By Mike Rabkin, President, From Car to Finish
Tip 1: Check safety ratings of the vehicle from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government agency that crash tests vehicles. It also shows vehicle recall history. You can research crash test data going back to 1990, and vehicle safety recall info going back to 1949. I’m recommending a US government agency rather than the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety because that is the insurance industry’s trade organization, so there is always the possibility of a conflict of interest. Similar to going to the Tobacco Institute to find out if cigarette smoking is harmful to your health.
Tip 2: Check fuel economy which not only allows you to check and compare fuel economy ratings, but gives a lot of good tips on how to maximize fuel economy in other ways that everyone can do. You can research vehicles going back to 1987 if considering a used vehicle. To save even more, www.gasbuddy.com is a great resource to find the cheapest local gas stations based on zip code.
Tip 3: Check the green vehicle guide to see which vehicles have the lowest emissions and how to read the new EPA fuel economy labels on new vehicle window stickers. You can research vehicles going back to 2000 if considering a used vehicle.
Tip 4: Check reliability of vehicles being considered. The best resource is Consumer Reports (online subscription required and is also more complete than paper magazine version) to research new or used vehicles to see which are rated most reliable by owners. Because CR doesn’t accept advertising, and it’s the owners of the vehicles who are completing surveys rating their vehicle’s reliability, they are as unbiased as possible given the choices available. For new and used cars, they list those that are rated highest overall (which includes reliability), and used cars to avoid. CR also has a directory for teen driving schools, which if successfully completed, may lower your auto insurance premiums.
Tip 5: Use the From Car to Finish free article on how to negotiate a vehicle based on how our paid pros do it, which is based on 18 years of experience negotiating over 7500 new vehicles. It describes the entire process, including how to choose a vehicle, test drive it, negotiate it and navigate the after-sale items dealers will try to sell you through their finance department.