Can I buy a car remotely?

You can buy a car remotely using an online car sales marketplace or through a dealership’s website. You may even be able to register a car remotely, depending on your state.

Kara McGinley


Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN,, and elsewhere.

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There are a few reasons you’d need to buy a car remotely, whether it be because you are moving, for safety concerns, or because you simply don’t have the time to go to a dealership. Depending on what state you live in, you actually can buy a car remotely, and in some instances, have it delivered straight to your home.

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That said, buying a car online isn’t a totally simple process. Buying a car remotely takes a lot of research, and in addition to buying the actual vehicle, you’re going to also need to register it and buy car insurance. Though buying a car remotely might require a bit more legwork on your end, it can also be way more convenient than going to a car lot in person.

Key takeaways

  • You can buy a car online through a dealership’s website or an online seller or marketplace

  • When buying a car remotely, it’s important to read the fine print and negotiate prices

  • You can also buy car insurance online, through an independent broker or by comparing quotes from different insurance companies

  • Registering a new car online is more difficult. Some states allow it while others do not. You should contact your local DMV or equivalent agency to find out if you can register a car remotely

How to buy a car remotely

When buying a car, whether remotely or in person, it’s important to set your budget and decide on the type of car you want. For example, if you have a large family, you might be better off shopping for SUVs than a two door sports car. But even once you’ve decided on the style of car you want, there’s the make and model, hybrid, electric or gas, two rows or three, AWD or FWD.

You’re going to want to do a fair amount of research online before buying, using trusted sources or accounts from people who own the cars you’re considering.

There are two common ways to buy a car remotely.

Buying a car online through a dealership

If you want to buy a car directly from a dealership, you can typically do so through the dealership’s website. No matter which dealership you wind up choosing, buying a car from a dealership requires the following steps:

  • Determine a budget. How much you want to or can spend will help determine what type of car you buy and how you pay for it (whether you lease, buy, or finance the car).

  • Get quotes. Depending on the dealership, you can either contact them over the phone or through their website. Research options from multiple dealerships and choose the one that is willing to give you the car you want at the best price.

  • Negotiate the price. If you are trading in your current car, you can also oftentimes negotiate a trade-in price. You may also be able to leverage prices from other dealerships to get a better deal on your vehicle.

  • Determine financing. If you’re buying your car with a car loan, you should shop around for a loan the same way you’d shop around for a car. Compare financing options through the dealership with financing options from a bank or credit union, and choose a loan offer based on total interest paid, not just the monthly payment amount.

  • Buy your new car. Depending on the dealership, you may be able to do a contactless delivery to test drive the car. You may also be able to sign all the purchasing paperwork online too, but some dealerships will require you to come into the office in-person to sign on the dotted line. If you are buying a car from out of state, you may still be able to get it delivered to your door, if the dealership offers out-of-state delivery. You will probably have to foot the delivery bill, though.

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Buying a car on the internet

There are plenty of online options where you can shop all different types of cars. Websites like Carvana and Vroom sell cars directly, while sites like Autotrader or CarGurus are marketplace platforms that allow sellers to list cars online and help facilitate the purchase. Either way, it can be easy to compare prices and buy cars from the comfort of your own couch.

When using these websites, there’s a few common steps you’ll take.

  • Most car marketplace websites have a “Cars For Sale” tab. Using their search engine, you’ll be able to compare prices and cars from different car dealerships, all in one place. However, if you want to buy a car in-state, or near where you live, be sure to input your zip code before searching.

  • Read all the information in the ad, carefully. Since you won’t be seeing the car in person, and you aren’t on the dealership website, be sure to read the ad carefully to make sure you know all the details about the vehicle. For example, some car dealerships might not include details about standard equipment in the car description.

  • If you are buying a used car, ask for a vehicle history report. Places like Carfax or Autocheck can usually provide free vehicle history reports for interested buyers.

  • You can also hire an independent mechanic to do an inspection of the vehicle.

  • Request photos of the car. If you are buying a used car, it’s a good idea to ask the dealership to provide you with up to date photos of both the interior and exterior.

  • On an online marketplace, car sellers can provide buyers with an e-document version of the purchase agreement. These e-documents are legally binding just as they are when you sign in-person.

You can pick up your new car at the pick-up location, whether that is a car dealership or a car vending machine. Just like when you buy remotely from a dealership, you can also get a car shipped to you, however you’ll likely have to pay out of pocket for the shipping costs.

How to buy car insurance remotely

All but two states require you to have car insurance in order to legally drive. This means after you purchase your car remotely, you need to contact your insurance company to get your new car listed on the policy, usually within a set number of days after getting your new car. If you don’t already have a car insurance policy, you are going to have to purchase one before you can pick up your new car. You can do this online, either through an insurance company or an independent broker.

Below are the steps you need to take when buying car insurance remotely.

You can typically buy a car insurance policy in one day, so you can get your car insurance the same day you purchase a vehicle. You can get quotes and choose a policy even before you know the specific car you’re buying, and then once you decide, you can give the insurance company the rest of the vehicle information and get the policy started.

Learn more about how to buy auto insurance

Can you register a car online?

The answer to this question is: It really depends on where you live. Different states have different laws about how you can register your vehicle, however you do legally have to register all vehicles with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles or an equivalent agency, no matter which state you live in.

Some states allow you to renew your registration online, either bi-annually or annually. Other states allow you to register your new car if you bought it in-state. Others might allow you to mail-in a registration form. It’s important to check with your state DMV office or a similar agency before picking up your new car.

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