Not so long ago, researching cars was relegated to driving to every dealership possible, picking up brochures, and test driving cars that you thought might be of interest. Perhaps you got lucky and there was an article reviewing a model you were interested in, in a car magazine. However, for the most part, researching cars meant a lot of legwork and a lot of your time. Today, thanks to the Internet, much of your research can be conducted from the comfort of your own home. Following are the four steps to researching cars online.
Step 1 – Manufacturer Websites: Manufacturer websites are a great resource for researching cars. You’ll find lots of details, from gas mileage to cargo space to head and leg room, for the models the manufacturer is currently offering. Some manufacturer websites even have a comparison tool, allowing you to select their models and compare them to other manufacturer models. Another helpful feature on many manufacturer websites is a “Build Your Car” type process. This process steps you through building your ideal car. You select the model you’re interested in and then you select the options and packages you would like. Color, seating appointments, and even engine selection are chosen. Throughout the process, photos of what your car would look like are shown, allowing you to see how the wheels, color and other options will actually look on the car. In the end, the manufacturer suggested retail price for the car, as built, is given.
Step 2 – Consumer Review Websites: Consumer review websites will give you further insight into the wide variety of cars available, as you research. You’ll go beyond the quantitative measurements and marketing hype provided by manufacturers and begin to learn about real world experience actual customers and test drivers have had. Websites like Edmunds.com offers both test drive reviews, detailing out their test driver’s reaction to the car, and community forums where website users can ask questions, express concerns, and give their thoughts about what they like and don’t like about the car. Consumer review websites will give you a more unbiased look at the different vehicles you’re considering. However, remember, sometimes people can have a bad experience or may blow something out of proportion. Try to take singular bad reviews with a grain of salt and continue to research. If there are the same or similar complaints being made by multiple people though, this may be something you want to be wary of.
Step 3 – Google and Social Media: Online search engines and social media sites have grown to such an extend that they can be used very easily for car research. Simple search in Google with the car brand and city (For example: Nissan Versa For Sale in Matteson) can pull up good car dealers in that area. Using the same search on Twitter can reveal any dialogues that is being exchanged between customers and the dealers.
Step 4 – Pricing Websites: While the manufacturer website will likely provide you with the manufacturer suggested retail price, chances are you won’t need to pay MSRP for your vehicle. Instead, there are several websites that can help you with pricing. First, many dealerships have websites with their new car inventory listed online. Look around, not just in your city, but other nearby cities as well, and look at what they’re advertising pricing is for the models you’re interested in. Websites like TrueCar.com will give you even greater insight into what people are actually paying for their new cars. You’ll see dealer cost, factory invoice, MSRP, and average price paid by consumers for the current week in your geographic region.
Step 5 – Visit the Dealership: Once you know which models are interesting to you, you’ve read the reviews and are comfortable with your choices, and know approximately how much you want to pay, it’s time to hit the dealerships. Although much can be learned by researching your cars online, you’ll still want to test drive your car selections, to get a true feel for which one is best for you. Use the dealership website to see if they have the model you’re interested in instock. Then call and make an appointment, to ensure your salesperson has your car ready for you to test drive, once you get there.