BMW-car-cruising-down-roadMany online and print resources are available to assist in purchasing a new or used car. Here are the ones I found useful when finding my dream car.

Apps and Websites
I used Auto Trader, Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, Cars.com, Craigslist and Oodle Marketplace. I downloaded these apps to my phone so that any downtime could be used as a shopping opportunity. Auto Trader and Cars.com allow you to save a list of cars you’ve looked at so you can easily narrow the list.

Carfax
Carfax is a must for used and pre-owned cars. If a current Carfax is not available from the seller, you can buy it on line. You can get reports on up to 5 VINs for $45. One caveat: some buyers have reported that not all history shows up on the Carfax, so while it’s a good check, it’s not a guarantee.

Car Reviews
Search for reviews in Road and Track, Car and Driver, and Motor Trend. Once you’ve found a model that you like, Google search the reviews and see what the editors had to say about the car.

Dealer and Mechanic Reviews
Dealer and mechanic reviews are crucial. Google search the dealer’s name and ‘reviews’ and you’ll find loads of stories and opinions about dealers. Scroll through them all, since many companies ‘load’ their reviews with glowing praise. But unhappy customers go out of their way to detail their experiences, so be sure to know these too.

In addition, double check everything you learn from salespeople; Google it and call the manufacturer’s customer service line to verify all you learn and to ask any questions you don’t find answers to on line.

The more you know about the car, the marketplace, the dealer and the pricing, the more empowered you are to shop and negotiate, especially if you are buying a used (or pre-owned, as they are known in the industry) car. And, the better you’ll feel about finally getting the car you’ve always wanted!

Scotty Reiss is a Cos Cob, CT-based writer and communications consultant.