Buying a new car is exciting. You might dream of driving away in a brand new or new-to-you set of wheels, but you also know that the car market is full of unreliable characters waiting to take advantage of buyers. Fortunately, there are some fantastic online tools that help you to find the best car at the best price, without getting taken for a ride.
Tools for Discovering the Real Market Price
When you look at a car sitting in the lot or on an auto website, it’s almost impossible to know whether the price that’s being asked is fair or hugely inflated. That’s why you need to consult one of the car pricing tools available. TrueCar provides you with a full pricing report that lets you know what the car you’ve chosen is really worth. You can view the prices that others paid for similar cars and check their condition online or on the iOS and Android mobile app. TrueCar even lets you scan the window sticker on cars at participating dealerships to learn the real pricing breakdown.
Edmund’s and Kelley’s Blue Book—affectionately termed KBB—both began as print magazines and are now websites with companion iOS and Android apps. They work slightly differently to TrueCar—instead of giving you a price for the specific car you’re considering, they tell you the usual cost of that type of car. KBB gives pricing information that details the value of extras you’re paying for. It helps guide you to discover the real value of your car and how much you should be paying for it. Edmund’s offers a similar set of tools, along with pricing tools and auto loan calculators as well as the “True Cost to Own” for every model of car. It considers the depreciation, gas, taxes, repairs, and other costs of owning each type of car, which you may not have taken into account, and which can help you decide on the most economical model.
While Cars.com isn’t intentionally built for uncovering the true price of cars, because it presents such a wide sample of cars across the whole country, it can also serve this purpose. By showing a large number of cars for sale that fit your specifications, you can compare the price range for your chosen vehicle and discover if the offer you’ve found is fair or over-priced.
Tools for Reading Car Reviews
Car reviews from unbiased, expert sources are a valuable tool for car buyers. Consumer Reports is ideal for anyone who’s already a subscriber, but even if you’re not, it can be worth the $6.95 monthly subscription just for your car search. Consumer Reports provides ratings, road test videos, and detailed consumer survey opinion about hundreds of cars, so you can check the reliability of your chosen model.
Kelley’s Blue Book is the most trusted name in car reviews. It presents both expert and consumer reviews of just about every single type of car on the market, with estimates of the value of your car and a car comparison tool. Edmund’s also provides car reviews and information, letting you save vehicle searches for later.
Tools for Searching for the Right Car
If you know what car or class of car you’re looking for, the next challenge is to find the one you want nearby. Cars.com has one of the biggest databases of new and used cars. The powerful filters enable you to search many car dealerships by make, model, price, and geographic area, which is particularly useful if you’re looking for an exclusive or hard to find model. Cars.com also shares a breakdown of each car’s details, features, dealer profile, and a price comparison tool. The app’s “On the Lot” tool allows you to compare the car you’re looking at with other similar cars at nearby dealerships and search for special offers.
Carvana is another online car search website that lets you search for cars across the country that are delivered to your driveway. You can view 360-degree photos and have a 7-day test drive before committing yourself, but the biggest draw is the car vending machine in Atlanta, Georgia.
CarMax also offers a searchable inventory of thousands of cars nationwide. You can compare up to 10 cars, request a price alert when the costs drop, and access free vehicle history reports and expert reviews through CarFax. Prices are non-negotiable, so there's no haggling permitted. Finally, just like its parent site, eBay Motors offers thousands of cars in all conditions and prices. You can find some gems, but make sure to do plenty of research before you buy, although eBay does have a buyer protection plan.
Tools for Accessing a Vehicle History Report
Once you’ve chosen the type of car that you want and found a good offer at a dealership or online, you’ll want to check out the specific car that you found. This is particularly relevant for used cars which could have been thrown around or run too hard, making them a bad buy. Carfax is one of the best sites for vehicle history. Once you have a car’s unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), you can run a report on the car's life since it first left the lot. The app is free to use, but you'll have to pay for a detailed report. As well as offering car reviews, AutoTrader provides a free, in-depth vehicle history report on each of its listed cars. It gives you expert and consumer reviews along with useful search filters.
Find the Best Car Today
Whether you’re searching for a new car or one that’s been owned before, if you know what type you want or are still deciding, there are car-buying tools that can help make the process smoother and less worrisome. Use these best online tools for car buyers to improve your next car purchase.