Buying a car is always a big financial decision, whether you opt for a new or used vehicle. Fortunately, as with many other information-intensive tasks, the Internet has made the search and car comparison processes much simpler in many ways, from deciding between new and used models to finding safety data to determining what’s a fair price for the model you’re considering. If you’re just starting your search, here are a few resources you can use to look for the best cars before you head out to dealer lots or visit individual sellers:
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website offers data about “crashworthiness” for current-year vehicles; all you need to do is enter the vehicle make and model. The site also offers a list of “winners” of their crashworthiness awards from previous years.
- SaferCar.gov is managed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute and provides a rich resource for crash testing data on models dating all the way back to 1990.
- Edmunds.com is the granddaddy of car comparison websites with plenty of information about cars, including safety data, family-friendliness and other important features.
Once you’ve done your homework regarding safety and features, you can start looking for deals on new and used cars online to prepare you to start making offers. Some sites to check out include:
Not sure whether to buy a used car or a new one? Car comparison tools like those above can help, but it usually comes down to personal preference as well as how long you plan to own the car. The obvious advantage to a new car is that the car has no previous owners or prior damage, and it’s completely new, from top to bottom. Many new cars also offer warranties and maintenance packages that can be very attractive incentives. Those advantages come at a cost, though: almost as soon as you drive the car off the lot, the car begins to depreciate considerably, sometimes losing thousands of dollars in value. Used cars are cheaper, but there’s the “unknown factor” that goes along with buying a car that’s had a previous owner who may or may not have taken good care of the car.
No matter which route you select – new or used – don’t skimp on your homework. Just a few hours spent cruising car comparison websites can make all the difference between getting a great deal and getting a lemon.
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