Car Shopper’s Guide

A vehicle is the third largest purchase in most people’s lives after a house and a college education. Therefore being an informed consumer for this purchase is critical to your financial health. To this end, the library system has purchased and subscribed to a number of resources that can simplify your search for a vehicle.




We would all like to buy one of these, but if you cannot afford it, try one of these tips!

The first step in this whole process is to figure out what you want to get. We have a wealth of sources that rate and review new and old models from every vehicle manufacturer and in every category. The most popular among these is Consumer Reports, a widely respected non-profit consumer-advocacy magazine.

We also have many for-profit magazines with similar vehicle reviews and ratings including Road & Track, Car & Driver, and the US News & World Report annual vehicle review. All of these are trusted sources run by industry experts with good track records.

Once you know what you want, you will need to be informed for the negotiation, which means finding out a fair price. For this search we have another periodical, NADA, which gives fair market value for used vehicles up to ten years old. It does so on a rotating basis, with a new valuation released monthly, allowing you to make an educated guess about how quickly a car will depreciate or what a used car is worth if purchased today. The library also subscribes to Lexis-Nexis and the New Car Industry profile, both available by visiting the reference desk. These sources provide more “insider” information, such as the cost of a vehicle to the dealer. Discerning buyers can use this in negotiations.


Buy one of these and Uncle Sam will give you up to a $7500 tax credit.


Finally, there are many sources that are available outside of the library for this search. For example, the Department of Energy has a website that lists all of the different tax incentives available for getting fuel-efficient or zero-emission (battery-powered) vehicles. Another government website run by the Consumer Product Safety Commission lists useful information about vehicle recalls and safety. There also are a number of free privately-run databases that give information such as prices paid for comparable vehicles, aggregated reviews and prices, or are simply all-in-one vehicle shopping destinations.

I hope that this has been helpful to your vehicle search. Here I have mostly discussed the periodical and subscription side of what we have, but do not forget that there is far more. If you want more specific or detailed information, you might want to search our catalog for books on that model. And if you need to repair your new (or used) car, check out our database ALLDATA Online, which provides repair information on many vehicles and is available from within the library.

Good luck in your hunt!

- Ross H.

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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