Buying a Car? First, Do Your Homework

Here are some of the best car research and retail links the Web has to offer.

You can find all the answers you'll need for your next car purchase on the Internet. Here are some of the best and most popular sites out there. And we've included some of the biggest retail sites, for after you've kicked enough virtual tires.

Reliability and Safety

Carfax. This site offers a free "lemon check" (and powers the same tool for several other auto sites), but it makes its money selling detailed title histories for $40. (You can check up on more than one car for $50.) By entering the car's vehicle identification number, Carfax can tell you if the car was ever titled as salvage, was rebuilt or reconstructed, was flood-damaged or had its odometer rolled back.

See Our Special Report: Car Rankings

Consumer Reports. This periodical provides reliability histories on used cars based on surveys of thousands of car owners. The survey results are published each April in the magazine and are available with an online subscription ($20 a year for magazine subscribers, $30 otherwise).

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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Check recall histories, consumer complaints, defect investigations, crash-test results and more.

Pricing Information

Kelley Blue Book. From the publication synonymous with car values, this site also offers a buy/sell section and reviews. You can also find five-year ownership costs, including depreciation, fuel, maintenance and repairs. This company brings more than 40 years of automotive consumer writing and rating experience to the Web, offering a ton of great information. In addition to pricing guidance, Edmunds offers a buying program through dealer partners, guaranteeing prices on specific models in their inventory.

TrueCar. A recent addition to the automotive data space, TrueCar focuses on making car pricing more transparent. You’ll find transaction costs in your area, incentives and more. The site also offers no-haggle prices through dealer partners. The site lists compare lease and loan offers from top national banks. You can also use the company's leasing service or simply learn more about leasing.

Financing Information Find the latest and lowest new- and used-car loan rates in your area and use the site’s calculators for auto loan payments, buying v. leasing and more.

When You're Ready to Buy sale by owner as well as dealership listings. Nationwide listings for private party sales and dealers.

eBay Motors. Bypass the pressure of the sales floor and bid online.