There are so many websites and apps to find used or new cars that you never have to walk into a car dealership uninformed. You can check sites like Edmunds for any car's specs, like horsepower and gas mileage.
There are sites like Craigslist where you can search for cars that people are selling in your neighborhood. But, with some sites, you're never quite sure if you're getting the best deal.
You can search and search for good prices, but how do you know if it's a good deal? A car could be available on the cheap for a reason. For instance, it could have high mileage, so its low price doesn't outweigh the risk.
There is a site and app called CarGurus, from a co-founder of TripAdvisor, that specifically sets out to find the best deals in your neighborhood. When you search for cars on the site, it ranks results by comparing a car's price to its Instant Market Value, which is its estimated fair price for that car. CarGurus uses algorithms to analyze millions of car listings every night.
When you're on the site, you input the make and model of the used car you're looking for (more on new cars in a minute). Put in your ZIP code and search, and CarGurus will show your results.
Up top, CarGuru's ranked results will include cars with upward facing green arrows. Those are great deals, where the price of the car is below the going rate for that car. You'll also see arrows like "good deal" and a red one that says "high price."
You can refine your search for things like car color, options like Bluetooth technology, mpg, manual or automatic transmission, and other options. When you find the car you like, click on it to see photos, and an option to request the dealer contact you. Each dealer has a 1- to 5-star user rating.
You can see more details about that specific car, too, such as its mileage, its features, its price history and the number of days it's been sitting at the dealership. In other words, you'll be armed with a lot of the information you'll need to negotiate with the car dealer.
For new cars, you put in your criteria, and CarGurus will show you which dealers have the car you're looking for, with all the features and options that you want in it. You can calculate how much you'll pay for the car, and there's an option to get an email alert if the price drops.
CarGurus has additional options to research your car, like its Car Values tab. If you have a specific car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), you can input it. Or, input the make/model and other details of the car you're interested in; CarGurus will show you an Instant Market Value for how much you can expect to pay for that car.
You can also get this information for a car you're trying to sell. That's helpful when a buyer is negotiating with you. Or, use it to post your car for sale on CarGurus.
CarGurus' Research tab has recent reviews that you can read or watch. It posts overall ratings for cars, like its 6.8 rating for the 2016 Honda Accord.
In this case, Honda's 6.8 rating reflects high marks for performance (9), look and feel (8), tech level for things like streaming audio capability and Pandora Internet radio (8), cost-effectiveness (7), but low marks for safety (5), and form and function (4).
With this much information at your disposal, car shopping may actually be fun. If nothing else, doing the research is fun, and informative.