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Can you buy a used car without visiting the dealer?

I’m shopping around for used car at the moment and a few of the cars I’ve been looking at would take multiple hours to drive to. I’d prefer to have the option of completing the transaction completely by phone, email, and snail mail, then having the car shipped to me. Has anyone heard of this being done before?

No. But I have some ocean front property in Arizona that’s available and the price is right.

I am not a mechanic, but it seems to me not a wise decision. If there are really extenuating circumstances that you cannot get to the place, have you run the vin numbers on Carfax? Talked to the previous owners? Seen pictures of them? checked out the record of the dealership? explored the warranties for that business.

In a world where people fail to maintain their cars properly and then sell or trade them, in a world where people conceal serious accident damage and then sell or trade their cars, and in a world where flood-damaged cars are given some cosmetic clean-up before being sold as pristine, undamaged cars, I think that the OP would be extremely foolish to buy a used car sight-unseen.

Perhaps the OP feels differently, and–if so–that is his right.
It is also his right to be cheated by failing to exercise normal, intelligent due diligence prior to buying a used car.

If the OP is not familiar with the old saying about “Buying a Pig in a Poke”, then he might want to spend a little time Googling it and learning what that expression means.

I would not buy a car that I have not driven and inspected or that at least has been driven and inspected by someone you trust. Buying anything used sight-unseen is a risky proposition.

@AntonioKat‌, seems like you’re still wrestling with the same distance issue from earlier in the spring. It’s probably a sign that no one here is recommending you do it, but we don’t know your full circumstances and you may have your reasons. Fully informed is fully armed, though. I’ve never heard of anybody doing the full sale via long distance, but I think much of the advice you received in the other thread would still apply if you’re really so stuck you are going to proceed.

How to make sure a car you’re buying that’s a long drive away is mechanically sound

If you search the forum archives for Carfax, you’ll get a ton of threads explaining the drawbacks. Good luck with whatever you choose to do, but I’d pay close attention to the feedback you received.

only if you can afford to lose all the money you spend on it and won t be bothered if you are completely dissatisfied. if you have it inspected by a trusted person, maybe…

Well…you can certainly buy a new car without visiting a dealer and have it delivered right to your door hundreds of miles away. My uncle works for a large multibrand dealer that does this (Chevy/Ford/Cadillac/GMC/Buick and Lincoln) and I drive vehicles for them from time to time. It’s actually the best part-time job I’ve ever had and fun to boot. I would be very leery of buying a used vehicle this way.

I forgot to mention this is in the original post, but yes, of course I’d include a pre-purchase inspection being done with pictures taken and the car being test driven by someone experienced with cars. More than anything I’m just concerned about the potential for being scammed this way, and if the potential really is high then I suppose I’ll just have to find a way to pick it up in person.

Make a little vacation out of it. Drive the few hours to the vehicle and then test drive it. If you like it, arrange for an inspection. I doubt that you can have it inspected on the same trip. If you buy it, have a friend take you to the car, buy him lunch, and then drive home. These must be very special cars if you are willing to drive several hours to buy them.

There are companies that would inspect a vehicle for you but I’m not that familiar with any of them. Is there a dealer you trust who would be willing to find a similar vehicle for you?

You absolutely CAN do this.
And you absolutely SHOULD NOT. Cars bought long distance are rarely what they represent themselves to be. You might even gat a victim of Hurricane Sandy, a car that’s been immersed in seawater and rotting so fast you can almost hear the rust forming.

…or even have somebody take the money and run. So much has been made about the high chance of buying a lemon: what about the chance of being left "high and dry?"

Really, I don’t see how a F2F transaction is the big deal OP is making it out to be. Ask a friend for a favor, or rent transportation. I’ve bought cars online (C/L an e-bay), and you better believe the cash traded hands F2F, AFTER seeing the goods I purchased online!

I will just a few points.
One is that a thorough inspection and a test drive by someone very knowledgeable about cars is no guarantee that you will end up with a problem free car. It increases the odds a bit in your favor.

Two is that buying a used car and having it suffer a problem, or more than one, is not a sign that the seller ripped you off. A dealer buys cars from auctions and individuals, takes them in trade, etc.and the scant amount of driving a dealer may do with the car may not be enough to bring problems to the surface.
When they do surface after the sale the usual impression is that the dealer knew all about it and knowingly foisted a problematic car off on someone.

I might buy a former rental sight-unseen from a Hertz or Avis sale lot. They sell a fairly consistent product. The rentals that suffered serious problems aren’t sold on their lots, but disposed of elsewhere. Of course a mechanical checkup is still advised, but with these cars you’re less likely to get a rude surprise. You also won’t get a gem as these cars tend to be high-mileage for the age. Still, I know a lot of people who have had good experiences buying this way. There is no haggling normally so it’s easier to do this long distance. They often have several of the same model and year at the same price, so if you have a mechanic you trust he might find you the one that looks best to him. On a cursory look over, but better than nothing. Let’s you avoid any obvious problems.

For me, it is bad enough to have to buy a pair of shoes online, but when a person wears a size 14AA shoe, it is sometimes necessary. However, I prefer to make a round trip of 120 miles to a shoe store in a large city so I can see what I am getting, and, more importantly, try the shoes on. I would think it would be even more important to inspect and drive a car because of the outlay of cash necessary for the purchase of an automobile. (However, at the price I have to pay for a pair of shoes, it may come close to that of a car. My wife thought I should drive to work rather than walk as a pair of shoes probably costs more than a set of tires).

Dear @AntonioKat I am interested in purchasing your car, however, I cannot come to you. I will send you the money for your car plus extra to have it shipped to me via car courier company. If there is any extra, please send me the remainder to my return address listed on the envelope I send you the check in.

Take a second to read that and see how that reads to you. If it feels like I’m trying to scam you, that’s because that’s how a lot of scams happen online. I received a couple of these types of emails from people claiming they’re overseas and want the car shipped to them. Although, they weren’t quite as good with their spelling and grammar.

Craigs list warns against buying cars like this. Send the money and I will ship the car. No way! Your money will be gone, period.

Even someone you trust might miss stuff. I had someone I trust(ed) check out a car for me that was 1,000 miles away. He gave it a thumbs up and said it was perfect. So I drove out to buy it. He had missed the rust under the doors, on the rear wheel wells, the straight-piped catalyitc converter, and a bunch of other stuff. Ended up driving back empty-handed.

You absolutely do not want to do this.

I know it’s been a while, but I just wanted to give a little update. I ended up buying the car, a 2008 Acura TL, on eBay and having it shipped to me, and in the couple years of ownership so far the car has been wonderful. Sure, I had a lot of those to choose from locally, but I was pretty dead set on a Type-S in red and had to turn down a local one after the pre-purchase inspection came back bad. I still appreciate having gotten all the feedback here and I know I was still taking a bit of a gamble, but for future reference, it can be done successfully.