Are you planning to purchase a new car in the near future? If so, you may have already given some thought to the possibility of skipping the local dealership altogether and instead simply shopping for your next car online. Online car browsing can offer several benefits, such as convenience, simplicity, and ease of comparison. However, if this format is new to you, you may still want to learn more about it to prepare for as smooth a purchasing process as possible. Before you settle on your next car and place an online order, make sure you’ve followed these four steps.

1. Determine Your Desired Budget and Range of Affordability

Before you begin to pick out a paint color and research car statistics, you should determine your budget. Finding your desired spending range and knowing exactly how much you can afford can be helpful in automotive purchases such as buying a car or buying tires online. Before you set a range for potential spending, make sure to take into consideration factors such as:

- How much money you currently have set aside for the purchase of the car

- How much of a monthly car payment you can afford to make

- How much other debt you currently carry

- Whether you wish to pay for the car in full or search for a car loan

2. Research Different Models and Safety Statistics

Whatever style of car you prefer, there’s a good chance that top safety ratings are important to you. That’s why you may want to take the time to research different car models and their corresponding safety statistics. Be sure to look up:

- Crash fatality statistics and survival rates

- Overall safety ratings

- Airbag and seat belt effectiveness

- Tire safety ratings

3. Find Your Loan Options and Consider Securing a Loan Pre-Approval

If you want to finance your online vehicle purchase, you may need to spend time researching your car loan options, including securing a loan pre-approval. The most common car loan types include:

- Hard money loans

- Refinancing

- Used-car loans

- New-car loans

Before settling on your desired loan, be sure to consider a few key factors. For instance, think about:

- The term (in years) that you want

- The monthly payment amount that works for your budget

- The interest rate you can afford

4. Request an In-Person Test Drive Before Making Your Purchase

Finally, even though you may have done your shopping online, you may still want to request an in-person test drive before finalizing the purchase. A quick test drive will allow you to:

- Test out the road feel of the vehicle

- Listen for potential road noise

- Feel out your comfort level in the car

- Get a sense of what it would be like driving that car in everyday situations

In many cases, shopping for a car online can be a straightforward, convenient, and even enjoyable option. However, if you’ve never purchased a car online before, you may want to take a little extra time to prepare yourself for the process. Whether you’re looking for a brand-new car, a gently used car, or an affordable old car, knowing the four basic steps to an online car purchase can help you find what you’re looking for as efficiently as possible.