The Internet can be the car buyer’s best friend, and the car salesman’s worst nightmare! These days you can go into the dealership with all of the information you can possibly need to know about your potential car. This includes reliability, options, safety, and also the invoice price that the dealership most likely paid for a car with your options. This puts you in a stronger position to for bargaining on the final sales price.
Below are some great websites for boning up on cars before you head to the dealership.
This generally is the website I go to first when I am thinking about a new or used car. I like the easy and intuitive way you can look for a car, either by brand name (Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc.) or by type *(SUV, Sedan, Truck, Minivan, etc). Different people shop differently, and Edmunds keeps this in mind.
I particularly like the extensive listing of car reviews, because reliability is very important to me in my car purchase. I also like being able to price out the car by options, and Edmunds will tell me a fair price for that specific car in my zip code.
>> Top Car Research Site – Edmunds.com
No one provides a more extensive selection of car reviews every year than Consumer Reports. I have always liked their long term reliability rating system. Many cars are reliable and trouble free in the first year or two. But how about in year 8 or 9? Consumer Reports’ reliability scoring tells you. You know that if Consumer Reports shows a car has poor long term reliability, you may want to avoid it.
Another nice thing is there list of used cars to buy, and used cars to avoid. You can steer clear of a lot of car headaches by reading that list.
The only down side is that CR requires a subscription. But for $26 per year, I think it is worth it, especially because you get access to thousands of reviews of other products, as well as long term reliability reports for everything from cars to TVs to lawn mowers.
>> Reliability Reports For All Products – Consumer Reports
This is another fantastic comprehensive car research website. I like how you can easily compare different vehicles in your zip code. This makes it easier for you to visualize the two or three cars you are considering side by side. The comparison will even show you which features are standard or optional on the cars, and if there are any current financial incentives for each.
I also like the helpful graphs and charts on the home page. What are the top consumer-rated cars right now? The 2008 Ford Escape, and the 2008 Ford Fusion. Nice, important info is related quickly. That’s what Auto Trader does really well.
>> The Ultimate Automotive Marketplace – AutoTrader.com
This is the site that I used recently to buy a used Toyota Rav4. I liked using it because it made it super easy for me to find a list of Toyota cars in a certain price range ($5000 in my case) within a certain distance of my house (50 miles). On the same site I also was able to determine what a fair price was for a used Rav4 of a certain year, read user reviews, check the Car Fax, and everything I needed to make the purchase.
I also am a big fan of their Best Bets section on their home page. I like to be able to get to quick, easy lists of good, reliable cars. Nothing is more important than reliability for me, and Cars.com caters to that preference very well.
>> Research New and Used Cars – Cars.com
I’m pretty much a sucker for car reviews. I’m drawn to them like flies to…honey or something. I like how ZAutos has their car review set up in a nice and easy, readable fashion. Each review has these sections: Under the Hood, Inside the Cabin, On the Road, Details, Conclusions. Tells me all I need to know. Each review also has links to any videos or e-brochures that is put out by the manufacturer.
Another great feature is the invoice price tool. You can pick the year, make, model and trim, and ZAutos will tell you what the MSRP and the invoice price is for that car in your area. You can really give your car salesman fits by showing up at the dealership with this information! A great tool to help you buy a car at the right price.
>> Car Research Starts Here – ZAutos.com
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