The universe does not want me to continue to drive my ten year-old car (enough said) and I need to replace it. There are so many things to consider when buying a vehicle like budget, fuel economy, reliability, drivability, safety features, etc. Here I’ll share some of the best auto research tools available to you (library and non-library related).
The big one that everyone knows about – Consumer Reports. I’m sure you’ve heard that the Consumer Reports magazine reviews automobiles (you’ve probably used them before). The library has print subscriptions to Consumer Reports for borrowing or scanning in the library. We also have their annual print buying guide and the April auto issue handy at the Reference Desk. Did you know that the library gives free at-home website access to Consumer Reports for Watertown residents with their library card #? Better yet if you haven’t checked out the Consumer Reports website recently, in addition to rating just about everything you can think of about a vehicle (and some you can’t) they have interactive buying guides and they will often include driving test videos of specific makes and models so you can see potential vehicles in action. Consumer Reports is not a one-stop shop but it is a fount of auto info.
Kelley Blue Book
I also recommend visiting Kelley Blue Book’s website dedicated to all things auto for the latest reviews, used car ratings and shopping tips including the best times to buy a new car (hint: July 4th is one of them). They also have featured awards and Top 10 lists which often include informative and, dare I say, entertaining driving reviews from the KBB crew. The detailed KBB Expert Reviews are also very accessible with headings like “You’ll like this car if…” and “You May not like this car if …”, comparisons to similar cars in its class, fuel economy, a fair market price range and for leasers, a way to calculate payments. KBB is also a great resource for calculating price quotes and conducting used-car research.
For more on used cars the print NADA (National Automobile Dealership Association) Official Used Car Guide lives at the Reference Desk, but that’s not all the NADA has to offer. Visit their website and find great car research tools including the Car Finder Tool which allows you to search by Price(s), Year(s), Make(s), Body Style(s), Fuel Economy, Transmission(s), # of seats and drive train types. The list of results includes the MSRP, used retail, MPG and the ability to compare a number of vehicles at once.
Personally, in making my next automobile selection I want to make sure my pick has good fuel economy and that it is an ecologically responsible choice. The Environmental Protection Agency/US Department of Energy used to send the library their annual Fuel Economy Guide. Though that practice has ceased, fueleconomy.gov includes those guides and much more on their website including: the EPA Green Vehicle Guide; Smartway Vehicle List (a list of Smartway certified cars and trucks that outperform others with regard to tailpipe emissions, including greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants); the Find a Smartway Vehicle feature allowing you to search by State, Years, MPG, Class, Vehicle [Fuel] Type and Drive; Find and Compare Cars by Year, Model/Class, Make/MPG or use their Power Search for additional choices like Fuel Economy, Transmissions and Drive. In addition to searching for New/Used automobiles fueleconomy.gov includes resources for all drivers including Gas Mileage Tips, Local Gas Prices, an annual fuel calculator and an electric charging station finder. For the fuel efficiently minded this is a good resource to check out.
Auto Web’s website provides shopping and research tools for consumers to help them buy, sell and maintain their vehicles. These tools include Build and Price a New Car, What Car is Right for Me and Expert Car Advice. Auto Web offers a lot of the same features as the above resources including reviews, car search and comparisons in accessible language. Where I feel they excel is the depth, detail and nuance to their reporting. For example, I was specifically interested in finding vehicles that include a surround view/360 camera. It is a challenging search as car makes all label this feature differently. Not only does Auto Web have a list of automobiles with this feature but they have a featured article on this “most useful” feature!
There is a great wealth of information about automobiles out there folks. Remember to get second/third opinions on vehicle reviews and do not skimp on those test drives because there’s no one-size-fits-all vehicle. Happy searching!
-Stephanie, Adult Reference librarian