Car Surfing On The Web

Here's a glimpse at the latest auto news, from buying a car on the Internet to choosing a pre-owned car

Are you ready to buy that new car but dread the haggling and headaches associated with traditional dealerships? Taking a virtual test-drive on the World Wide Web could provide the automotive buying information you need, without the belligerent salespeople.

From Acura to Volvo, most of the world’s major auto companies have taken their showrooms online, coupling elaborate visuals with eye-catching text. The sites offer all the information — model styles, option packages and pricing — that you’d find in conventional brochures at a dealership. Browsers can also access a manufacturer’s history, links to related Web sites and car buying services, as well as new products and automotive technology that have yet to hit the general public. Many of these automakers also offer promotional CD-ROMs that I allow you to see your desired car in all available colors at the click of a mouse. Others are setting up shop in virtual kiosks at local malls.

A variety of services allows prospective buyers to shop from the convenience of home or office. Check out Auto-By-Tel (www.autobytel.com), one of the first online car buying companies, and American Car Buying Service (www.acscorp.com/frames.html). In addition to handling new car requests, Auto Web Interactive (www.autoweb.com) utilizes a search engine that processes user specifications to locate the desired used car, and provides a link to the Web site of the Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com), the official guide used by dealerships to determine vehicle value. The Auto Channel (www.theautochannel.com) provides a wide array of news on subjects from insurance to repair and maintenance.

WHEN THE TIME COMES TO BUY A CAR ONLINE, IT IS IMPORTANT TO KEEP THESE POINTERS IN MIND:
Do your homework. Research the vehicle you are going to purchase. There are several online services (AutoSite: www.autosite.com; The Car Club: www.carclub.com; and Edmund’s Automobile Buyer’s Guides: www.edmunds.com) and magazines (Consumer Reports: www.consumerreports.org and Car and Driver www.caranddriver.com) that provide vital information car buyers need, including base price, destination charges and option packages.

Understand that market conditions can affect quoted prices. Market conditions, such as production delay and short supply, may make certain vehicles difficult to buy at a discount. Still, an accredited online dealer will probably be the most competitive.

Be ready to buy. Car buying services are not designed to be used as browsers. The dealer who handles your request expects you to buy or lease that vehicle in the very near future. –Robyn D. Clarke

HIGH-OCTANE HOAX?
THE SECOND LARGEST PURCHASE FOR MOST OF US — AND GENERALLY THE FIRST ONE WE MAKE — IS A CAR. MAJOR TIME, EFFORT AND savings are poured into selecting the vehicle that will get us where we need to go and represents the lifestyle we lead. Perhaps this is why many car owners seek out nothing but the bed for their wheels. even when such actions may not be in their best interest.

A 1996 Consumer Reports survey of 1,000 car owners said that 15% bought a higher grade of gasoline than was necessary for their car, citing influence by advertisements and advice from mechanics. Only 15% of those

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