In the United States, we purchase more than 15 million new cars and trucks every year. That's about one car every two seconds! Even so, visiting a car dealership is one our most dreaded tasks-- the wheeling and dealing at a typical vendor is enough to keep anyone from shopping for that perfect automobile. Happily, the Web can help take some of the hassle out of car shopping, and probably save you time and money in the process. If you're thinking about a new or used vehicle, the following sites will provide all of the information and options you'll need to become a savvy shopper.
If you're unsure where to begin, try Car and Driver's Buyer's Guide. You can enter the manufacturer, vehicle type, price or year and yield a list of cars that meet your specs. You can then view a picture, read a description and examine detailed information on dimensions, fuel use, powertrain, suspension and brakes. Money Magazine's Car Buyer's Guide can also provide you with ideas. Take a look at their picks or search by target price, style, make, resale value, maintenance costs or cost to insure. Their listings provide basic statistical information that can help you choose a vehicle.
Once you've narrowed your options, it's time to do some serious research. Start at AutoSite. It offers detailed factsheets about hundreds of models, as well as side-by-side comparisons, a loan/lease calculator, and a list of rebates and incentives. The site even provides consumer safety information and a repair and maintenance section that will be helpful after purchase. Next, cruise by Edmund's Automobile Buyer's Guides. Along with pricing information, Edmund's offers helpful reviews that address things like appearance, value, and reliability. Edmund's site also contains links to information on warranties, insurance costs, and financing. A great consumer section offers leasing advice and Town Hall newsgroups where you can communicate with other road warriors on topics ranging from "Help! Can you tell me which minivan is best?" to "Car Insurance in New Jersey."
Once you've settled on a vehicle, stop by the Kelley Blue Book site. The Blue Book is the most popular automotive book in the U.S., and the site generates more than 10 million free vehicle price reports each month. This is definitely the site to turn to for price specifications. While here, you can also link to financing and insurance information.
Ready to make a purchase? If you're in the market for a new car, look to the Web for great selection and no-haggle prices. Auto-by-tel is one of the oldest sites for online car sales, and it is certainly one of the best. Choose the car you want, fill out a purchase request and an Autobytel accredited dealer in your area will contact you within 24 hours with no-haggle, no-hassle pricing and delivery. Carpoint, the auto service from the Microsoft Network, works similarly. Give your vehicle specifications and within 48 hours an area dealership will contact you with its best, no-haggle price. If you like the price, you can arrange to buy or lease the vehicle that very same day. AutoVantage offers a similar service. Choose your vehicle, and within a few hours they will e-mail you with the name of a dealership, a preferred price, and even information about customer rebates. AutoVantage guarantees their preferred price. PriceLine offers an innovative service for consumers in the metro New York area. Consumers pick the car of their choice and name the price they are willing to pay for it. Within one business day (for a $25 fee), PriceLine will try to locate a dealer willing to match that price.
If you've decided to go with a used vehicle, several sites offer an excellent selection. Trader Online lets you search through extensive classified listings of not only the usual cars and trucks, but also collectible cars, boats, planes, RVs, and even heavy equipment. It also offers contact information, including e-mail addresses, for more than 15,000 car dealers. Another site to check out is AutoConnect. AutoConnect contains more than 600,000 car and truck listings, in addition to the ability to look up information and book values on any vehicle. Most of the listings are from dealers, meaning that a dealership visit would eventually be in order. For "real" classified ads, check out the vehicle section at Classifieds 2000. It lists more than 250,000 vehicles being sold by private parties. Robust search options and a direct link from each listing to the Kelley Blue Book makes this site an outstanding way to search for used cars. Another site, Stoneage, is making "car buying as you know it" history. It functions much like the new car services. The site also offers a concierge service which, for a fee, will do the shopping for you.
So the next time you're in the market for a car, truck, motorcycle-- or even a plane -- don't start paging through the classified ads or race to the nearest dealership. Instead, cruise by some of these sites and do your homework!