Contactless Car Buying: 4 Ways to Buy a Car Without Leaving Your Couch

Did you know you can buy a car from the privacy of your home? Stay safe and compare options today.
Last updated May 13, 2021 | By Lindsay Frankel
Smiling woman holding car key

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In pre-pandemic times, most car dealers would urge customers to come to the dealership for a test drive. And while you were there, a car salesperson would usually try to sell you on a vehicle before you had a chance to change your mind.

Contactless car buying emerged as an option for customers who want to compare prices and thoroughly research their choices before buying. Although buying a car online is not a new concept, it’s been surging in popularity over the past couple of months. Some car dealerships anticipate that contactless buying will be the new way of doing business in the future. Many stores have already added free home delivery for customers who want to purchase their next car online.

In this article

Contactless car buying: The basics

With contactless car buying, you can view videos, photos, and specs of different vehicles online from the comfort of home. You’ll also have plenty of time to research safety features and crash-test scores, check warranties, and compare prices across dealers — without feeling pressure from a salesperson. This can help ensure you get the best deal on the car you want.

Once you’ve decided which vehicle you want to buy, you’ll skip the trip to the dealership and complete the entire process online. That includes signing documents, applying for financing, and providing proof of income and insurance coverage. Completing the transaction at home could save you time and money, and you’ll avoid potential exposure to COVID-19. What’s more, if you don’t like dealerships or you tend to purchase more features than you need in the presence of a salesperson, you might prefer contactless car buying to a traditional transaction.

Multiple websites offer contactless car buying. Before you get started, you’ll want to make sure your finances are in check. Do you have enough money saved, and is your credit score healthy? A bad credit score can end up costing you. Learn how to save for a car and how to improve your credit score before you move forward.

4 companies that offer contactless car buying

  • Carvana
  • TrueCar
  • Vroom
  • CarMax Curbside

1. Carvana

Carvana is an online used car retailer that certifies all its vehicles with a 100-day/4,189 mile “worry-free guarantee.” Carvana lets you take any vehicle for a virtual spin using its 360-degree photo technology. You can view all the specs and get a free vehicle history report online. From there, you can either pay cash, get a loan from a financial institution, or get financing directly through Carvana. Carvana lets you review and sign your contracts completely online.

Although Carvana customers used to interact with an Advocate during the buying process, Carvana has evolved to offer a completely touchless delivery for purchases, trade-ins, and returns in the wake of the pandemic. High-touch areas in vehicles are sanitized, and documents/checks/titles are collected securely without the need for customers to interact with representatives.

2. TrueCar

TrueCar is an online platform that connects customers with more than 16,500 TrueCar Certified Dealers for an online car-buying experience based on price transparency. The TrueCar Price Report shows you what you can expect to pay based on what real people spent for cars in your area. It’s important to note that TrueCar doesn’t sell vehicles directly; it merely provides information about car-buying and makes the process easier.

You can shop new and used cars and get a value for your current vehicle, all online. You can also get a personalized price from a dealer upfront. From there, delivery options and procedures will depend on the dealership. However, most dealerships have updated their processes in response to COVID-19. You might find that some offer contactless delivery; others require curbside pickup.

3. Vroom

Vroom is an online car retailer that sells used cars and facilitates vehicle sales and trade-ins. You can shop for cars, secure financing on your own or through Vroom, and upload your documents all online. Vroom requires a $500 deposit to hold your vehicle while you complete the contract.

Once you’ve signed the paperwork, you can have your car delivered to your home in about 10 to 14 days. You’ll have seven days or 250 miles to try out the car and return it if you’re not satisfied.

Vroom now offers contact-free delivery as well. Here’s how it works:

  1. The delivery driver leaves the keys and paperwork in the car
  2. You inspect the vehicle and sign the paperwork
  3. The delivery driver collects your paperwork and leaves you with your new car

4. CarMax Curbside

CarMax is a Fortune 500 used car retailer with more than 215 stores nationwide and tens of thousands of used cars for sale. CarMax has always provided an online shopping experience, and it now provides contactless pickup at CarMax locations as well. What’s unique about CarMax Curbside is that you can enjoy a solo test drive of your new car before you take it home.

After you get pre-approved online and receive a trade-in offer (if applicable), you’ll visit your local CarMax and call from your car. An agent will come to you, maintaining a 6-foot distance. You can either test drive your new vehicle or sign and drive from the comfort of your new car.

How to buy a car online

  • Research your options
  • Know your budget
  • Learn about the vehicle’s history
  • Compare auto loans online
  • Compare auto insurance quotes online
  • Get the necessary documents together
  • Connect with a contactless car buying dealer
  • Get your new car

1. Research your options

Decide what features are important to you in a new car, and research vehicles that meet your needs. Pay attention to safety ratings and reviews from sites like U.S. News and Consumer Reports when evaluating vehicles.

2. Know your budget

In order to avoid high interest charges, you’ll want to make a 10 to 20% down payment. Ensure you have the money for the down payment and can meet the monthly payments going forward. Be sure to check your credit score when estimating your monthly payment, as this will impact your APR.

3. Learn about the vehicle’s history

If you’re buying a used car, you’ll want to check up on the history of the vehicle, including prior accidents, mileage, and previous owners. There are several tools you can use to get a vehicle history report, including Carfax and AutoCheck.

4. Compare auto loans online

Once you’ve picked out a car, shop around and compare rates from different lenders. Although you can get financing directly through some of the companies we listed, it’s worth comparing quotes to see if you can get a better deal somewhere else.

5. Compare auto insurance quotes online

The best car insurance rates vary based on a number of factors, including your age, occupation, credit score, vehicle history and mileage, and eligibility for certain discounts. If you compare quotes from different insurance companies using an online marketplace like Provide Insurance, you’re more likely to save money on car insurance. Also, check out our tips on how to lower your car insurance premiums.

6. Get the necessary documents together

Whether you’re purchasing a car completely online or submitting documents at a dealership, there are certain car-buying documents you’ll need to have handy. These include:

  • Loan pre-approval application
  • Proof of income
  • Proof of insurance coverage

Check with the car retailer to see what other documents are required.

7. Connect with a contactless car buying dealer

Once you know what you want and have all your ducks in a row, it’s time to buy your new car. If you have the financial means, buying a car with a credit card can be a quick way to earn big rewards. However, keep in mind that this isn’t the best option for everyone, and dealerships often allow you to put only a portion of your down payment on a credit card.

The next step is to set up contactless delivery or curbside pickup for your new vehicle. Each retailer has different processes, so make sure you understand the procedure before scheduling delivery or pickup.

8. Get your new car

Once your car has been delivered or picked up, you’re ready to hit the road. Be aware of any guarantees made by the retailer so you know how much time you have to return the vehicle if anything goes wrong.

The bottom line

Picking out a new car online comes with many advantages: You can avoid contact with others during the pandemic, compare prices before you buy, and avoid upselling at dealerships. Take the time to research so you end up with the right vehicle, and ensure you’ll have a chance to test out your new car worry-free, either before or after purchasing. You could be behind the wheel of a new car in as little as one week, without ever having to leave your home. So go ahead and start planning your next adventure on the road.

  • Save up to $500 a year on your car insurance
  • Compare dozens of providers in under 5 minutes
  • Fast, free and easy way to shop for insurance
  • Quickly find the perfect rate for you

Author Details

Lindsay Frankel Lindsay Frankel is a Denver-based freelance writer who specializes in credit cards, travel, budgeting/saving, and shopping. She has been featured in several finance publications, including LendingTree. When she's not writing, you can find her enjoying the great outdoors, playing music, or cuddling with her rescue pup.