Jupiter Research finds that many web shoppers ignore downstream aspects of automobile purchasing that still have a critical effect on cost and enjoyment. “People don't do as much research on financing the car or insuring the car as they do on researching the car itself,” said Julie Ask, Jupiter's lead automotive analyst. “There is a much higher Internet usage rate of configurators, brand research and make and model research. When you get to things further down in the decision process, the adoption rate falls.”

You can assure that you get favorable financing by getting a pre-approved loan from an online lender. Even if you don't use it, the financing you carry in the door gives you figures to compare to loan terms the dealer offers. Dealer financing might come with terms more favorable to the dealers than they are to you, warned Ask. “They have software applications that allow the dealers to calculate which deal is most profitable for them,” she explained. “A lot of people don't realize that the financing is negotiable. You can negotiate the terms, the interest rate.”

Insurance-rate research can also save you money -- and surprises. Rates vary not just from vehicle to vehicle, but also between different variations of the same model. An estimated rate from insurance sites can tell you in advance what to expect.

“You're going to see a general, ballpark figure, but you may consider not getting the souped-up version” of a vehicle, Jamie Harrison of Prestige Acura said. Higher-performing models carry higher rates.

With Acura's zestful RSX coupe, “I've had people buy it and find that they couldn't afford the insurance,” she said. “That's a sad position to be in.”

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