Want to take some of the stress and mystery out of the car-buying process? Get on the Internet.
Auto websites — once filled mostly with reviews and advice — are getting more sophisticated, connecting potential buyers with dealers and offering instant price guarantees. Some let buyers estimate their trade-in values and turn in credit applications online. One company even lets buyers complete the entire sale online and get cars delivered to their door.
The Internet lets shoppers enter a showroom armed with the same information as a dealer, said Chantel Lenard, Ford Motor Co.’s U.S. marketing director. Sites let buyers configure their vehicles, see what others paid and estimate the trade-in value of their current car or truck. They could even walk into a dealership with a price locked in.
“It’s truly become an equalizer in the shopping and negotiating process,” Lenard said at a recent Ford event.
The no-haggle approach can have a downside. In person, a dealer might drop the price even further, or throw in extras such as floor mats or a satellite-radio subscription. But for many consumers, the convenience is worth it. And the multiple sites that let you check deals can help assure you’re getting a fair price.
Here are some of the best places to shop for cars on the Web:
Edmunds.com (www.edmunds.com) got its start in 1966 as a paperback car-pricing guide. It won the highest ranking in J.D. Power’s 2014 survey of car shopping sites based on content, ease of navigation, appearance and speed. Edmunds lets buyers shop for new and used cars and also offers reviews and advice.
TrueCar (www.truecar.com), which was founded in 2008, monitors millions of transactions to determine the average price of a car in your Zip code.
GM’s Stop-Click-Drive program (http://shopclickdrive.com/) lets buyers shop via local dealer websites, estimate the value of a trade-in, estimate monthly payments, turn in a credit application and set up a time to pick up the car at the dealership.
Carvana (www.carvana.com) is perhaps the most radical model, allowing buyers to bypass dealers entirely. Shoppers can browse Carvana’s used-car inventory, apply for financing through its partners and arrange for pick-up or delivery — all online.