Best places to research before buying a car
Purchasing a car is a big investment, one that demands considerable research of makes and models, consumer reports, incentives, financing, and more. While some people thrive in this environment, others are quickly overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, so we’ve rounded up some of the best websites to visit in order to prepare you for your next car purchase. Armed with your research, your short list of vehicle choices and features wish-list, you’ll be in the driver’s seat before you know it.
Car buying 101
Edmunds.com is ideal for checking out new car deals, styles, models, road test reports and best car lists. There’s also the ability to compare new cars, help finding a dealer, details on current incentives and rebates (advertised and non-advertised), car reviews, trade-in value, and pricing. Use the calculator feature to help you determine, based on the features analysis, what falls within a realistic range of what you can afford along with your current obligations.
Bankrate.com is another option that helps with budget analysis. It helps you decide whether to buy or lease or if new or used is a better choice. Should you choose the lower interest rate or the rebate? Overall, Bankrate.com is an excellent resource for comparing auto loan costs and payment goals. It can also be used to manage other areas of your finances and tie them all together for a consolidated view.
Mint.com, every budgeter’s favorite, gathers together all of your family’s finances and lets you see the big picture. It will clearly show you how a car purchase will impact your overall finances and help you to determine your maximum budget. Continue using it after your car purchase and you can track spending patterns, banking, investments, and other financial planning.
KBB.com reports information from Kelly Blue Book.You can access new and used car prices, trade-in and private party values, find dealers, search local inventory, see vehicle history reports, read expert and consumer reviews and the annual new car buyer’s guide. There’s also a payment calculator and up-to-date information about rebates and incentives. Because Kelly Blue Book is a respected authority in car values and has been a trusted resource in car buying for decades, dealerships tend to pay close attention to this information and tend to weigh their recommendations more heavily than most.
JDPower.com/cars is an especially good resource if you’re looking to research reliability. Power Circle Ratings from J.D. Power are one of the only sources of consumer ratings based on independent and unbiased feedback from millions of verified car owners. The site gives you access to new car ratings and awards, new car buyer guides, financing and insurance, the latest car news, and other tips and advice.
ConsumerReports.org’s annual car issue is another excellent source of independent product testing, research and rating by an unbiased third-party. It reports on new and used cars, offers information on car buying and pricing, maintenance, and car safety. It addresses the best and the worst cars, the most and least reliable cars, and notifies you of recalls. While you’re there, check out their Build & Buy Car Buying Service.
CarComplaints.com is not a car comparison site, but it has tons of brutally honest complaints from owners about things that have gone wrong with their car. Find out which cars you should avoid, which manufacturers have the largest number of complaints and which have the least. Read about current defect trends, Lemon Laws, horror stories and funny complaints. You’ll also find technical service bulletins, recalls, and vehicle history.
Truedelta.com is 105,000 car owners sharing real-world information about their car driving experiences. It’s part car research, part comparison site. Get different viewpoints on reliability, pricing, features and benefits. Ask members for suggestions based on priorities, needs, driver types, and other categories. Search reliability and price comparisons, query common problem reports, and review most wish-listed car features.
The manufacturer’s website will list some of the most detailed information on the vehicle you are interested in purchasing. It will include shopping tools, the ability to compare models, how to find a dealer and search their current inventory. Can’t find one that has everything you need? You’ll be able to build your feature and color specific car from scratch.
Time well spent
When making a big purchase, knowledge is key. Spend the time figuring out exactly what you want and what you can afford before heading into the dealership. The research you do will save you time and money when you ultimately make the best deal possible for you and your budget.