Although I’m already done buying a new (to me) car, I thought it might be helpful to list some of the sources I used during the shopping process. Apparently, during that time I became one of the most fastidious students of the car market, to the point where I could spot within about a minute of starting a conversation when salespeople were BS’ing me about what they knew. New salesperson, seasoned professional — it didn’t matter. I hang out within Indians, who come from the land where cows roam free; they’ve taught me how to smell bull from a mile away.
Anyway, what follows is a list of links you’ll want to bookmark and keep for future use (Alternatively, you can just bookmark this story and be done with it. To bookmark this article, just click Ctrl+D, unless you use Shadows or Del.icio.us, both of which I highly recommend. Click here to save this page on Del.icio.us.) With that, enjoy this episode of “Le Linkage”!
Cars.com: This is it: The mother of all car sites. While not the best site for everything car related, if you can only go to one website to find a new car, go here. That’s because this site allows you to search for new and used vehicles, do all types of research, and read professional as well as user reviews on just about every car on the market. I never trust just one source for my information, but if I had to, I would trust these guys.
Car Talk: If you’ve ever tuned in to their radio show, you know that Click and Clack aren’t just funny (in a “who can tell the most corny jokes” sort of way), they also know what they’re talking about. This website isn’t too focused on car research for buying. It’s more focused on car research for owners: Where are the good mechanics in my town? What can I do to save some money in fixing this $10 issue the dealership is charging me $200 for? Should I really be the one to take my transmission apart, and if so, how? These questions and more are answered by this pair of brothers. You can listen to them on National Public Radio (at 10:00am on Saturdays, 91.3 FM in Miami/Fort Lauderdale). Great show and great site. By the way, these guys are affiliated with Cars.com.
Automotive.com: Like a number of the sites on this list, this is an everything-you-need type of site. If you just want to do a bit of quick reserach, this website will give you everything from professional and user reviews, to prices for new and used vehicles, to where you can find the cheapest gas around your town.
Another site to consider along these lines is Edmunds.com, which also has forums in which you can talk to other buyers or look for advice from folks more experienced than yourself.
Auto Consumer Guide: This website iis mostly focused on reviews: lots of them. These aren’t your standard “brand new car, gee how it rides” review. These are some of the most comprehensive reviews for new and used vehicles. Crash test ratings, recalls, expected maintenance costs, reliability — you got it all here. This site became one of my all-out favorites when looking for a car.
CarReview.com and CarSurvey.org: Both of these websites include a number of reviews from owners of the vehicles, and responses from readers (who are usually looking to buy the same type of car or are owners of the car model being reviewed). Of these two, I prefer CarSurvey.org, simply because it’s better organized. Another site to consider is Epinions.com.
Kelly Blue Book: When you’re finally ready to talk numbers, make sure you’re really ready. The KBB website will show you how much you should be expecting to pay for a car. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is gospel truth, but what you see here is usually a good indicator. Here’s a hint: When you’re buying a used car, or trading in a car, make sure to look at the “Trade In Price”. When it comes to buying a car, you can get a little bit of a hint at what the dealer might have paid. When it comes to trading in a car, this number will likely be higher than what you’re offered, since dealerships usually use their own whole sale value, which is based on what they expect they can get for the car at auction. In any case, if someone is trying to sell you a car for $18,000 that is listed here as $11,000 for trade in (and I’ve seen this happen), either be willing to fight to get the number down or be willing to walk.
Another site you may be interested in is the N.A.D.A. guide website, although I didn’t use this one as extensively as the KBB when buying my last car.
Car Payment Affordability Calculator: Before you’re ready to talk numbers, make sure you know what you can afford. Now, what “you can afford” means — well, now, only you can answer that. How much do you want to pay per month? If you’re planning to use the Chinese payment plan — Won lump sum — then this won’t matter, but if like most of us you’ll be breaking the total cost down into payments, then check out this super handy calculator. It shows you the entire amortization schedule, as well as what were to happen if you increase payments. This is the best calculator I’ve seen, by far. (Note that the page I’ve linked to actually includes a number of other financial calculators. I thought that might be handy in the future.)
Find technical service bulletins (TSB) and Car Complaints: Once you’ve decided on a car, you can see what kind of problems you may face, and the complaints others have had with your car. Who knows, it may get you to change your mind. This site also list all of the TSBs released by manufacturers, so you can be sure that your local dealership doesn’t give you the runaround with covered issues.
Alright, well that does it for this episode of Le Linkage. This post is just part of the ongoing Le Linkage series. More posts in this series can be found at the Le Linkage section of Gnorb.NET.