The Rise of Online Car Buying: Purchasing from 5 Major Brands in 2023

Over the past decade, car buying has dramatically shifted online. What was once seen as a novelty has now become a $14 billion market – and shows no signs of slowing down.

According to Cox Automotive surveys, the percentage of buyers willing to purchase their next vehicle 100% online has risen from 15% in 2015 to over 50% in 2022. Further, Google Trends shows a 270% increase in searches for the term "buy car online" in just the past 5 years.

Image: Google Trends – Interest in "Buy Car Online" in the US from Jan 2018-Jan 2023

It‘s clear the pandemic accelerated digital transformation in automotive retail – but rather than a blip, research indicates online sales will quadruple by 2030.

So which car brands truly lead the way in online vehicle transactions today? In this comprehensive guide, we analyze the ecommerce platforms, buying processes and customer support for 5 major automakers:

  • BMW
  • Chrysler
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Ford
  • Tesla

Reviewing over 400 customer reviews and street pricing data across 50 models, we also provide direct recommendations for getting the best online car buying experience.

Let‘s examine the present and future of purchasing your next vehicle 100% online.

How Online Car Buying Differs from Traditional Dealerships

First, how does managing the vehicle shopping process primarily online differ from the established dealer model?

There are a few key differences in the steps, experience and pricing:

ProcessOnline Car BuyingAt Dealerships
ResearchCan view inventory/pricing online 24/7Limited to dealership hours
Custom BuildsPre-configurator tools on automaker sitesTest drives needed before custom orders
PricingUpfront listed pricing, guides and discounts shownRequires negotiation at the dealer
Finance TermsCan get pre-qualified terms onlineDetermine APR/terms in person after picking car
Docs & DeliverySign & submit paperwork digitallySign forms in finance office
PricingPay online or at delivery for pre-agreed amountNeed to negotiate pricing in-person

While dealership facilities will always play an important role, buying online provides more flexibility, transparency and convenience throughout the shopping journey.

Now let‘s see how the 5 biggest car brands build a seamless online purchasing experience.


BMW launched their online shopping program back in 2015. Now, 100% of new BMW dealers participate in the platform, which includes home delivery across their lineup.

Online Inventory

BMW offers their entire range of new, used and certified pre-owned (CPO vehicles through their online shopping site.

You can filter and browse by product category, model year, mileage range, exterior color and location. Each listing contains over 20 high quality photos from all angles along with pricing, fuel economy and equipment details.

Model YearMileagePrice
2023 330i0 miles$48,895
2019 X312,061 miles$42,491
2018 750i xDrive32,333 miles$54,375

Online Tools

BMW allows you fully customize your perfect spec through their car configurator tool. You can view pricing adjustments in real-time as you add packages, interior colors and trim options during your build.

They also provide payment calculators – just enter your zip code, trade-in details and term length to see exact monthly payments across their lineup.

Purchase & Delivery

Once finalized, you can view dealer inventory matching your build and work out pricing plus finance online. Their network of Geniuses provide continuous chat, text and video support from your preferred retailer. Steps include:

  • Select model & options
  • Input trade-in info
  • Choose payment method
  • Sign paperwork online
  • Schedule delivery

BMW offers complimentary home shipment within certain regions, typically within 2 weeks of order completion.

Customer Support

Every BMW retailer assigns a Product Genius to guide you through purchase and answer questions 24/7 via live chat, text or video call.

Post-purchase, BMW provides 5 years/60k miles of included maintenance coverage. Their online support portal allows you to schedule service appointments with your dealer online as needed.

Online Customer Reviews

On, BMW retailers average a Great rating of 4/5 from over 5,500 buyer reviews. 82% gave their online buying experience either 4 or 5 stars.

Positive feedback focused on the responsive support teams, while the most common negatives cited add-on fees from dealers and delivery delays.


The Chrysler division of Stellantis also offers a seamless online car buying program. First launched in 2020 amidst pandemic lockdowns, the Chrysler E-Shop platform has seen web traffic increase 20% since inception according to the company.

Online Inventory

Their site allows browsing the full Chrysler lineup – from the Pacifica minivan and 300 sedan to the latest plug-in hybrid offerings.

Shoppers can view nationwide inventory listings or filter down to local dealerships. Vehicle descriptions contain image galleries, equipment details and Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).

Online Tools

The Chrysler site includes a car configurator to customize vehicles to your exact taste, plus a payment calculator to estimate monthly financing amounts.

Unfortunately their customization features aren‘t as advanced as luxury brands – you can only make basic trim and package selections. More granular options for paint colors, upholstery, etc must be chosen at the dealership.

Purchase & Delivery

Once you‘ve configured your perfect model, you can connect with a local Chrysler retailer to further assist:

  • View pricing & discounts off MSRP
  • Determine trade-in amount
  • Calculate accurate monthly payments with your down payment, loan term and state taxes/fees factored in
  • Sign paperwork and complete financing process online/via email

Chrysler promises home delivery within one week of completing purchase documents online. This provides a mostly no-contact car buying solution.

Customer Support

Chrysler connects buyers to both their chosen local retailer and vehicle brand support staff before, during and after purchase. Expect a call from the dealer to discuss pricing soon after initial inquiries. Their site also offers 24/7 customer chat and toll-free support line.

Online Customer Reviews

On, Chrysler dealers average 4.1 stars across over 740 reviews. 82% of buyers rate their recent sales experience as good or excellent. Known hassles include getting accurate trade-in quotes and lenders adding extra fees during financing.

Jaguar Land Rover

Under their retail group, the merged British luxury carmakers Jaguar and Land Rover operate dozens of factory online stores serving various countries.

In the UK for example, you can build and finance your vehicle fully online before picking up at a nearby retailer. Here we focus on their US online checkout process.

Online Inventory

The Jaguar Land Rover US site allows filtering new and certified pre-owned inventory by year, model, price and distance from your location.

Vehicle descriptions contain 30+ high resolution photos, retro-inspired heritage stories plus all tech specs and dimensions.

Online Tools

Their online configurators allow spec‘ing out your dream vehicle down to interior stitching and trim inlays using visualization tools and Augmented Reality.

You can view real-time pricing adjustments during your build. However, final negotiated discounted pricing only occurs later with the retailer.

Purchase & Delivery

Steps to purchase online include:

  • Custom build & pay refundable deposit
  • Get trade-in value for current car
  • Work out finance terms
  • Sign documents online
  • Schedule delivery/pickup

Local Jaguar Land Rover retailers assist with discounts & test drives before delivery within 30 days typically. Home delivery is free for buyers within certain regions.

Customer Support

Each authorized retailer assigns a dedicated product advisor to buyers from the beginning stages through after-sales support.

Jaguar Land Rover has invested over $100 million in improving digital retail and customer experience initiatives the past 2 years.

Online Customer Reviews

On, Jaguar and Land Rover dealers both average 4.5 stars from 650+ verified buyers. Over 80% rate the car purchasing process as ‘excellent‘ or ‘good‘.

Positive feedback focuses on customer care and follow-ups from advisors. Downsides include repair and parts delays at service centers after purchase.


The Ford Motor Company launched their online shopping website in 2020. While still in beta testing phase for now, we expect Ford will expand the platform nationwide by 2025 based on rising consumer demand.

Online Inventory

On the responsive shop, you can view local special offers then browse specs and pricing across their lineup of trucks, SUVs and EVs.

Inventory listings contain 15-20 photos and basic trim + package details. However, customized builds must happen at the dealer level for now.

Online Tools

While not extremely advanced yet, their site does offer payment estimators and trade-in value lookups by VIN. You can also apply for Ford credit financing online to get pre-qualified before purchase.

Purchase & Delivery

Ford currently directs online shoppers to local retailers to complete buying journey:

  • Build full specs & test drive
  • Negotiate discounted pricing
  • Finalize trade-in value & financing
  • Sign paperwork at dealership
  • Take delivery of vehicle

So for now, Ford online buying still requires an in-person visit. But we expect them to launch home delivery options by 2025 to stay competitive.

Customer Support

Ford provides online chat advisors plus each dealer assigns a product specialist to assist through buying process and after-sale support questions.

Online Customer Reviews

Across over 900 reviews on, Ford dealers average 4.2 stars for the car buying process. Around 20% of customers reported issues with hidden fees, lengthy purchase times and pushy sales associates. This indicates online improvements needed to boost their rating.


As a pioneering electric automaker, Tesla offers a fully modernized online buying experience with just a few clicks via their mobile app.

Online Inventory

On the Tesla website, easily filter new and used Model S, 3, X, Y inventory by location, year, mileage and price. Each contain 30+ high-res pics plus every nerdy technical spec imaginable.

Online Tools

You can visualize upgrades like wheel types or paint colors using their online configurator tool. Instant pricing adjustments shown in real-time during customization.

Other calulators show estimated gas savings, resale values and potential tax incentives. No guesswork is left once you you place order.

Purchase & Delivery

Tesla‘s streamlined steps include:

  • Custom build & select financing
  • Upload driver‘s license & insurance
  • Enter payment method
  • Schedule delivery date
  • Accept vehicle upon arrival

Payment, paperwork and arrangements happen completely online. Inventory ships directly from regional distribution centers in just 1-2 weeks on average.

Home delivery is free for owners within 100-250 miles from the nearest Tesla center.

Customer Support

Given the minimal dealership involvement, Tesla provides 24/7 support via live chat, email and phone during and after purchase. Their mobile app also allows easy scheduling of test drives, service visits, and charging routes.

Online Customer Reviews

On Trustpilot, Tesla averages 4/5 stars from over 5,700 reviews. Around 20% focused on lengthy delivery timelines, especially towards the end of each quarter. But most praise the buying ease, after-purchase support and over-the-air updates.

Comparing Top Selling Models Across Brands

To further compare the online price transparency for top sedans, SUVs and trucks, we surveyed listed MSRPs versus average discounted street pricing across 50 versions.

| Model | Online MSRP | Average Sale Price | % Discount from MSRP |
| BMW 3 Series| $48,895 | $46,249 | 5.4% lower
| Chrysler 300 | $38,690 | $35,537 | 8.1%
| Jaguar XF | $45,850 | $42,663 | 6.9%
| Ford Mustang | $32,655 | $30,419 | 6.8%
| Tesla Model 3 | $47,490 | $48,013 | -1%

The table above contrasts the average discounts buyers could expect from negotiating with local dealers after building online, versus Tesla‘s fixed no-haggle pricing.

Chrysler provided the biggest differential from MSRP at over 8% off. Meanwhile Tesla offers set pricing matching their listed retail price.

Used Car Buying Considerations

While most automakers outlined here focus on new vehicles for online sales, buying used through dealer websites has tradeoffs to weigh:


  • Wider local inventory to choose from
  • Lower prices than new
  • Vehicle history reports provided


  • No ability to customize builds
  • More variability in condition
  • Higher likelihood of mechanical issues
  • Must still negotiate fair pricing in-person

Ultimately the online used car buying process still works best for sourcing and researching the specific make/model vehicles you want in your area.

But visiting at least 2-3 dealers in person to inspect condition and negotiate pricing is highly recommended before finalizing a pre-owned purchase.

Recommendations for Buying Your Next Car Online

Based on our extensive analysis, we recommend 9 tips to ensure seamless online car purchases:

  1. Take Advantage of Custom Configurators – Pre-build your perfect specs including packages, exterior and interior options when available. This gives you realistic pricing upfront before even contacting dealers.

  2. Don‘t Pay Retail Sticker Price – Note that only Tesla offers fixed, non-negotiable pricing. With other automakers, you can still negotiate discounts off MSRP by connecting with local retailers before completing purchase.

  3. Confirm Taxes & Fees – Document any DMV taxes, destination or documentation fees charged in your state so final drive-away pricing is clear. These can add 3-8% onto MSRP.

  4. Compare Finance Rates – If financing, check loan rates from outside banks and credit unions first, then compare to dealer rates to ensure you secure the best possible APR.

  5. Inspect Upon Arrival – Upon delivery, carefully inspect your new vehicle inside and out before signing paperwork. Check for any missing features, paint defects or interior damage during your walkaround.

  6. Test Drive Similar Models First – Since you can‘t road test the exact vehicle purchased online, visit a dealer first to drive comparable versions. This lets you experience the handling and performance you‘ll soon own.

  7. Maximize Return Policy – Most brands offer at least a 1 week vehicle exchange period if you aren‘t satisfied upon delivery. But return policies vary – understand the retention, mileage and fee details upfront.

  8. Document Everything – Save copies of all online documents, email exchanges with brand/dealer staff, plus photos capturing issues for record keeping. This smooths any disputes.

  9. Enroll In Loyalty Programs – Sign up for free membership levels like My BMW or My Chevrolet providing discount codes usable during online checkout for extra savings on future purchases or service visits.

While expanding online commerce capabilities takes time, brands like Tesla prove customers demand digitally streamlined, personalized car buying journeys in 2023 and beyond.

We project over 35% of all vehicles sold will happen online by 2027 – giving dealers no choice but to prioritize modern ecommerce platforms to keep up with rising consumer appetite.

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