Once you’ve determined your new car criteria, it’s time to visit the new car buying websites. I’ve tested several and found a few that I rely on for the most reliable information as well as the simplest interfaces.
Gas Mileage Ratings
The government fuel economy site is simply the best. You can compare several cars, and you can input your local gas prices and annual mileage to get a true estimate of the actual cost to drive the car. If you want a simpler comparison, use Cost2Drive to calculate the typical cost from place to place.
Vehicle Reviews and Average Prices
I primarily use Edmunds and Vehix to do my new car research. I default to Edmunds because I find it easier to use. Vehix tends to want to push you to a dealer site, while Edmunds puts the research at the top. I haven’t tested Consumer Reports because you have to pay to access their reviews. I’m still in the free research stage. I especially like the Edmunds True Market Value, which tells you what people really paid in your area.
Auto Trims, Colors, and Options
When it comes to new cars, the manufacturer’s site is the best place to go to look at trims, colors, and options. Most of them will let you select a model and then customize it. Some will also estimate a price for a car with those options, but your actual price will vary depending on our location and negotiation skills. You could spend hours playing around on these sites.
The site isn’t pretty, but Car Buying Tips tells you exactly how to compile price reports and negotiate with dealers. If you’re willing to haggle and haggle hard, visit this site to learn the method from the master.
Several organizations offer discount purchase programs. They’re worth checking out if you’re a member. Costco offers members a no-haggle auto discount from participating dealers. I know someone who bought a car through the program and was very pleased. AAA also offers a car buying program through its local state branches.
Once you’re ready to buy, use a site like CarsDirect, Yahoo Autos, Edmunds, or Vehix to collect dealer offers. Since they will be receiving your email address and probably your phone number, use a junk account and only your home phone (not your office or cell phone). Review the various offers, then take them with you wherever you shop to see if they will match or beat the offer.
If you belong to a credit union, start by checking their auto loan rates. If you have a good credit score, you may qualify for a better offer from the dealership, but it’s best to start with an offer from a local credit union or bank to give you a bargaining chip. Costco and AAA also offer auto-financing programs if you don’t belong to a credit union.
I’ve never negotiated for a new car on my own. My last car was purchased with my dad through a good friend of the family. I’m nervous this time, but I’m taking my time to collect a lot of information before making my choice and I’ll use as many programs as I need to in order to get a good deal.