Test-Drive These Web Sites

Fast Company's comparisons of five of the top car-buying sites.

The Web's various car-buying services will save you some hassle. They may even save you some money. But if you're looking for rock-bottom prices, there's no guarantee that you won't do better by negotiating on your own. The dealers associated with these services do not bid for your business. They bid to become part of each site's network of affiliates. Here are our comparisons of five of the top car-buying sites.

Site Autoweb.com
www.autoweb.com
Stoneage.com
www.stoneage.com
Microsoft's CarPoint
www.carpoint.com
Autobytel.com
www.autobytel.com
AutoVantage
www.autovantage.com
Showroom Not only can you buy a new or used car, but you can also research, finance, and insure it here. You can buy new or used vehicles and get links to research, loans and leasing, and insurance sites. Anything and everything about buying and owning a vehicle, from research to maintenance. From new cars to used ones, to financing and repairs, this site has it all covered. Expert reviews, pricing, and performance specs for new cars, as well as financing options and leasing services.
Haggle-Free Zone Yes. Autoweb's member dealers are expected to quote consumers the "lowest total cost" available - with no additional fine-print charges, such as taxes and destination fees. Yes and no. The free price-quote service offers no-haggle prices. Stoneage also offers a "concierge-buying service." For $199, it will negotiate the best price. Yes. CarPoint is designed to create a no-haggle, no-hassle environment for car buyers. Dealers are required to offer the most competitive price with the first quote. Yes. An Autobytel.com-accredited dealer will contact you with the price and delivery information. Watch out! These quotes may not include fees like tax and destination charge. Absolutely. The site will send you the price of the car you want before you even speak with a salesperson. All prices for all models have been decided in advance.
Zero to 40 To submit a purchase request, you need to know every spec for the car you want. The service will send your request to two dealers, who should get back to you within two days. You should get a response to a purchase request within 24 hours; however, dealers are encouraged to respond in 6 hours or less. CarPoint promises that a dealer will contact you within 2 business days, but it usually takes less than 24 hours. An Autobytel.com dealer will phone or email you within 24 hours. You should receive the price and name of a dealer within a few hours of submitting the request.
Open Road The service center lets users research a car problem, find a nearby garage, request an estimate, and book an appointment. You'll get an email confirming the date and time. Stoneage's "CarBuyers Auction.com" service submits your request, for a fee of $1 per dealer, to as many dealers as you want. Nothing like a little competition. The personal auto page is like having reserved parking on the Web. It helps you keep track of your car's maintenance, when it needs an oil change, when it's due for a tune-up. Register your vehicles with "My Service" in the "Car Repair" section, and Autobytel will send you checkup reminders as well as recall notices and technical-service bulletins. AutoVantage operates an auto club that rivals aaa. Members receive 24-hour roadside assistance and car service, hotel, and travel discounts.
Potholes The site is poorly organized, which makes finding some of its features hard. The link to "Lemon Check" is hidden at the bottom of the page and labeled "History Report." The other sections of the site are primitive. The research area is nothing more than a collection of links to other sites such as the Kelley Blue Book. Nothing but newly paved highway here. For now, the site only refers you to dealership service centers and not your neighborhood garage. Membership costs. A three-month trial only costs $1. But if you don't cancel, your membership will be extended for a year, and you'll be billed for $79.95.

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