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For many, car shopping can be overwhelming — or even a little scary. How do you make sure the car you have your heart set on is a cream puff and not a lemon? And how do you get a fair deal?
Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. In fact, lots of resources exist to help you. Here are a few to check out:
Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue
One of the best known resources, this comprehensive guide gives the pros and cons of every new car model, and offers a list of the best and worst used cars. Ratings on safety, reliability, fuel economy, and other features are provided in a simple format that makes comparison shopping easy.
Auto Buying Websites
The Internet is filled with sites that can help you figure out which cars offer just what you’re looking for, how much they (and your potential trade-in) are worth, and what experts and current owners think of the models that top your wish list. Here are just a few of them:
Auto Safety Websites
Make sure the car you love will love you back! Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA.gov) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS.org) publish crash test results, recalls, and related information, so you can be sure safety is a top priority.
Vehicle History Report
If you’re buying a used car, particularly from a private party, obtain the vehicle identification number (VIN) and run a vehicle history report through CarFax (CarFax.com) or AutoCheck (AutoCheck.com). The reports gather data on accidents, thefts, or other incidents in the car’s history based on information collected from sources such as police reports, insurance companies, and the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
It’s still a good idea to have your own trusted mechanic do a thorough inspection of any used car you’re thinking of buying. In addition, he or she might have first-hand insight into common issues and problems with certain models, so it doesn’t hurt to ask for their opinion.
Armed with this information, you should feel more comfortable about your choice of wheels and more confident about the price you’re willing to pay for it.