Using the Internet to buy a car can be quick and convenient, but also poses risks. How can you be sure that what you see is what you will get? Make sure you know your rights, find out as much as possible about the car and the dealer, and inspect the car in person before you part with your money.

Your rights when buying online

When buying a used car from a business over the Internet, your rights are the same as the rights you would have buying a car in person from a business. In many circumstances, you may also have additional rights under the Distance Selling Regulations, which cover on-line purchases.

However, if you are buying a used car from an individual over the Internet, your rights are the same as those for buying a used car from an individual in person.

If you find a car you would like to buy, take steps to protect yourself. We strongly advise that you go and see the car in person, in daylight if possible before placing a deposit or buying the car.


As you surf the internet, make notes of what is on offer. Make comparisons. If a picture of a car is shown, check that it matches the car for sale. Some sellers may use representative pictures as opposed to 'real' ones.

Once you have found the car you want, try to discover as much as you can about the seller:

  • Get their geographical address: you'll need it if you want to complain, and your rights vary depending on the location of the company you're buying from. A '' or '.uk' internet address doesn't always mean the firm is UK-based.
  • Ensure you are dealing with a reputable company: and, if possible, that the site is a 'secure' one. Often a warning will flash up as you enter a secure page and you might see a closed padlock symbol in the status bar at the bottom of your screen. The TrustUK logo means that the trader has agreed to abide by certain standards.
  • If you decide to buy, print off the details of the company: you are dealing with, including terms and conditions, description of the car, quotes and completed order form.
  • If possible, ask other people who have used the company what their experience has been.
  • Read the small print before deciding to go ahead. If an online seller cannot provide satisfactory responses to questions on warranty terms, delivery or product quality, it would be safer to shop elsewhere.
  • Before concluding the deal, you would be well advised to have the car inspected by an expert and a vehicle data check carried out which will give you details of the car's history. The results of the inspection and/or the vehicle check can help you to decide whether you want to proceed, or negotiate a better deal.
  • Pay safely. It is rare that you will be asked to send cash before you receive goods. Be very cautious if you are. Using a credit card may have some advantages; e.g. you're protected against home shopping fraud, and if your card is used fraudulently, you'll get a refund from the card issuer. You may also have rights if the trader ceases trading before you get your car and they might be equally liable for faults with the goods after purchase.
  • If you are planning to pay either a deposit or the full amount by credit card over the Internet, it is advisable to ensure it is a secure site. Ring them to check if you are unsure. Don’t presume that the deposit is refundable either; always ask before placing any money down.
  • Always get confirmation of your order by post, fax or email. As a minimum, your confirmation should give you an order number, the main specifications of the vehicle ordered including the price agreed, and the expected date of deliver

Buying a car on the internet - Consumer Direct (External Link)