Buying a new car sight unseen? Here are some simple tips to help you navigate the process.

A teenage boy with protective mask sitting behind the steering wheel of a car. He looking at the camera and showing his driver's license and car keys

Online shopping is more popular than ever, and buying a car is no exception to online shopping. While Canadians have been turning to the internet to research cars for a long time, the pandemic really accelerated every stage of the car-buying process virtually. Lockdown restrictions forced many dealerships and sellers to rely on video calls, virtual walkthroughs and chatbots in place of in-person meetings and test drives. These days, you can pretty much buy a car sight unseen without setting foot in a dealership. While new vehicle sales decreased in 2020 compared to 2019, more than 1.5 million new vehicles were still sold in Canada despite pandemic restrictions.

The one area that can make things a bit more challenging for virtual buyers is getting up to speed on new driver assist safety features like forward collision warning and park assist. If it’s been a while since you were in the market for a car, truck or SUV, you may be surprised to learn how much technology has changed since your last ride. A recent Leger survey commissioned by Allstate survey reported that only 29% of respondents know what all of their car’s safety features do.

So how do you navigate new driving technology when you’re left to your own devices? Below is a quick guide to ensure you’re as prepared as possible.


  • Do your research. It’s a good idea to do some basic research online to familiarize yourself with new technology and learn which features are usually included with most new cars. Just keep in mind that different car manufacturers have their own names for safety features, so focus your research on the brands and models you’re considering.
  • Know your tech comfort level and craft your wish list. Getting behind the wheel these days can feel more like taking the controls of a spaceship. New driver-assist technology may require a bit of a learning curve before you feel comfortable. While features like blind spot detection, parking assist and navigation tools can make driving easier and safer, some other modern features like self-park and driving assist technologies that can help steer or stop the car may not be top of your list. Start to narrow down your must-haves and nice-to-haves.
  • Schedule a virtual tour. Before you buy a car, many dealership representatives will be happy to arrange a video call where they can provide a real-time product demonstration, showing you the different safety features, and explain which features are included in the base model versus a premium model. Understanding these features is an important step in the purchase process.


  • Sync your devices. According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, distracted driving is responsible for many collisions and can easily be avoided. Connecting your mobile device to your new car should be the first thing you do once you’ve got the keys while parked. This way you’ll have your hands free and your eyes on the road.
  • Ask for a refresher. Even if you have done your research pre-purchase, once you have a new car in your driveway and are getting to know your way around it, you’ll likely have some questions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your dealer to book a one-on-one appointment where they can explain your new car’s features and answer your questions. The more you know, the more comfortable you’ll be using these features and getting the most out of your new car.
  • Get in-the-know before you go. With all the new screens and buttons, it can be tricky – and dangerous – to try to navigate the technology while you’re driving the car for the first time. Before you hit the road, make sure you know how to properly operate the vehicle and access the basic features. You might want to spend some time testing out your new car in an empty parking lot. 16% of Allstate survey respondents admitted to being distracted by their car safety features, so figure out what triggers alerts and sounds so you’re not caught off guard while you’re driving.

The car industry is always evolving. Whether your last vehicle was a year old, or ten years old, it’s important to get up to speed and educate yourself on the latest and greatest technology when you start your search for a new vehicle. And remember, buying a car remotely does not mean you are alone in the process, so be sure to ask questions along the way – you and your car will be safer for it.

Disclaimer: This information has been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.