Shop for a car from the comfort of home
Why spend hours of your life visiting one car dealership after another and enduring high-pressure sales pitches when you can find the car of your dreams for less money while dressed in your bathrobe. Consider these tips for online car buying:
1 See the potential. The Internet allows you to quickly compare prices, shop for financing and insurance, compute your monthly payment with online calculators and review a vehicle's suggested retail price and the dealer's invoice price.
2 Know where to begin. Extensive pricing information and reviews are available for new and used cars through Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com), Edmunds.com,
NADAguides.com and Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org).
3 Connect with sellers. You can visit car manufacturers' Web sites and find detailed vehicle information and links to dealerships in your area. Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) and eBay (www.ebay.com) put you in contact with independent sellers and dealerships of all sizes, and automotive sites such as AutoNation.com help you find the exact make, model, color and specifications you're after.
4 Have the car inspected. Especially if you're buying a used car that's far away, have a mechanic inspect it. Find out if the vehicle has been in an accident. A buyer's inspection costs about a half hour of labor at many shops, and it's worth the cost.
5 Choose an escrow service. Fraudulent sellers may ask you to wire money directly to them or to place money in what could turn out to be a phony escrow account. Choose an escrow service yourself and do some sleuth work to make sure it is legitimate.
6 Ship your vehicle with care. If your future car is in another part of the country, you'll need to have it shipped to you. At uShip (www.uship.com), you can evaluate potential transporters' reputations and have them compete for your shipping job. If you don't have comprehensive insurance coverage, consider the insurance packages offered by major shippers. If you're buying a new or a luxury vehicle, pay the extra money to have it shipped in an enclosed carrier.
7 Check the shipper's record. You can call the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's toll-free hotline at 1-888-368-7238 to inquire about a shipper's license, insurance record and complaint history.
8 Qualify for car financing on your own. If you're working with a car dealership, line up your loan there or get approved before shopping. At Bankrate.com, you can eyeball interest rates being offered by a variety of lenders. Credit unions tend to offer good car loan rates; to find one, visit www.creditunion.coop.
9 Think about safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.safercar.gov) provides data from crash tests on vehicles dating back to 1990. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org) supplements NHTSA data with results from its independent tests.
10 Anticipate your ownership costs. Visit IntelliChoice (www.intellichoice.com) to see a projection of the likely costs of insurance, depreciation, repairs and maintenance over the next five years for new and used cars.
Laura T. Coffey
Sources: Edmunds.com; Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org)