We all know the first question asked by anyone in the market for a new car: What is the best price possible for the car I want? The car-buying internet is well equipped to answer this question.
“The tools out there on the web are all driving you towards the same thing: getting the number that you want,” says Mitch Solomon, host of the car culture and design podcast Doing Donuts, based out of Art Center Design College in Pasadena. Here’s how to make the internet work for you when shopping for a new car.
‘What Can You Do For Me?’
Solomon explains: “If you go for an inventory search and use the internet to research in, say, a 50 square-mile radius, what you will find, depending on where you live, is about 20 of the exact same transmission and color. If you’re looking for a different color and transmission? You might find zero. But you will be able to find ways to save money on one of those twenty different cars that are exactly the same. You know you will be able to start the conversation with, ‘What can you do for me?’”
Reviews & Recommendations
Of course, we all know the internet has revolutionized at least one aspect of consumer research as much as any other: reviews and recommendations. Many of us will already head straight to our favorite recommendation app or website when we’re looking for a new restaurant to try or the best hardware store in our neighborhood, and we’ll also check the user reviews on e-commerce websites before buying big-ticket items like televisions and stereo systems. Can we use the same techniques when buying a new car?
Short answer: yes, of course. Car sellers and manufacturers have adjusted to the new way consumers expect to do business—and that includes making it simple to find user-generated feedback on all varieties of new (and used) vehicles. A website like KBB.com, for instance, even allows prospective buyers to compare and contrast different vehicles and gathers reviews from experts and users for new cars, SUVs, trucks, and beyond. That way, you can hear from your fellow drivers and car experts alike before you even decide which new ride you want to take for a test drive. Maybe you’ll even pay it forward and leave a positive review for your new car to help your fellow drivers on their own New Car Journey.
The Next Chapter
The second question you might want to consider when buying a new car is the vehicle’s resale price, assuming you may want to sell it a few years down the road.
“On sites like KBB.com, there is plenty of coverage of resale or residual value of new cars,” says Eric Noble, founder of the consulting firm The Carlab, a professor at Art Center Design College, and co-host of Doing Donuts. “Some consumers may not realize that information is available to them, and it’s important when making your decision to buy a new car.”
Another question to consider is, with so many sites offering cars at the same price, where are the dealers making their profits? The internet can help you gather information about the competing dealerships in your area.
“What dealers need to do to survive is to make money in every area other than sticker price,” says Oren Weintraub, president and CEO of the car buyer advocate company, Authority Auto. “You may be getting a great price online, but what about negotiating the bank fee on the loan rate or the lease? How about the interest rate on the loan or the lease? These are important questions to ask your dealer.”
The Money of Color
One unusual new car factor you might consider digging into online: the different ways color might affect the final price. Want to add a bid of metallic sparkle to the standard black on your BMW? That will be extra. Thinking of going full bumblebee this summer and buying a yellow car? In that case, you might lose some money, based on the theory that there is a diminished resale market for cars of that shade.
If you are in a Speed Racer frame of mind and buy an eye-catching red car, that will cost you, too, but not during the initial transaction. More like when a trooper pulls you over for venturing 5 miles above the speed limit.
“Basically, if you are going to be driving around in a red car, you deserve what you get,” jokes Solomon, who is admittedly old-school on this point. “I still subscribe to the ancient idea that brighter colors pick up radar more quickly than darker colors. It doesn’t even matter that I know for a fact that I am wrong. Because so many people believe it, it’s becomes true.”
How’s Your Parking?
The explosion in popularity of smaller cars reflects the urbanization of America—and the fact that we as a species may have finally run out of parking spaces. So if parking is a concern, it pays to research parking technology and small car options when researching your new car purchase.
That said, features of today’s new cars have made parking easier than ever.
“Back-up cameras are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Noble. “They will soon be followed by bird’s eye view cameras, which are 360 degrees. Ultimately, we will move towards autonomy, which will greatly diminish the advantage small cars currently have with parking. Cars will not only park themselves, but will do so with inches to spare.”
More significantly, cars that drive without parking assist can solve the problem in a different way. Noble explains, “You will simply be able to hop out, get your latte, and then have your car drive around for 30 minutes and then come back for you. You won’t even need to park!”
Even if you’re still mastering parallel parking, keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be purchasing your perfect new ride—with the help of the internet—before you know it.
Kelley Blue Book is your all-purpose resource for your new car journey. Visit KBB.com to get New Car Smart.