Online Car Buying Tips

Category: Auto

According to both Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book (two of the the most popular auto pricing websites), December is the best month of the year to buy a car. Find out why that's true, and pick up some tips for online auto buying that will help you save money and get the car you want. Read on...

The Best Time to Buy a Car?

According to the experts who watch these numbers, the biggest discounts offered by auto makers and dealers are found in the months of December, March and January, in that order. Here's why end of the year car buying deals can make late December the most wonderful time of the year to get a new set of wheels.

One of the biggest factors is quotas. Although they'll probably never admit this to a customer, auto dealerships and salespeople have both end of month and yearly quotas to meet. That's the December Double Whammy. Especially if you're paid on commission, and even more so if there's a bonus for making your quota, a salesperson will be motivated to make the best deal possible before the balls drops on December 31st.

Online Car Buying Tips

A related point is that every manufacturer wants to earn the designation as the Top Selling car, truck or SUV of the year. For example, Ford might offer great deals on their F-150 pickup truck in December, if they think they can beat out the Chevy Silverado 1500. Toyota might offer discounts on their Camry, to leapfrog the Nissan Altima or Honda Accord as the number one family sedan. It's all about bragging rights and marketing for the coming year.

The new year often brings new models and designs, so dealers may be anxious to clear out their inventory of the older models to make room for new stock. Buying last year's model at a discounted price can be a win-win for you and the dealer. In addition, some states charge an inventory tax on car dealers, based on the number of cars they have on their lot at the end of the year. So there's further incentive for deals and discounts to limit the dealer's tax burden.

And of course, the weather plays a role in many areas. If it's cold and snowy, customers will be less inclined to trudge through car lots in search of a deal. The laws of supply and demand, coupled with your dealer's desire to meet quotas and make room for new models, all come together to give car buyers an edge in December.

Car Buying Advice Online

Edmunds.com is run by the venerable automotive information publisher, Edmunds, which has been in business since 1966. The site provides prices on new and used vehicles of every make, from Fiats to Ferraris. These aren't just sticker prices. Edmunds has a proprietary method of estimating the actual transaction prices negotiated between dealers and buyers. The site also provides regional special offers and rebate programs; vehicle test-drive reports; advice and tips on buying and operating a car; and forums where car enthusiasts can trade experiences. Kelley Blue Book offers similar features, and is equally useful and trustworthy. Both sites are free to use.

Cars.com's main attraction is its enormous database of vehicles for sale by dealers and owners - over 7,000 within 10 miles of my zip code alone. But the site also has a research section where you can look up a car's fuel efficiency, safety ratings, features and options, etc., and tag a car for comparison to others as you shop. Reviews by experts and (sometimes) owners are available. This free site also offers tips on shopping and maintenance, and a financing calculator.

More Resources for Car Buyers

CarsDirect.com charges nothing to buyers. It provides a greater range of services than Edmunds.com, including financing referrals for buyers with or without credit problems, and car insurance quotes. Information about a specific make, model and year include photos, specifications, safety evaluations, and price ranges. Used cars are included, but CarsDirect seems to get all of its vehicle listings from dealers.

Car and Driver magazine has a car buying guide. It seems to consist of previously published articles from the print magazine. It covers the pros and cons of buying used vs. new cars; how to test drive a car; definitions of vehicle types (compact, SUV, etc.); and other car buying topics. You also have access to the magazine's reviews of many vehicles.

If your car-buying goal is getting better gas mileage, MPGomatic is packed with useful tips. You'll also find helpful video reviews of many of the latest models to get a point of view from behind the driver's seat, before heading off to the dealer to check out a car.

Zeroing in on the right car is a time-consuming process made only easier by online information. Sooner or later, you will have to get face to face with the car, and probably with a sales rep. But the information you get from online car buying sites likes these can help you save money or even avoid buying a lemon. One final tip: Rumor has it that Saturday is the best day to buy a car, and Friday is the least likely day to find a good deal on a car.

Do you have a favorite go-to website when buying a car? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Online Car Buying Tips"

Posted by:

Digital Artist
13 Dec 2012

Carfax.com costs money but gives you the most complete history of the specific vehicle you are buying based on the VIN which is nowadays visible through the lower left corner of the windshield. Almost all maintenances shops, body shops, insurance adjustments etc report to carfax, so if your car was wrecked, stolen, flooded, etc, carfax will probably know and so will you for twenty bucks or so. Note: I am not selling carfax, I have only used it once several years ago and a lot of dealers will give you the report on your car for free, but if you are shopping online, you can get several reports for the one price, a lot of reports for a higher price, etc.


Posted by:

Jim
19 Dec 2012

Remember Carfax is only as good as the places that report to it. A few years ago I bought my son a used car, did the normal checking on the type of vehicle we looked at and paid for a carfax. The report came back good. So we bought the vehicle, only to find out (from the DMV) that the vehicle was a repo (and we needed some specific paperwork before we could get it registered) The carfax had nothing about the car being a repo. So just remember Carfax is not 100% fool proof and it will even say so in the very fine print. Also back when I bought the carfax it was a much better deal. It was an unlimited amount of carfaxes for something like 3 months for ~$20.00. Now 1 carfax report is ~40.00 and their "unlimited" (which is actually limited and for only 30 days) is close to $55.00)so if you are buying a used car make the dealer give you a carfax. If they won't then go some where else. There are a lot of dealers out there and all of them want your money.


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