Effective shortcuts to buying or leasing business vehicles if you don't have time to visit various dealerships in person include:

  • Browse manufacturers' sites, read advice and recommendations, learn about pricing, discounts and loans and fleets, and find out what services they offer. GMFleet.com, for example, groups data into key industries including construction, electrical, plumbing and ambulance/fire/rescue. The downside is you can't sit in the trucks, of course, but the site graphics usually include exterior and interior photos. Once you've narrowed down your search, visit the dealer to inspect the vehicles in person.
  • Blast-faxing is popular. Fax a list of vehicle choices and your terms to several dealers asking for their lowest quotes. You can find the fax numbers in online Yellow Pages. Compare the answers you receive and take the written reply of the price guarantee when you visit the dealership.
  • Fleet shoppers can save time at a dealership by discussing vehicle needs with the fleet manager rather than a general salesperson. Some may negotiate over the phone and even arrange delivery.
  • Buying online from an auto resource is another option. Their sites list vehicle specifications and direct you to your nearest dealers, which often have their own websites. Sites such as www.carsdirect.com, rated by Time as the number-one car-buying site, www.edmunds.com and www.autobytel.com are loaded with information. www.invoicedealers.com lists dealer invoice and MSRP prices, and www.pricequotes.com, a Geico Insurance company, sends you quotes from three area dealers. Kbb.com goes one further and lists new car invoice, retail and Blue Book value.

Jill Amadio is Entrepreneur's "Wheels" columnist.