You can still buy a car the old-fashioned way by visiting dealerships, looking at available inventory and making a deal — or not.
But you can save yourself a lot of time and money if you use some of the technology available to you. Then when you walk into a dealership, you’ve done your homework and understand models, features, financing and warranty plans, which makes it so much easier to focus your questions when you’re talking with a salesperson. The deals have become so streamlined that many people don’t even walk into dealerships until they have finalized their purchase — online or by phone — and are ready to pick up the keys.
With existing technology, your next car deal could be made entirely remotely, but if you’re not quite ready for that, no problem. At least get started with some of these free websites, tools and apps so you are armed with great information when you go to bargain with a seller:
Savvy dealers, automakers and customers know that Edmunds.com is one of the most trusted auto websites. Edmunds, which makes its money from advertising on the sites as well as referrals to cars and related products and services, promises to help you get a “simple, easy and efficient car shopping experience.” It provides car reviews, lists of car features and specs, consumer reviews and more on both new and used cars. Go to the site and you’ll find links to download their mobile app, too.
CarGurus.com is filled with tools for buyers, including rankings of various types of vehicles. Price history and dealer reviews are also listed. CarGurus.com is easy to navigate and offers lots of extras including test-drive reviews. Go to the website and you’ll find how to download its mobile app, too.
KelleyBlueBook.com is one of the early leaders among car research sites. It launched in the 1960s and was subsequently purchased by AutoTrader.com and then Cox Automotive. Still, it has retained its lofty reputation. One great feature is its side-by-side comparison tool for cars. Kelley Blue Book, even back in the days when it was an actual book, has always been known as the leader in pricing guidelines and Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) data. More recently it introduced the Fair Purchase Price feature. That tells potential buyers the average transaction price in each region, which really helps buyers decide if they should buy local or if it would pay to travel elsewhere to buy. Go to the website, and you’ll find how to download its mobile app, too.
If you want to figure out the price people in your area paid for Subaru Crosstreks, Jeep Cherokees, a Maserati GranTurismo or any of hundreds of other new or used cars, TrueCar.com is the site for you. One trick — don’t price just cars in your area. Look at prices paid by those in nearby cities and states, too. Many people have saved thousands buying from areas just outside their home cities or states, according to an Associated Press report on Fox News. Go to TrueCar.com, and you’ll find how to download its mobile app, too.
5. NADA Guides
Should you buy a 2011 or 2012 Ford Mustang? Is the 2018 BMW B Series really that different from the 2017 model? Now you don’t have to scour manufacturers’ websites and trace clues. The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Guides allows you to do side-by-side comparisons of many vehicles in 12 categories, plus check car reviews, vehicle history reports and more.
CarMax should be your first stop if you want to buy or sell a used car. The website is the largest used car dealer group in the United States. The site offers listings of myriad available used cars plus tools that allow you to schedule an appraisal to sell your car, read car reviews, research financing and more.
AutoTrader.com is another great website for shopping for used cars both from private sellers and dealers. The site is arguably the best place to find vehicles considered classics and older used cars with plenty of life left in them. AutoTrader.com also supplies monthly payment calculators, loan calculators, loan suggestions, information about insurance and local dealer recommendations.
What sets Cars.com apart from the other used car buying and selling sites are the videos and service information. Think your car would sell for more if you invested in certain repairs? Or wonder what it would cost to repair a used car with a known problem or flaw? Cars.com offers tools to price out repairs, information on how to do it yourself and even recommended service centers.
9. Your dealership
So, once you’ve narrowed down what you are looking for, consider visiting the website of the dealership you think you’ll use. Not sure which one to try? Just start with the local dealer that has the best reputation and, of course, the brand of car you seek. You know those annoying pop-ups that appear on your screen whenever you go on most auto dealers’ websites? There are real people behind those messages. Those internet salespeople are trained to answer your questions and provide whatever information you want. Although the pop-ups may feel intrusive, they really are just another tool to help you find the best deals. You may be able to get a lot of your shopping and bargaining done from the comfort of your home, and you can limit the time you spend in the showroom drinking bad coffee.
Have you used any of these websites or apps to save money and choose a car? What was your experience? Share with us in comments or on our Facebook page.