21 tips and tricks for buying a car online during the pandemic


Posted by: Joshua-Philip Okeafor

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As we struggle to deal with the reality of Covid-19, life doesn't stop. However, we do have to adjust behaviour to suit. Activities like buying a car online must be handled carefully. Here are top tips for buying a car online during the pandemic. Read more now!


The pandemic hurt the world and has forced everyone to do almost everything virtually these days. The shutdown as a result of the pandemic has required car dealers and auto manufacturers to place much importance on selling vehicles online.

What is happening in the world now has forced almost every major automaker to enlarge their online inventory and operations to the point that you can now make inquiries, select, test drive, negotiate for, and buy a car online without stepping out of your house. And you can do this while avoiding online car scam, too.


Covid-19 doesn't mean we stop living, or buying cars

Below are 21 tips and tricks you need to know when buying a car online during the pandemic.

1. Don’t panic, not much has changed

If you’re scared about buying a car online for the first time, don’t be. Much of the outdated car buying process which includes shopping, researching, applying for loans, etc., all take place online now. So there’s no big difference, just try not to forget the basics.

2. Open your mind, even if you have already made it up

If you have already made up your mind on the car to buy, the make and the model, you might consider changing your mind about your decisions. This is because the pandemic, which resulted in a lockdown and restricted movement, has caused virtually every dealer and automaker to offer deals and spurs to improve sales as the economy falters.

Some of these automakers are offering late payments, while others are pitching financing; some others are doing both or offering other deals altogether. It is advisable that, if you have already looked, you can look and shop again.


You can be both happy and safe buying a vehicle during Covid-19

3. Read the small print

When you want to purchase a car online especially during this pandemic, you will see lots of deals to choose from. You must take note that, most of these pandemic related promotions come with restrictions, exemptions, and limits.

These promotions apply mostly to qualified buyers as these deferred payments and all other similar programs sometimes require the buyer to demonstrate need.

So for some of these deals, it's as if the automakers are giving them out of pity, which is quite true for some but not all. You must know that they are in the business to make money and sell cars.

4. Get approved

Pandemic or no pandemic, these dealers make their money through the financing department. When you get a loan approved before the process begins, you arm yourself with the option of saying no to a dealer's financing.

You can also consider an auto loan of your choice. This helps you buy a car online cheap.


Make your own money arrangements so dealers don't give you bad terms 

5. Investigate

There's how to buy a car online properly. Before your online car purchase, do exactly what you would have done before the lockdown. Check the seller out.

See also expert car reviews on any model you are considering purchasing, the ratings, and their average long-term cost of maintenance.


Spend some time to really look at your options

6. Learn what people are paying

Find out what people in your area pay on average for any vehicle you are considering. This gives you an idea of what to look out for in terms of the prices of the vehicles.

7. Look for a return policy

As discussed earlier, there are a lot of exclusion and restriction policies to watch out for.  Buying a car online, best sites have a great return policy.

Ask the automakers, dealer, or site if they are offering return policies as part of their lockdown promotion gift.

8. Check out cleaning protocols

Many automakers and dealers have established strict cleaning and sanitization etiquettes for their dealerships, vehicles and employees based on CDC standards. While it's not certain whether Nigerian car dealers have followed suit, you should look out for this.

Even though you will be completing the entire contract online, other people will have handled the vehicle. It is important to make sure you work with an online-only or dealership vendor that takes safety seriously.


The cleaner the car, the healthier the choice

9. Research delivery offerings

Many dealers now home deliver to their customers. Some even offered home delivery before the pandemic started. The whole process from A-Z must happen without you leaving the comfort and safety of your home.

10. Ask about at-home test drives

If a dealer does not have this service, work with another dealer. The dealer should bring a sterile car to you for you to test drive on the road for yourself.


Have your car delivered and tested at home, that's the safest choice

11. Make sure there is little or no in-person paperwork.

Handle most of the paperwork online. However, you are likely to encounter some documents that require hand signatures. Ask the dealer to mail them to you or drop them off in a safe place. This is so you can sign them and they can be picked by the dealer.


If you must do physical meets, protect yourself

>>> By the way, you might want to look at this: 6 most reliable online payment methods for online car sales

12. Take a virtual tour

Some automakers offer virtual tours of their entire dealer showrooms. The online visual tour is a multimedia presentation that is a big step up from traditional pictures of the interior and exterior.

Many automakers can give you a multimedia tour of the vehicle of your choice, just by checking the model as you browse the website. In other words, you might have to email the dealer or call.

13. Consider a credit loan

As you check your to-do-list, you might want to look into your local credit service for your auto loan. This is because Covid-19 has impacted businesses negatively so cash may be scarce. The prices of cars in Nigeria after Coronavirus pandemic also make this advisable.

14. Search beyond your area

One of the benefits of buying online is that you can check for vehicles beyond your area and you can also get good deals by doing so.

15. Choose your preferred method of communication

When you decide on the model to buy, the next thing to do is to communicate with the sales representative or the sales manager to find out about the deal and negotiate the price. The communication format is up to you.

16. Keep your data close to the chest

The best way to communicate with your dealer is through e-mail. Getting your numbers in their file can lead to sales calls and marketing pitches which tend to continue after you have bought the car. Credible auto sites like naijauto.com will keep this to a minimum though.


Sites like naijauto.com simplify the car buying process

17. Keep trade-in and purchase negotiations separate

Never let the dealer talk you into combining purchase and trade-in into one negotiation. If the new purchase and trade-in are discussed at the same time, the dealer can give you a great deal on one by juicing up the other for himself.

18. Consider a dealership alternative

Whether you are buying a car online or in person, this applies to you. Never negotiate with the MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) as the starting point, that’s the price the dealer hopes to get. You are not only trying to pay less than the MSRP but also the TMV (True Market Value) price.

19. If you must visit a dealer, make an appointment

The pandemic has caused some dealerships to shut down. If walk-ins are allowed, make an appointment.


Make an appointment to help yourself and the dealer

20. Consider a concierge service

If you’re still uncertain about how buy a car online, or you are not sure you can get the best deal on your own, look into a concierge service. You simply tell the concierge service the make and model you want to buy and they shop the best deals. 

21. Consider an online-only site

You can consider buying from an online-only site such as naijauto.com; they all, of course, come with pros and cons. You can identify good online car sites here.

The video below will give you further insight into online car buying.

How and where to buy cheap cars in Nigeria


Buying a car online during the pandemic is not as difficult as it seems, there is nothing to be scared of. Follow these tips and purchase the car of your dreams.

>>> More buying and selling tips here

Joshua-Philip Okeafor

Joshua-Philip Okeafor

Car buying & selling

Joshua, or KK as friends call him, is a Filmmaker, Writer and Director. A Christian, Joshua is a product of Nigeria’s foremost film school, the National Film Institute, Jos, where he majored in Writing/Directing. Joshua began his writing career at age 18 when an older brother gave him a four page outline of a children novel. Joshua intends to keep writing and directing. His screen name is sometimes Joshua Kalu Ephraim (Writing), and sometimes Joshua KK (directing).

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