buying a car

How to decide which car to buy?

Buying a new ‘ride’ is complicated by competing claims and offers. There are online sources of information and alternatives to your local dealer. To buy wisely, you need to research options. I have gotten good advice from expert and ASE reader, Ryan T. about the websites and apps you can trust. Here are a few questions to ask – and online resources to get the answers.

New vs used?

Lightly used cars often offer better value for money than new cars. Someone else has taken the initial depreciation bath when they drove the car out of the showroom. You can check the vehicle history report to avoid buying someone else’s lemon or a car which has been in an accident.

Carfax, $39.99 for one report or $54.99 for unlimited reports for 60 days.

Autocheck is $24.99 for one report or $49.99 for 25 reports for 21 days.

National Insurance Crime Bureau gives you a free report to make sure the car has never been stolen or salvaged (bought after a major wreck). Just type in the Vehicle I.D. Number (VIN).

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Cars from dealers have been checked, have had problems fixed, and come with a renewed/extended warranty, so your risk is mitigated, and some manufacturers may even offer financing on the sale of a CPO car. Make sure, however, that that it’s the original manufacturer that is certifying the car – for example, do a bit more homework if you see a ‘certified’ Honda on a Ford lot.

The case for a new car is strongest for models which hold their resale value. In this case, a used car will cost as much as a new one. In addition, new cars often come with maintenance plans included, so consider that in the overall value and cost of ownership.

What features are most important to you?

Comfort? All weather? Power? Carrying capacity? Luxury interior? Ease of service? Many of the sites have tools which help you sort through the choices and identify cars which will suit you.

How important are new features? Sensors to stay in lanes and stop when an obstacle is in front? Blind spot monitoring? Back up camera? Parking assistance?

Is this car safe?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent, non-profit, scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses – deaths, injuries, and property damage from motor vehicles. It gives safety ratings for all models.

How reliable is the car?

Consumer Reports Guide to Car Reliability. Consumer Reports has collected repair data from owners.

When you have identified a car for purchase, J.D. Powers is a good source to see its overall rating.


Car companies have lost track of the calendar year. Check to see when the new model comes out. They can offer a 2018 model in the summer of 2017. Buying last year’s model can be a good deal, but only if you are getting a discount.

Some dealers are motivated to discount to push out inventory at the end of the month or the quarter, and if you don’t need to have the latest and greatest, manufactures may offer incentives on models that are about to up upgraded.

I know the car I want to buy, how do I find one?

These sites help you find the available new and used cars and some help you sell your old car. is a full service site with help for buying and selling cars.

CarGurus is a new site Instamotor is like a Craigslist for used cars for sale by owners.

Edmunds online guide for used cars

Header Image Credit; Ping Han ©