Buying a car—new or used—can be exciting, fun, tiring and frustrating, depending upon how much time and effort is required to research and search to find either exactly the right vehicle or a car that has almost, but not quite, everything that’s on a wish list of desired features. A car is often the second-largest purchase after a home for many people, and while its most basic function is as a form of transportation, it can also be both representative of an individual’s lifestyle needs and a very visible, public expression of personal taste and style.
Looking for a car can be a tedious and drawn-out process as the buyer is searching to get the right combination of model, features, price and even color—an important characteristic for many people. However, the car search process can be made considerably faster and easier with a variety of online tools or services that may speed up the process. A number of these services provide detailed information on car features, prices, the condition of used cars, and act as a database for inventories of vehicles held by car dealers and other sellers. A few car services sell cars directly to buyers and can provide auto loans. For some of these services there is no cost, while others may have an upfront fee for their use, and some services may have a financial charge if a vehicle is purchased through the service. Different services provide different benefits, and it’s important to understand what they offer and for what cost—always research carefully and compare prices. So what are examples these types of car services and what do they offer?
The Credit Union does not endorse or recommend any of these organizations and services; they are included below as limited, representative examples of just some of the numerous services available to anyone interested in buying a new or used car.
What types of resources are there for getting a car?
- The first resource for car buyers may be information and advice from family and friends. Who do you turn to first for advice on an important topic? Maybe an internet search engine such as Google®, Bing®, Yahoo! ® or DuckDuckGo®? Or family, friends and co-workers? People we know and trust are often those that we turn to for information and specific recommendations because of their knowledge and experience. Check with friends and family for their histories and informed perspectives on car buying to benefit from their positive and negative situations and interactions when they looked for a new vehicle.
- Some well-known car insurers and other for-profit companies (such as some membership retailers) offer car-buying programs that connect to inventories of car dealerships to find vehicles for sale; these car-buying programs supplement their other products and services. Some non-profits such as the American Automobile Association®, the American Association of Retired Persons®, and Consumer Reports® (and not-for-profits such as some credit unions) offer car buying services, but some of those are often their own branded, customized websites that actually are connected to a for-profit provider such as truecar.com and cars.com. These services may offer new, used and certified pre-owned vehicles from a group of dealerships that are the actual sellers of the vehicles. These services may also buy your current car.
- Some websites do more than act as a middleman between a company and car dealerships. There are car-selling websites such as Vroom®, CarMax® (and others) where the sites can sell cars directly (there are no separate affiliated dealerships) to consumers, usually at a fixed price and with a money-back guarantee for a specific amount of time. The car seller sites may also offer to buy your car as a trade-in.
- There are also auto-pricing guides, such as Kelley Blue Book®*, Edmunds®, and J.D. Power®* that can give prices for cars based on age, mileage, physical condition and other factors. They may also provide selling services.
- Vehicle history report companies, such as CARFAX™ and AutoCheck® provide information on accidents requiring repairs, the number of previous owners, service records, and other details on used cars. They may also provide pricing and selling services.
- Car-buying concierges such as AuthorityAuto® and CarBargains® are usually hired for a fee by a car buyer as their agent to manage most of, or almost, the entire car-buying process, which may include (but may not be limited to) activities such as searching for a car, negotiating car prices, explaining the purchase contract and financial terms and arranging for the vehicle to be delivered to their client.
Depending on a consumer’s needs and preferences, some of the types of services listed above may provide useful assistance during the search for a car. Again, it’s helpful to consult a variety of information sources, carefully compare information and prices, and thoroughly consider choices before making a final car-buying decision. All cars require insurance, and the purchase of a new automobile may be the right time to look at your insurance coverage and policy and consider whether a new policy from a different carrier could be a money-saving—and smart—move. Members Insurance Advisors, a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Community Credit Union, provides several types of insurance, including automobile insurance.
Interested in more car talk from Delta Community?
For more helpful financial information, remember to check out the free Delta Community Financial Education Center webinars on a range of money-related topics, including saving, spending, and investing. You can visit the Financial Education Center's Events & Seminars page to register for its no-cost, on-demand webinars.
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*Delta Community Credit Union uses valuation services from Kelley Blue Book and J.D. Power.