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The benefits to buying a car in person

Technology has changed many things about the way people live their lives, including how they buy their cars. Whereas trips to the dealership were once inevitable for drivers in the market for new vehicles, the internet is now littered with websites enabling users to buy new cars with the click of a mouse. But buying cars online, and often sight unseen, can be a risky proposition, and there are many reasons why buying new cars in person can benefit buyers.

• More than meets the eye: One of the more widely promoted websites that "sells" cars is TrueCar.com. Television ads for TrueCar® are ubiquitous, but viewers might not realize that TrueCar.com is essentially a network of auto dealerships in which member dealerships pay to obtain buyers' contact information. That's important information to know for buyers who want to buy a car online so they can cut out the "middleman" (i.e., dealerships).

• No surprises: Some online auto dealers promise delivery of the car. That can seem especially convenient, but it's always in buyers' best interest to test drive cars before buying them. That's not always possible when buying vehicles online. While buyers may be able to return cars purchased online after they have been delivered, that can be inconvenient, negating what many feel is the single biggest benefit to buying a car online. When buying cars they have already driven in person, buyers won't be surprised when getting behind the wheel.

• Savings: Online dealerships may market themselves as more buyer-friendly than traditional dealerships, but such claims should be taken with a grain of salt. Many can only afford to purchase new vehicles if they get a good deal on an existing trade-in. By visiting dealerships in person, buyers can negotiate a higher trade-in value than they might be able to get online. In addition, when shopping for new cars, many buyers return to the same dealership where they purchased previous automobiles. An existing relationship with a dealer might make buyers eligible for discounts they're unlikely to earn when buying cars online.

• Convenience: Online auto dealerships often cite convenience as one of the biggest feathers in their caps. But it can be more convenient, and considerably less time-consuming, for buyers to simply walk into a dealership and ask to test drive various vehicles. Buyers who visit dealerships can test drive various vehicles in a single morning or afternoon, while those who stick to buying online may have to drive far and wide to drive more than one car in a single day.

The tradition of buying cars in person can still pay dividends for buyers accustomed to buying things online.

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