New-Fashioned Way to Buy a Car

by MarenEliz

Car buying in the USA. Recommended websites are given for how to research car features, fuel economy (mpg), and asking prices from your computer.

Internet, Internet, Internet

The information highway is the ticket.  In 2001, I used the Internet to research car models and buy a one-year-old car.  Given the speed at which things change, I did not bother to save any of the websites, figuring it would all be different by the time I again needed a car.  Boy, was that right!

The Internet is the vehicle (pun intended.)  Happily, it has gotten even better!

I can't live without a car

public domain, pixabay

Learn About the Models

First, my car needs are different from what they were 10 years ago.  This put my focus in new areas.  Alas, because I am not a motorhead geek, I don’t keep up with developments in the world of cars out of passion.  All right, I do keep one-quarter of an ear open to the experiences of my family members and friends.  On the whole, however, I am an innocent, fairly ignorant person regarding cars.  It’s not my thing.  Therefore, the web helps tremendously for catch-up education on the features of cars about which I know nothing.

Maunfacturers’ and dealers’ sites will tell one what the standard features or options are for a car model.  Also, I find to be tremendously useful.  Yes, I know it is not vetted, not authoritative, etc., but for late-breaking trendy items – I like it.  It gives me “a clue.”  Additionally, if any article sources are listed at the end, it provides the beginning of more authoritative resources.

One thing I wanted to know for this round of my car shopping was fuel efficiency.  Rather than trust the slightly varying measurements of manufacturers, I used the uniform information provided by  It provides mpg statistics back over ten years, so I could even see how it rated my soon-to-be former vehicle.  One thing I did NOT want was to become an “eco-enemy” by taking a step backwards in fuel efficiency.

Learn the Going Prices

Using the Google, I typed search queries along the lines of “Kia Rio for sale PA.”  This yielded all sorts of good-looking and also useless sites.  I did this for many makes and models.  One option many of these finding sites provide is a choice of how many miles from one’s zip code to look.  I chose 100 miles so that I could determine general trends and to see if there were huge advantages in buying in metropolitan areas (yes) or in the wilderness (sometimes) or out-of-state (sometimes.)  As I explored this, I found a site which became my favorite meta-search engine:


Happily, now that a record of service calls, accidents, and number of owners exists in the USA, most dealers provide the CarFax report free.  We buyers are the winners.


Narrow it Down

As I educated myself, I concluded that my dream car would not be feasible.  Nonetheless, I learned about other makes and models that are good.  Furthermore, I slowly decided that with the state of health of my vehicle, that travelling 100 miles to test drive or buy a replacement might not be wise.  (Plus, I’ll admit it – I really am not a “traveler.”)  Consequently, I prepared a paper spreadsheet comparing models, milege, mpg, dealer name, address, and asking price.

Next: The Telephone


This is old-fashioned, but I am sure glad I did it.  Sometimes a dealer does not get the website updated every hour.  One of my short-list cars had been sold, hours before I planned to drive an hour to check it.  I highly recommend phoning your car sellers before leaving.  I also used the call to inquire about financing options.  This was very useful, too.

Score a Car

My rough estimate is that I spent 8 to 10 hours on my computer or telephone before venturing out of the house.  It was time well-spent.  Moreso, I feel very grateful to have the choices available with Internet shopping.  In the past, one was limited to a geographic band of sellers that one knew about.  Now the world is our market.

Wish my new car a good, long life!

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Updated: 12/02/2011, MarenEliz
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