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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
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Comparison shop
Through the Web, you can also do comparative shopping. You can see the differences among car brands and models, based on price, year of introduction, miles per gallon, body type, curb weight, power train layout, transmission, configuration, displacement and other features -- a service you won't get at the dealership. In fact, about 54 percent of new-vehicle buyers said the Internet had great or some impact on their make and model selection, according to the 2006 New Autoshopper.com, Walker says.  

If you're wary about trusting Internet content, you should be. But there's enough good, objective information out there to make your auto search online worthwhile. "At the very least, the Internet is an educational tool that builds peoples' confidence and makes them feel empowered," Galbraith says.

Become an educated consumer
You can then take this confidence with you to the dealership. Instead of worrying about being duped into a "lemon" or pressured into making a hasty purchase, you can rest assured that you're going in as an educated consumer. "For people who are intimidated by dealers, being able to find a car online that's right for them is a blessing,'' Galbraith says. "It makes the dealer interaction more relaxing for everyone."

Make transactions online
Some people are avoiding the dealership altogether by making transactions online. In some cases, they never see the car until they own it. Some sites will forward your request for a free quote to a dealership's Internet sales department and then the sale is negotiated online or through e-mail. While most industry experts don't recommend this for novice buyers, this does demonstrate a real shift in the many ways you can take advantage of the automotive Internet.

Find your perfect match
Even more innovations are beginning to take place online. You can expect to see more sites that offer vehicle selector tools, which allow you to match your wants with your budget needs to find the vehicle that is right for you. Yahoo has a new tool it's testing called Yahoo Autos Car Finder, which allows you to find a vehicle based on criteria you select, such as make, price, body style, etc. "This tool is great for people who don't know much about cars or are not particularly interested in them, but who know they want a good deal," says Walker. "I see this concept really taking off."

Shop by mobile connection
Another novel idea is Cars.com's Cars.com Mobile, which allows you to shop for and research cars while using a mobile device, such as a cell phone or a PDA. "If you're in a showroom and can't find the information that you're looking for, you can access the site right from the store," Galbraith says. "That's convenience for you."

-- Posted: Aug. 2, 2007
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