This article reviews the top four kinds of places people buy cars, and the pros and cons of each. 

Car dealership 

At a dealership, car shoppers can see available vehicles in person. Shoppers can experience a car and go for test drives. A salesperson is readily available to offer expert opinions and answer most questions, and extras can be added to a purchase, such as special parts or a maintenance agreement. However, some people feel uncomfortable working with a salesperson who knows so much more about automobiles than they do. Deciding to buy a particular car from a lot with so many options to choose from can be difficult, and some people may feel overwhelmed. In addition, a high level of customer service may come with higher prices, but there’s always room to negotiate when buying a car. On the positive side, some people create a trusting relationship with a dealership that builds over the years, since the dealer’s reputation depends on customer satisfaction. Having the sale be an overall positive experience for the buyer makes good business sense. Another plus about purchasing from a dealership is the possibility of finding a car and driving it off the lot and home on the same day! 

Private car sales 

Finding a good deal is possible when purchasing a car through a listing service such as Uncle Henry’s or Facebook Marketplace. However, the buyer and the seller have to work things out for themselves, with no oversight from a dealership. Transactions should be made in a public setting with friends or family around for support, possibly right at a credit union or bank – this is a safe and neutral location. The car must be inspected by the buyer, and negotiations and proper contract agreements are the responsibility of the buyer and seller. Most buyers arrange for the car to be looked over by a trusted mechanic to be sure the car does not hide defects that the seller is not disclosing. Once money is exchanged, the sale is final. The car can’t be returned to a dealership and the sale can’t be cancelled, once it is complete. 

Online car buying websites 

Shopping for a car online is like window shopping. The many popular websites include,, and People can take their time and research vehicles with no pressure to buy, and car shopping can happen at any time of day or night. This is an excellent way to compare prices and really study a car’s features. Sometimes sites arrange for cars to be delivered to a buyer’s residence. However, making a very large purchase this way, without being familiar with the business, is risky. Sometimes the buyer has only a few photos and a short description to go on. Details about the condition of the car are not always apparent until the buyer sees the car in person – sometimes after the sale has been made. Finally, obtaining the car takes longer. Days could pass between buying the car and driving it around. For example, a car with an excellent price tag might be six states away from a buyer. The vehicle must be transported to the buyer’s location, and arrangements must be made for that, or a buyer will have to make plans to travel to pick up the purchased vehicle. 

Auto buying service 

Some financial institutions provide an auto buying service to help people find their perfect vehicle. For a fee (or sometimes for free), shoppers can tap into the automotive experience of the buying service’s staff to purchase a car. The staff works to determine the best value and options available to meet their client’s needs. Their goal is to find the lowest purchase price for the buyer and to ensure the transaction goes smoothly. Many times, the staff will negotiate on a buyer’s behalf and guide them through all the steps. However, this service may not be for everyone because some people enjoy the process of buying a car, and prefer to handle the business themselves. Check with a credit union or bank to see if they offer this service. 

Finding the perfect vehicle is a process. The more information a buyer has, the more confidently they can step into the transaction.