The Internet has certainly made buying a used car much easier... And possibly cheaper.
Being a pretty regular car buyer myself, either for myself or family and friends, in the past I would usually take a drive down Parramatta Road (a road in Sydney where there is lots of car yards) looking for the particular model required at the time.
If it was an unusual model this arduous task might have been a waste of time.
So you don't need me to tell you that used car advertising on the Internet can save us time. Most dealers, even the small ones, now advertise their used cars on all of the major classifieds sites so you can just go and visit specific private sellers or dealers with a good idea of what you are going to see.
But can shopping for a used car over the Internet save you money?
From my experience, yes!
For the last few cars I have bought, and the one that I am looking for at the moment, I have used the tactic that I will explain to you now.
Say I have a budget of around $10,000. I would make a short-list of all the cars that I would consider buying but include cars that were advertised for up to maybe $14,000 or $15,000. Private sellers are more likely to drop their price considerably than dealers but it is worth a try regardless.
Then I would send an email to each seller explaining that I am very interested in their car but only have a budget of around $9,000 to $9,500. I would tell them that I have the cash ready for a quick sale, and ask them how close could they get to my price?
Now many private sellers are usually sick to death of trying to sell their car after the first week or two. Most people can only take so much car washing, people who don't show up, dangerous test drives, etc. These are the people who will just want to put themselves out of misery and take a bit of a price cut.
They won't always come back with your price, but will usually reveal the lowest price that they would consider accepting. Some people will be so insulted at your low offer that they won't respond at all.
Here is a few recent results that I have had from using this tactic.
1) A BMW that was advertised for just under $45,000. I offered "high thirties". He agreed in the interests of a quick sale. I looked at the car and said that it was still a little out of my price range but would be irresistable at $35,000. After much deliberation he accepted.
2) A Toyota that was advertised for $5,000, then re-advertised for $4,000. I offered $3,000 and this was eventually accepted. I bought the car it turned out to have some major problems which goes to show that sometimes if someone is willing to drop their price considerably there is a good reason. So be extra careful and pre-purchase inspections are often worth the expense.
3) A BMW that was advertised for $9,500. Offered $7,000 which was straight turned down. The seller responded saying they would not go a cent below $7,500. A pretty good deal.
So, as you can see, this tactic will often either get you your price, find the seller's lowest price, or in the case of no response, tell you that it is out of your price range.