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Bankrate's 2007 New Car Guide
Dollar$ & $en$e
Status and styling aside, many car-buying decisions boil down to bucks and budgets.
Dollar$ & $en$e
Finding the right vehicle online

Finding a car that fits your budget and lifestyle doesn't have to be a painstaking process -- if you can learn how to navigate around the world of well rehearsed salesmen dealers and too-good-to-be-true sales.

7 ways the Internet can help you buy a car
Take an interactive test drive.
Visit a variety of Web sites.
Compare prices and other important features.
Learn intricate details before you hit the showroom.
Conduct transactions online without visiting a dealership.
Find your perfect match.
Shop by mobile connection.

The good news is you don't have to do it alone. With a growing number of online resources geared to help you streamline the car-buying process, the Internet can do most of the legwork for you, whether it's searching for pricing information, finding dealers in your area or accessing user reviews.

"The Web has revolutionized the way people shop for cars," says Dennis Galbraith, vice president of dealer products and operations at Cars.com. "It listens. It understands. It match-makes people to the right car in an interactive way that no other media can."

The Web has revolutionized the way people shop for cars."It listens. It understands. -- Dennis Galbraith, Cars.com

Take an interactive test drive
The Web has also put the fun back into shopping for a car. You may not be able to test drive it in the traditional sense online, but with high-def videos and interactive vehicle tours popping up all over the Web, you can get a pretty good feel for the car without actually experiencing it first hand.

Sixty-eight percent of new-vehicle buyers and 59 percent of used-vehicle buyers do some research online before buying a vehicle, according to Arianne Walker, research director with J.D. Power and Associates, who says the automotive Internet's explosion of content will only continue.

Visit a variety of Web sites
With access to a growing number of third-party auto review sites (e.g., Edmunds.com and Carspace.com), consumer-generated media sites (e.g., autoblog.com, thetruthaboutcars.com, Feedster.com, and Technorati), and auto dealer and manufacturer sites that have become more sophisticated and user-friendly, you no longer have to walk into the dealership feeling uninformed and unprepared to make a sound buying decision.

"The Web has become a virtual showroom and the vehicle is often demonstrated better online," Galbraith says. "Some of these sites go as far as to cut the cars in half so you can see the intricacies of the model." You won't see a car dismantled in this way in a showroom, for instance. "There are real physical limitations in how much you can demonstrate in person," he says.

-- Posted: Aug. 2, 2007
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