Everything But The Road Test
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Psst! Wanna buy a business car right there at your office? If the dozens of auto sites on the Internet are to be believed, there are thousands of cars to choose from to fit your company's needs-sans the haggling.
Today's hassle-free automotive Web sites are so useful, time-saving and easy to navigate, you can log on, browse, select a vehicle, specify options, compare prices and rebates, and find nearby dealers all in the space of several minutes. No trekking around from showroom to showroom. Just let your fingers do the clicking. Many sites, like MSN CarPoint.com and Ford.com, have cross-links to vehicle manufacturers so you can window-shop in great detail and research spec sheets before closing the deal. Some General Motors sites let you load a car with options like PCs and other equipment so you can see how it looks. GM estimates that 80 percent of its new vehicles will be ordered online within a few years.
The most popular auto dotcoms are Autobytel.com and Edmunds.com. Some sites let you buy cars online, while others direct you to local dealers. Be aware that not all post their prices; most sites give you a referral to a local dealer who promises to quote a price without the hassle of negotiation. Here's a sampling of other auto sites:
The Car Connection provides lengthy new-car reviews, industry news and buyer comments to help you make a decision.
CarFax reports on trends and, if you're considering a used car, can research that car's specific history.
CarsDirect.com can customize your business car or van, finance it, insure it and arrange delivery.
Computrucks.com sells medium to heavy trucks to owner-operators and small-fleet owners.
Greenlight.com is one of a number of sites that list top-selling cars and commercial vehicles.
InvoiceDealers.com configures your new car, then sends you instant bids from multiple dealers.
Kelley Blue Book offers a "Lemon Check" and a "Decision Guide" to help you pick exactly the right vehicle for your business.
Jill Amadio has reported on the automotive industry for 23 years as an editor and consultant.