(ARA) - Whether they’re buying plane tickets or
antiques or DVDs, the Internet has made it possible for lots of
Americans to become savvy bargain shoppers. But have you ever bought
a used car online? Believe it or not, the online used car
marketplace has exploded in recent years. Now you can research
vehicles, locate exactly the car you want for the price you want to
pay, and even make the purchase, all online.
But how do you know whether you’re getting a
peach or a lemon? Buying a nearly new vehicle is a lot easier than
it used to be. Every year more than 40 million used cars change
hands in the United States, and there are lots of good reasons to
consider the option.
“A two- to four-year-old car today can offer
customers much of the comfort, performance, styling and reliability
of a new model, and it sells for 30 to 60 percent less than a new
vehicle,” says John Davis, executive producer and host of MotorWeek,
the critically acclaimed PBS weekly automotive magazine series.
According to Davis, cars are better built these
days, and the styling is changed less often and less radically than
it used to be, so a three-year-old car looks and drives a lot like a
There is also less risk involved now. New car
warranties have been lengthened and coverage is at least three years
(36,000 miles) for all vehicles, and for premium cars it can be
twice as long. There is usually rust and corrosion protection that
lasts even longer and roadside assistance coverage as well.
Dealers now offer another level of protection for
the consumer in the form of certified used vehicles. These are
nearly new cars that meet specific qualifying standards, have been
carefully inspected and serviced, and are backed by extra
warranties. Consumers can also have potential purchases inspected
and certified by independent firms, and they can even purchase
additional, after-market warranties.
Perhaps the biggest change has been how consumers
shop for cars. Instead of just relying on the want ads or local
dealers, people can browse large online auctions where they have
access to cars from all over the country. “You can always find the
car you want on the Web,” says Davis. “You have the entire country
to choose from. If a buyer in the Northeast wants a car that doesn’t
have any winter damage, he can search for one from the South,” he
One of the largest used car marketplaces, eBay
Motors sells more cars before lunch than the average dealership
sells in a year. Consumers have easy access to an amazing array of
vehicles from all over the country, and they can buy and sell in a
completely secure environment. The whole buying process, even
arranging for financing, can be done through the site.
But should you actually buy a car you haven’t
even seen? Davis cautions shoppers to remember the familiar “buyer
beware” warning. eBay Motors offers a mobile inspection service,
which sends certified experts anywhere in the country for a nominal
fee to check out a vehicle before you buy it. There are also cars
available that have already been certified by a dealer.
Another precaution every buyer should take:
always check the title. Carfax, Inc., an independent company that
offers consumers detailed vehicle history information for a small
fee, can generate a report instantly for any used vehicle in the 50
states. This is a good way to check on whether a car has had
multiple owners or has been totaled by an insurance company,
indicating that it has been damaged and later repaired.
Most importantly, do your research before you
buy. MotorWeek’s Web site (www.pbs.org/motorweek) offers an archive
of road tests and written reviews of vehicles that go back for five
years, inspection tips, and other information for consumers. When
you are ready to buy a car, hit the pavement in your own town or go
online and visit www.ebaymotors.com.
Airing on PBS and the Speed Channel, MotorWeek
covers all aspects of the automotive industry and offers consumers
unbiased, cutting-edge news and features covering new vehicle
trends, current safety information, and the results of practical
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Since 1981, MotorWeek has been the trusted source
for unbiased information, providing the first and last word on the
automotive world. Hosted by John Davis, television's original
automotive magazine offers comprehensive, cutting-edge news and
features for consumers and enthusiasts alike.