Car buyers, car sellers and everyone else with a hand in the business agree that the Internet is an inestimable boon to consumers. The reams of comparative information it provides can point you toward precisely the right vehicle for your wants and needs. The Internet also reveals price information that consumers never saw before, making it much easier for those who invest the research effort and employ savvy negotiation techniques to get that new or used vehicle for the best price.

But the benefits of online auto shopping don't arrive automatically. Consumers have to use web-born tools and resources effectively, while also avoiding particular pitfalls. Some common errors that Internet shoppers commit can make it harder for them to buy the right vehicle at the right price.

That doesn't make the Internet a minefield of hidden hazards that you must negotiate with fretful care; the pitfalls are reasonably limited. But you should recognize them so you can approach online vehicle research with enough confidence to make the process enjoyable and even recreational.

After all, if you approach car-buying as an excruciating battle between yourself and cunning deceivers, you may go away feeling dissatisfied, no matter how well you do.

Keeping away from common pitfalls puts you well on your way to enjoyment. The most critical errors can be avoided by following these rules:

Five Rules of Online Auto Shopping

1. Invest Time in Dealership Selection

Dealers still play a vital role.

2. Test-Drive Vehicles

Recognize that the Internet does not capture and convey the physical experience of automobiles.

3. Know Your Price -- And Your Price Source

Beware of misinformation, incomplete information and misunderstood information.

4. Finish the Job

Don't overlook downstream purchase concerns, such as financing and insurance.

5. Join the Two Worlds

Balance web research with dealer interactions.

By avoiding wrong turns, you can more effectively use the shopping tools found on all the major automotive research sites, including By using them effectively, you'll help yourself avoid the biggest error of all: buying a vehicle that is ill-suited to your wants and needs.

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