The internet has completely changed the way we buy cars. Twenty years ago, if a person wanted to research new and used cars, he had to schlepp down to the library and pore over back issues of Consumer Digest magazine. There was no leisurely cup of coffee while perched behind a computer for guy that couldn’t decide between a Chevy, Ford or Toyota. No, he had to go pound the pavement, visiting dealer after dealer, being subjected to sales spiel after spiel. No wonder drivers used to keep their cars a lot longer: who would want to go through that rigmarole just to get a new family sedan?

The arrival of the internet has changed the way car dealerships work. Nothing is secret anymore – with a few clicks of a mouse a consumer can find out trade-in value, the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) on the new vehicle, the best dealer, available rebates and more:

  • Know how much the trade-in is worth. Because any used vehicle’s trade-in value is so subjective (due to varying conditions, equipment, mileage, pay-off amount, or even color of the vehicle) it’s easy to be taken advantage when it comes time to trade a car. Prior to the internet, it was almost impossible to get a valuation on a vehicle without going to a car dealer. Today, websites such as or help keep consumers informed.
  • Figure out what sort of payment the budget can handle. Before there were loan calculators, like the one found at , the rough rule of thumb was that for decent credit, a buyer would pay back about $20 a month for every thousand borrowed, and a person with poor credit would pay back about $25 per thousand. However, using this rough rule of thumb was just that: rough. A visit to this website allows consumers to plug in different factors, such as loan amount, length of loan, percentage points in order to find the payment most comfortable with.
  • Know how much car qualified for. If you currently have a preferred bank, visit that lender’s website to pre-qualify the loan. If not, go to where one simple application will be reviewed by several different lenders, and all will make loan offers. Research the lenders and make a decision as to which loan will cost the least amount of money.
  • Looking to buy pre-owned instead of brand new? Websites such as allow consumers to see the cars dealers have for sale and classifieds sites like allow consumers to find cars for sale by private parties.  Recently, sites like this website ( provide a search engine like Google that lets consumers easily search for car classifieds posted on thousands of car sites, saving users time and helping them find great deals.
  • An invaluable website that will assist on the mission of used car buying is For a fee of $39.99, Carfax will run checks on the VIN (Vehicle identification Number) of an unlimited number of vehicles. This will give all sorts of information that the dealer would rather remain hidden: was it a fleet vehicle, how many owners has it had, what sort of repair work has been done, what is the true mileage, has it ever been water-damaged or in an accident.
  • The website will inform consumers if the make and model of any vehicle has a bad history. There are also links on this website to assist with insurance, extended warranties and more.
  • Go to to check any vehicle to see if it has ever been involved in a recall. This is also a good precautionary check for used car buyers, simply to see if there might be inherent problems due to a previous recall.
  • *Just how reliable and honest is the dealership you’re considering? Check out for comments about the business. This website gives a forum for customers to sound off about their bad experiences. Granted, no dealership is perfect, and there will always be disgruntled customers for one reason or another. However, if there is comment after comment, or if there appears to be a trend as to how a certain place treats their customers, perhaps it’s time to check out a different dealer.

So go pour a cup of coffee, turn on the computer, skip the hassle and buy your next car.

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