policy options and service providers. There are a lot of features to consider. Changing your deductible and other policy features changes your premiums.

Online Car Registration

Once you’ve found your new vehicle, negotiated the final price, and found an affordable insurance policy, it’s time to register your vehicle. In some states, you’re allowed to register online if you purchased the vehicle in-state. An annual or bi-annual online registration process makes it easy to buy a car remotely.

In many other states, however, you need to visit your local DMV or other official agency to register your purchase. Check local requirements for the documentation needed for registration. It typically includes your driver’s license and proof of insurance.

Buy a Car Today

There are many ways to check out the new and used car market online. In some states, this process still requires contact to make a purchase. Others allow for a fully remote transaction. Either way, be sure you’re up-to-date on your insurance policy before getting behind the wheel.

Compare auto insurance carriers as you compare cars. Enjoy a safe, convenient car buying experience with these tips.