How to Shop for a Car Online: Options, Financing & More | Finder Canada

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How to shop for a car online

Narrow down your options before hitting the dealership.

Finding a car online can save time and arm you with enough information to negotiate a good deal at the dealership. But you still might want to test drive a few models before you make a decision.

CarsFast Car Loans

  • Min. Loan Amount: $500
  • Max. Loan Amount: $75,000
  • Interest Rate: 4.90% to 29.90%
  • Loan Term: 12-96 months
  • Choose from thousands of vehicles
  • Multiple financing options
  • Pre-approval in 60 seconds
  • Vehicle delivery to your door

CarsFast Car Loans

Browse thousands of vehicles from dealers across Canada and get matched with financing that meets your needs. Apply online to purchase a new or used vehicle and get the vehicle delivered to your door.

  • Min. Loan Amount: $500
  • Max. Loan Amount: $75,000
  • Interest Rate: 4.90% to 29.90%
  • Loan Term: 12-96 months
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How to compare cars online

Find your next car at home in 5 steps.

1. Decide which features matter the most

Before you even sit down to do your research, come up with an idea of what you’re looking for in a car. Think about how you’re going to use it. Will you mainly go to and from work? Will you need extra space for kids, friends or transporting materials. Do you prefer a larger, safer vehicle or a smaller eco-friendly car?

Coming up with a clear picture of what you’re looking for can help you stay focused and avoid spending time on cars that won’t suit your needs.

2. Set your limits

Now that you have an idea of what you want out of your vehicle, further narrow your search by considering at least 3 main factors.

Down payment

Calculate how much you can afford to pay up front, and use this to find a reasonable price point for your car. Most lenders and dealerships recommend at least a 20% down payment. It can make financing more affordable and easier to qualify for, because you won’t have to borrow as much.

Monthly payments

Add up your regular monthly expenses, and subtract the result from your salary after taxes. This is how much you have to spend each month on your car payment.

Use this number to guide you when considering the price of your car and financing, giving yourself some wiggle room.

Style

You know what you need your car for. Use that information to pick a body style.

StyleBest forDefining features
Sedan
  • Getting to and from work
  • General use
4-door car with a typical trunk
SUV
  • Driving in rough terrain
  • Areas with a lot of snow or flooding
  • Transporting more people with more protection
4-door car with a large body frame and high ground clearance
Truck
  • Driving in rough terrain
  • Areas with a lot of snow or flooding
  • Transporting items in its truck bed
  • Hauling a trailer or other vehicle
2- or 4-door car with a long body frame, open bed and high ground clearance
Hatchback
  • Transporting more people or more items
  • Easy access to its trunk space
4-door car with a door at the back that opens upward and folding seats
Minivan
  • Transporting groups of people in the suburbs or a city
4-door vehicle with extra leg room in the front and back
Crossover
  • Transporting more people or more items while driving in rough terrain
  • Easy access to its trunk space
Large, 4-door vehicle with a hatchback trunk door
Coupe
  • Tall drivers that rarely drive with more than one other person
2-door car with a fixed roof, sloped back and more leg room than a 4-door car

3. Start a preliminary search on car finder sites

Visit 2-3 sites to scope out what’s there, filtering by style and price range. You might get hit with a long list of cars, but don’t let it overwhelm you. The more options available means the more likely you are to find a car that fits your unique needs.

Consider visiting sites like:

  • Car Max Canada
  • CARFAX Canada
  • Canadian Black Book
  • autoTrader.ca

4. Narrow your focus

After you’ve looked at several cars, narrow your search by selecting features that include:

  • Make. The make is the manufacturer that produces the car. It determines the dealership you need to buy the vehicle from.
  • Year and mileage. For used cars, come up with a limit on how old and how many miles a car can have for you to consider it. Many lenders restrict funding by age and mileage as well.
  • Engine. The type of engine tells you how much horsepower the car has. The more horsepower, the more powerful the car — though also often more expensive.
  • Fuel economy. The higher the miles per gallon, the less you’ll spend on gas — and the better it is for the environment.
  • Type of fuel. Do you want to buy gas or diesel? Do you want a car that runs on natural gas? Or would you prefer a hybrid or fully electric vehicle?
  • Aesthetics. Consider factors like color, seating, safety features and other qualities you’d like in your new car.

5. Conduct a more detailed search

Go back to your search sites and filter your results further. When you’ve settled on a vehicle or two, compare prices you find across all sites. Keep this number in mind when you go to the dealership: It’ll help when negotiating with the salesperson.

If you have any questions about the price — or anything else about the car — reach out to the site’s customer service team. They might provide a more straightforward answer than you’d get later when buying the car.

I think I found my car. What happens next?

Now you take the steps to buy your new car. Before you buy, consider 2 major factors:

  • How it feels to actually drive the car.
  • How you’re going to pay.

Take it for a test drive

The only way to learn whether a car is right for you is to get behind the wheel. Stop by a dealership or schedule an appointment to test drive the car as soon as you can.

If you’re happy with it, you’re ready to move on to the next step. Otherwise, consider test driving other vehicles you considered — or go back to the drawing board.

Decide how to pay

You have 4 main options when it comes to paying for your car:

Pro tip: Get pre-approved for a car loan — even if you think you’ll end up financing with the dealership. You may be able to use your pre-approved offer to negotiate down your rates.

Compare car loans

Name Product Min. Loan Amount Interest Rate Loan Term Min. Credit Score Requirements
Car Loans Canada
$7,500
3.99% to 29.95%
12-84 months
300
Min. income of $2,000 /month, 3+ months employed
Search thousands of vehicles online, including $0 down options, from dealers across the country and get matched with affordable financing options. Auto loans are also available to those with bad credit, consumer proposals and bankruptcies to help rebuild credit.
CarsFast Car Loans
$500
4.90% to 29.90%
12-96 months
300
Min. income of $1,800 /month, 3+ months employed
Browse thousands of vehicles from dealers across Canada and get matched with financing that meets your needs. Apply online to purchase a new or used vehicle and get the vehicle delivered to your door.
Loans Canada Car Loans
$500
0% to 29.99%
3-96 months
300
Min. income of $1,800 /month, 3+ months employed
Get access to financing from multiple lenders across Canada through a single application with Loans Canada. Bad credit, CERB and EI borrowers are considered.
Canadian Auto News
$7,500
4.49% to 29.90%
12-84 months
300
Min. income of $2,000 /month, 3+ months employed
Answer a few simple questions to get matched with affordable financing options. Auto loans are also available to those with bad credit, consumer proposals and bankruptcies to help rebuild credit.
Canada Auto Finance
$500
4.90%-29.95%
3-96 months
300
Min. income of $1,500 /month, 3+ months employed
Canada Auto Finance is a broker that connects borrowers with partnered local lenders. Financing for a new or used car is available for borrowers with bad credit, no credit, CERB, EI or bankruptcy.
Carloans411 Car Loans
$500
1.90% to 19.99%
Up to 72 months
300
Min. income of $1,600 /month, 3+ months employed
Get connected with suitable lenders through CarLoans411. Finance your next car, van or truck with loans available in amounts from $500 to $50,000. Check eligibility for this loan through LoanConnect.
LoanConnect Car Loans
$500
9.90% to 46.96%
3-120 months
550
No min. income requirement
Get access to 25+ lenders through LoanConnect's brokerage. Receive pre-approval in as fast as 60 seconds and get your funds in as little as 24 hours.
Fairstone Secured Personal Loan
$5,000
19.99% to 23.99%
36-120 months
560
Established credit history and own your home
Fairstone offers secured personal loans up to $35,000.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Should I buy online or at a dealership?

While you should still test drive the car, you may not need to visit a dealership to buy it. Many models are also available online through sites like autoTrader.ca.

Buying a car online could be a convenient choice if you aren’t comfortable with in-person negotiations. It’s also faster.

But you won’t get the personalized service you’d expect at a dealership, and you could potentially get a better deal by talking to sales in person.

How to decide between buying online or in person

Bottom line

Finding your car online can cut down on the time you might spend driving between dealerships. It also allows you to find makes and models you might not have otherwise heard of.

Learn more about how it works in our car-buying guide. Or compare your car loan options if you’re ready to get behind the wheel.

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