Buy a Car the Web Way
When buying or leasing a car, impulse is your enemy. Given the financial commitment required to buy a car, a purchase not shown proper consideration could leave you regretting your decision for a long time. Luckily, the Web's resources are perfect for getting you the information you need and moving that perfect car from the showroom floor to behind your garage door. For a Spanish-language version of the Guide, click here
Online or off, your success when buying a car depends greatly on your preparation. Good research can impact whether you choose the right car, how effectively you negotiate the car's price, your decision to lease or buy, the interest rate secured on your car loan, and much more. On the Web you'll find consumer car buying guides, with tips and advice from industry experts, that are designed to keep you informed and get you poised for a smart purchase. The following resources are a must for all new car buyers.
- Listed in the Picks below are two primary types of resources: there are buyer's guides that take the form of step-by-step walkthroughs (this article from The Motley Fool is a good example), and there are Web sites serving as general portals of car buying advice and information (such as Insider Car Secrets).
- In addition to using online resources, it can be helpful to speak with friends and family who have recently bought cars. Anyone who has been through the process is a potential source of advice and information about your local car market.
For overviews of the car buying process ...
, a site renowned for explaining the science behind technologies and the physics behind astronomies, offers users a step-by-step guide to an equally confusing subject: car buying. At HowStuffWorks you'll find concise, easily digestible explanations of different issues related to car buying, including finding a used car, using the Internet in your car search, and what to know before searching.
takes a straightforward, jargon-free approach to elucidating the process of car buying. With their guide to the art of buying, a vocabulary rundown, and an overview of buying used, this site is a good starting place.
For tips and advice ...
The Motley Fool
, a respected financial Web site, has a multipart guide to car buying. This guide comes equipped with the site's characteristic wit and humor, so expect to be entertained while you read tips on "Preparing for Battle" and "The Art of the Deal."
is chock full of tips and advice on buying cars and avoiding scams. There are also buyer's guides with valuable information on financing and leasing. This site is quite text-heavy and not terribly easy to navigate but don't let that turn you off: there's quality insight within.
Insider Car Secrets
is a site created by Tony Iorio, a veteran of the car sales industry. Various issues pertaining to car buying are covered such as general car buying info, new car info, used car info, financing info, warranty info, insurance info, and more. Within each section you'll find tips, links to quality Web sites, and other insights about buying cars. Extremely entertaining are Iorio's "Insider Secrets," which are anecdotal pieces of advice based on his knowledge of car sales.
Whether it's luxury, performance, economy, or reliability you crave, new cars bring you the latest advancements in automotive technology. As a new owner you're bringing home a machine that's untouched and distinctly yours. In this section we'll show you the best places to read car reviews, compare makes and models, check prices, and buy the latest models on the market.
- Unlike real-world dealerships, very few sites on the Web specialize in only new or used cars. Because of this overlap, you can expect to find used car listings in many of the sites listed below. Those sites with quality information resources for new cars and extensive used car listings will be repeated in this section and the "How do I buy a used car?" section of this guide.
- Car buying sites generally offer extensive research resources in addition to their car listings.
- When buying a new car, you'll have to do it through a dealer. And although this means you'll most likely need to make a trip on your own, you can take the first step online by using the following sites to do your homework. Not only do these sites have complete reviews of all new models, including technical specifications, expert opinions, and safety information, you can also use them to get a free price quote from your local dealer. If you're serious about buying, use these sites to put yourself into a position to negotiate a price that works for you.
- Manufacturers' sites generally have interesting features and information and, although it's all promotional in nature, it's worth visiting before making any purchases. Use Automotive-Links.com (the last of our Picks in this section) to find the official Web pages of the carmakers you're interested in.
- When you encounter "buyer's guides" online, scrutinize them for author biases. It's not unlikely that a dealership or car company with a buyer's guide has tweaked it to sway readers toward certain products.
For new car research ...
is an automotive research portal with overviews and reviews of the latest car models from the world's top manufacturers. Each model is rated and broken down by price, features and specs, photos, reviews, safety, and reliability. You can also access local dealer quotes, consumer report snapshots, and more.
is a complete car buyer's guide. In addition to providing reviews on all models currently on the market, the site has a nine-step "Buying Tips
" section that walks you through the car buying process with advice on working the showroom floor, dealing with dealer tricks, and more.
is similar in design and function to MSN Autos but differs in that it offers user reviews. On the homepage, select the make and model of a new car, and Yahoo will direct you to a page with a summary and user reviews.
's best buyer features are its car reviews, comparison feature
, and the "Research Center," which has pricing, specs, and more. All of these are accessible from the homepage.
has new-car price quotes, reviews, and a "Car Research" section that takes users from early-stage research like checking invoice pricing reports and rebate/incentive programs to more advanced features like payment calculators and loan quotes.
To buy a new car ...
is a user-friendly site with an intuitive structure that makes getting a price quote from a long list of local dealerships easy and quick. When looking for new cars, you'll have the option of searching local inventory or customizing.
is a sales and research site with more than half a million listings for new and used cars, and a variety of articles on issues related to the purchasing process. Check out the useful "Buying Guides
" that break down the industry by body type, explaining which cars excel over their competition and why.
is a car buying information site that walks buyers through the entire purchasing process. In addition to the "Tips and Advice" section we recommended earlier in this guide, Edmunds has appraisal tools like its "true market value" price quotes for new and used vehicles and reviews of new and used automobiles.
is an easy way for you to get a price quote from a local dealer on a car of your choice. Simply enter the make, model and year, and your zip code, along with your contact information, and you'll be contacted with a price. Also check out the "Research" section for vehicle summaries and specs, along with links to information on competing cars.
For a directory of Web sites broken down by car make ...
is a directory of links to Web sites related to a long list of car makes and models. Through this directory you'll find official manufacturer Web sites, enthusiast pages, and links to sites with parts.
If thoughts of buying a used car conjure up the stereotype of a cheap suit-clad salesman equipped with aviator sunglasses, Hawaiian shirt, greasy hair, and a greasier mustache, the last thing you're itching to do is make a trip down to your local dealership. Relax. Buying a used car has never been easier. With the aid of your trusted friend the Internet, you can exert mastery over the car buying process by conducting vehicle history reports, checking and comparing Blue Book values, and browsing listings until you find the ride that's perfect for you.
- To reiterate a point from the "How do I buy a new car?" section, most quality car Web sites have equally good listings for both new and used cars. For that reason, a number of our Picks from the previous section appear again here.
- When buying a used car, begin by assessing the car's value by comparing the asking price with the Blue Book price. After you've test-driven your potential car, but before purchasing it, be sure to check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and get a vehicle history report.
- A vehicle history report is a record of an automobile's service, ownership, and odometer history. Each car's VIN allows such records to be compiled in a central database and to be accessed when a prospective buyer needs them. For more information on why you should order a report and where the information in it comes from, see the sections at the bottom of this page from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Below we recommend two sites that can give you free vehicle history reports.
- AutoNetUSA has a five-step new and used car buyer's guide you might find useful.
For a buyer's guide ...
The Federal Trade Commission
has this guide to buying used cars. It explains your rights as a consumer, payment options, a breakdown of the loan agreement, what questions to ask, what to watch out for, a breakdown of warranties, and more. It also offers tips on things to consider prior to buying, along with directions on where to go if you have problems.
To learn the recommended value of a used car ...
Kelley Blue Book
(KBB) is the largest automobile appraiser in the United States, and its Web site should be your first stop when looking for the valuation of any car. The site is essentially a buyer's guide with tools to help visitors determine which car is the best fit, and articles that cover financing issues and how to get the best value from a car over time. The "Reviews and Ratings" section lets you access KBB reviews.
For vehicle history reports ...
provides free vehicle history reports containing service history, number of owners, results of emissions checks, odometer readings, total loss accident history, and more. Simply enter the car's VIN, and CARFAX provides all the valuable information you want to know before you lay out the cash for that used car.
has automotive history reports similar to those offered by CARFAX. To access the free report, simply enter the car's VIN on the homepage.
To buy a used car ...
is a used car marketplace with a massive listing of more than three million cars. AutoTrader has research and comparison features, tips and advice, reviews, safety information, financing and insurance info, and guides to help you choose the right car.
is part of the Autobytel Web site network, which includes CarSmart and Cars.com. Unlike many sites, Autoweb's used car listings only include cars for sale by dealers. It provides research tools such as Blue Book values, detailed vehicle reviews and summaries, and financing information including free insurance and loan quotes.
is divided into four sections: "Buy," "Sell," "Research," and "Shopping Advice." Detailed listings and plenty of articles make it easy to find a used car in your area and do the research necessary to ensure you get it at the right price.
is a sales and research site with more than a million listings for new and used cars and a variety of articles on issues related to the purchasing process.
has comprehensive used car listings. Cars can be searched by vehicle make, model, location, and price range. Get free price quotes on used and new cars, or read about vehicle recalls
on cars dating back to 1983.
is a simple online hub for used car classifieds. Search by make, model, year, price range, or geography, or read the "Buying Tips" section for a simple, five-step approach to buying a car.
Leasing a car is similar in nature to renting an apartment: you inhabit it for a set period of time, make monthly payments, incur penalty fees for breaking the contract, and pay for any damage you cause during your occupancy. Essentially, a car lease is a way of paying for a car where a lessee agrees to make payments to the lessor over a specified period of time. At the end of the lease period, you usually have an option to buy the car or to return it to the dealer. Leases can't be terminated prior to the end date without the lessee incurring large costs. In this section we'll direct you to resources covering everything you need to know about leasing a car.
- Not sure whether to buy or lease? Automotive.com has a side-by-side comparison of buying versus leasing with respect to issues of ownership, monthly payments, up-front costs, mileage, and more.
- Lease payments are generated based on a complex equation. Two software programs, which we describe below, analyze lease payments to help you get the best deal. For more information on the complex formulas used to calculate lease payments, check out this breakdown from LeaseGuide.com.
- If you want to end your lease before the contract date but want to avoid the steep fees that typically result, consider trading your lease. A lease trade allows you to transfer your lease to a third party, freeing you of the remainder of your lease obligation. Two prominent Web sites with services that assist you in the lease trade process are Swapalease and LeaseTrader; read more about them below.
For overviews of leasing ...
, the "consumer car leasing guide," is a comprehensive site dedicated to leasing a car. On the left side of the page you'll see a list of topics covered. A good place to start, particularly for a beginner, is the site's "Lease Guide
". Another useful aid is the glossary
, which has easy-to-understand definitions of terms related to the car buying and leasing process.
helps you get instant lease quotes on the car of your choice and allows you to compare payments from different banks for new and used cars.
For lease trading ...
is a car lease trading marketplace with two main purposes: it allows users interested in getting out of their car leases prematurely to do so without incurring any costs, and it lets users take advantage of inexpensive, short-term lease possibilities.
, like Swapalease, is a site designed to help you transfer your lease. LeaseTrader is a central marketplace where lease sellers can meet up with lease buyers. The listings are pretty extensive and cover the entire United States.
For lease analysis software ...
Expert Lease Pro
is a software program designed to assist you in negotiating better agreements when leasing a car so you save money. Order online or by phone. The software download options start at $69.95.
is a car lease and loan analysis program for Windows. You can order the product online or via fax and the basic download is available for $24.95.
Unless you're sitting on a hefty savings account, buying a new or used car means taking out a loan. Use these sites to learn the ins and outs of auto financing, including how to access your credit score, improve your credit, calculate payments, and find a loan.
- Getting your financing through the car dealership can be convenient but it can cost you a lot of money if you're not getting a good rate. Before you head to the dealer, check your bank's Web site (or any bank's Web site) to get an idea of current interest rates so you can better evaluate any offer from the dealer.
- A good credit score is important for securing the best rate on your loan. Before applying, be sure to check your score on a site like FreeCreditReport.com. If the credit check reveals a low (poor) credit score, improve your credit with help from the resources in the findingDulcinea Credit Guide.
For an overview of automotive financing ...
has an introductory explanation of car financing that covers how financing works, sources of financing, dealer financing, and why you should shop for a loan. The "Buyer Beware" section offers tips on things to watch out for.
has a variety of resources on car loan research and financing tools. For research, you'll find lease tips, a guide to understanding loans, a comparison of loans and leases, and a guide to understanding rebates and incentives. For auto financing tools, Autobytel has a payment calculator, credit report center, and Blue Book access.
For financing calculators ...
has several finance calculators designed to help you calculate what your monthly payments will be. It also has links to its partner sites CarsDirect, CarLoan.com, and CapitalOne, where you can get estimates and compare rate offers.
To get a loan ...
offers auto loans and refinancing. On this page you'll find an application and information on the available services.
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