6 Websites to Use for Researching a New Vehicle Purchase
Photo by Derrek Barlow
Say you've decided to buy a new car. Say you haven't done this in a REALLY long time. Say you have NO idea what you are going to buy or even what to look for. Welcome to my world about a month ago. My truck was totaled by a driver who ran a red light. I had been driving that Toyota truck for 14 years. We had bonded. Given its mileage, I intended to drive it another four to five years. Why should I spend money on a new car when I had a perfectly good car already? And then, boom.
Now, 14 years is a long time. Think of all the technology that has changed since then. Things like bluetooth, the iPhone, YouTube and Facebook...all invented since then. And, for cars, there wasn't widespread use of hands-free calling or steering wheel controls of the stereo. There weren't even USB ports. It was the DARK AGES, and yet I managed to survive.
But, with the prospects looming of a new car purchase, I had to first decide what I wanted and then figure out how to get it. Like all things, I went to the web for help. I could have queried friends, but I knew the hodge podge of responses I would get wouldn't do me much good. So, I began looking for websites to aid in my research. I was surprised to find so many good online resources for buying new cars that didn't involve trying to sell me something.
When typing in the name of any vehicle followed by the word "review," one of the first response to come up in Google is the US News website. Sure, they obviously give good SEO, but do they review cars well? The answer is yes. They not only provide a variety of positive and negative reviews from various publications, but they show how they ranked your car alongside other vehicles of the same class. So, if you are looking at the Subaru Forester as I was, it will show you where it ranks among other SUVs and other Compact SUVs in its rankings. I found it very useful as a comparison tool.
Still one of the most respected magazines for vehicle reviews, the Car and Driver website contains more information than anyone could possibly need -- save maybe a mechanic -- about cars. I was never a big car enthusiast, so some of the details can get a bit granular for me, but it is a fantastic resource for researching a new car.
I found the rankings from MotorTrend to be the most helpful by far. They provide excellent videos for their road tests and explain things in layman's terms, making it easy to understand and translate into real-world needs. They also do a good job of showing comparisons not only with other vehicles in the same class, but with cars and trucks one class up or down. Knowing how much more headroom and storage room a compact SUV has compared to, for example, a crossover, is really helpful when trying to make a decision.
For decades, the Kelley Blue Book has been the authority on car pricing. At one time, literally a blue book, it was historically how people determined the value of cars, particularly used ones. Today, the website contains a massive amount of information on buying a car for the average consumer. It's Fair Purchase Price tool provided a range of prices for new cars that was right in the range I ended up paying. In truth, it along with the next website on my list are by far the most valuable tools in researching and buying a car. Both websites were invaluable in my search.
Always in the top two or three when it comes to automobile websites, Edmunds is perhaps the most comprehensive website for purchasing a vehicle that exists. It's reviews are extensive and it is extremely easy to navigate. But, its most useful attribute is the True Market Value feature, which gives users a close approximation of what a vehicle should actually cost, and it is remarkably accurate -- much like the KBB tool. The details it provides on a given car or truck are enough to make an informed decision, but not so much as to overwhelm. Best yet, it allowed you to search the inventories of dealers through its build and price tool. It was a tremendous resource for me and probably the site, along with KBB.com, I came back to the most often.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.