Guide: buying a car on the Internet

Since the corona lockdowns, online vehicle purchases have increased significantly. But if you want to complete this with a click of the mouse, you should know a few rules and generally act carefully.

Anyone who wants to buy a new car will usually first search on the relevant online vehicle exchanges and only conclude a classic sales contract after viewing and taking a test drive on site. But there are also ways to buy a car with a click of the mouse. Anyone who opts for this form of trade, which has been on the rise since Corona, should know some of the rules of the game on the Internet in order to avoid mistakes or nasty surprises.

One of the important questions when ordering online concerns the trustworthiness of the retailer. In order to protect yourself from potentially fraudulent offers, you should, among other things, be guided by the experiences of other users and look at their ratings. If there is a lot of feedback from other customers and if there are also good grades, the chances increase that a reputable dealer is behind the present offer. If there is a new trading or brokerage platform, articles should be found in the press. Even if the dealer appears trustworthy after such a check, you should contact them by telephone, for example, before concluding a contract.

Anyone who discovers a car at an internet auction should not just bid for fun, even if the current price is temptingly low. If a bid is submitted, the bidder is legally bound by it. Whoever is the highest bidder at the end of the auction has automatically entered into a legally binding contract that obliges to purchase and pay for the item. Also important for auctions: If a car offered by a private person is auctioned, the generally applicable two-week right of withdrawal does not apply to online trading. This can only be asserted against dealers.

After a successfully completed internet auction, the problem of payment often arises. Anyone who makes advance payments and transfers the sum can possibly go away empty-handed, because every now and then they work with false identities, hijacked accounts and mailbox companies. You are on the safe side if the seller demands payment on collection. If the money is to be transferred, however, the buyer ideally uses a so-called escrow service, which auction platforms offer for higher-priced items. The buyer first transfers the amount to the account of the escrow service, which only pays the money to the seller once the receipt of the goods and their correct condition have been confirmed.

In addition to the possibility of direct purchase via online auction, cars can now also be ordered on other platforms directly online with purchase contracts that can be concluded online. Here, too, you should act cautiously as a customer, because even if a contract was only concluded by email, it is still binding. As in real trading, the buyer and seller conclude a binding contract with a written declaration of intent.

If there is a dispute about whether a contract was actually concluded, it is advantageous if it is possible to provide evidence that the declaration of intent sent by email has reached the addressee. Therefore, emails should be sent with a confirmation of receipt. Ideally, the degree will also be confirmed by fax or letter.

The declaration of intent can also be challenged if a mistake has been made, for example because a wrong price has been transmitted. Anyone who notices such a faux pas should react immediately so that the conclusion of the contract becomes null and void.

As is usual with online shops, a two-week right of withdrawal applies to the purchase of cars from dealers from the moment the goods are handed over. If you want to cancel the contract, you have to explain this to the dealer in writing.

Before entering into a contract, you should read the seller's terms and conditions. These must be pointed out on the dealer website and they must also be placed in such a way that they are clearly visible to customers. Otherwise they will not become part of the contract.

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