Well it’s finally that time. We’re at the point where we’re thinking about selling our car and we’re feeling like we’re ready to replace our trusty Honda Odyssey, which is getting a little long in the tooth. We can tell that it’s the right time, because we’re finding that the visits to the mechanic and dealer are happening a little too frequently for our comfort. It’s got almost 150,000 miles in it and so it should still have some good resale value. It’s been a great van to us and we bought it right around the time my first child was born. Eight years later, it’s time for a newer model, and we’re in the market for a new family vehicle.
And you know what that means. We’re checking out some car buying websites and going online for some virtual car shopping (here’s how to buy a car online). So should we buy a new or used car? I’m going to check out a few select sites to give us some ideas for our next purchase. I’m hoping to find something that won’t give me too much sticker shock. Allow me to share some of the research I’m doing at the moment. Here’s where I’m starting my search:
Best Online Resources & Websites For Car Shopping
Automotive.com has a variety of resources to help drivers, including buyer’s guides for new cars, used cars, auto insurance quotes, auto loan quotes, and more. For instance, you can seek out your next used car by make, year, class, price, or mpg, or search classifieds.
There are also sections for those interested in forthcoming models and concept cars; I liked the enthusiasm of the Future Honda section. The site has a lot of content: Auto Enthusiast Central offers the scoop on auto shows, racing, and news. A month ago, I accompanied a relative to get a close look at some Yamaha motorcycles at a dealership, so I can see how the Yamaha articles here can provide a good supplement to the next trip we take.
Several useful items are available in the Car Research Tools section, including a loan payment calculator, a tool to help you figure out your car’s trade-in value, and a way to help you determine which locations offer the cheapest gas prices. There are even widgets you can install on your desktop or web page to monitor gas prices, admire the latest photos from Motor Trend, and more.
In addition, the site features a community forum and blogs. In the forum, you can read posted questions about car maintenance, discuss your favorite vehicle, or read user reviews. I even came across a section for GPS and navigation units, which is perfect for me, since I’m so “navigationally challenged”.
If you want a one-stop solution to finding a used vehicle and securing financing for it, DriveTime might be able to help you out. DriveTime describes itself as “a used car dealership for those with bad credit.” So this may be the right place to go if you want BOTH auto loan financing as well as a car to call your own. Once you’re approved for a loan via the online application process, you can select the vehicle that interests you. This site features 79 dealerships across the nation in cities like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Atlanta.
To find the vehicle you want, you can search by make and model, or you can select the type, year, and color you’d like. I looked for a particular van with a given color but they were out of stock. But modifying my search to another color yielded 32 different vehicles categorized by year, make/model, color, and dealership location. This would be particularly useful if we decide that we’re open to any kind of make or model.
Also, you can sign up to receive a free vehicle history report for the type of car you like. You’ll just need to provide your contact information to get going.
You don’t have to be afraid of lemons, because DriveTime puts its vehicles through a 53-point inspection and provides a limited warranty.
Like Automotive.com, Edmunds.com offers drivers dozens of ways to find their next vehicle, to talk about their current drive, or to stay current on related topics. I like Edmunds, as I find a lot of great information on their site on new cars, used cars, and certified pre-owned vehicles.
If you’ve ever wondered about the true cost to own your vehicle, this site can help you discover the answer. Just purely as an example, I checked up on the 2008 Hyundai Sonata and learned that factors such as depreciation, taxes and fees, fuel, maintenance, repairs, financing, and insurance can impact the true price to own a vehicle. In other words, I’m not just making a simple car payment.
In addition, you can seek out tips and advice and read reviews. You can also find out more about car loans and insurance or peruse the forums. The Answers section lets you ask brief questions or view answers to other posted questions, sort of like an automotive Twitter.
When you want to find out about local services, you can find car dealers or auto repair shops by entering your city and state or ZIP code. The Google map that pops up will show you exactly where to go. Some of the listings even have user reviews attached.
If you live in a part of the country that tends to get an annoying amount of vehicle-denting hail and turbulent weather, you may want to check out a used car’s history before you buy it. AutoCheck is an Experian company that lets you input a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to get the reports you need.
A report can yield useful information such as past problems a used car has had, including damage from weather-related events like flooding or hail. If the odometer’s been rolled back, the report might be able to warn you of problems before you buy the vehicle.
Also, you can see if the vehicle’s been in service for police or taxi use, if it’s been in an accident, or if it’s ever been stolen or used as a fleet vehicle. If you’re ever pulled over by a cop, you don’t want them to be finding out things about your car that you don’t already know about. You can be spared any kind of hassle due to a questionable car history if you decide to use AutoCheck before purchasing a used car.
For $24.99, you can get unlimited reports for 60 days. A single vehicle history report is $14.99, while TitleGuard plus unlimited reports for 60 days cost $49.99.
I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll come across a car that’s fairly affordable and that’s good value. Of course, this is what most car shoppers are looking for anyway. My spouse wants to try leasing, but I’ve explained to him it’s not the cheapest way to go. As Suze Orman has said — go for the “new used”: these are autos and vehicles that are lightly used but whose prices have already taken a bit of a hit (thanks to depreciation). Hopefully, we’ll find something that catches our eye soon.
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