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Zimmerman's Research Guide



Arranged by type of information.

Buying Guides: Edmunds.com provides a wealth of information about buying new cars, including "prices, ratings, reviews, specifications, recalls, etc," as well as safety and insurance information. Consumer Reports regularly publishes reviews of new cars, and there is an annual Consumer Reports Automobile Buying Guide. Consumer Reports is available is almost all public libraries and it's on the Web and Lexis. Also check out the rival Consumers Digest, which is available in many public libraries. Carpoint offers evaluations, prices and leasing options.

Carpoint and Intellichoice post rebates and other manufacturer incentives. FuelEconomy.gov provides the EPA's official estimate for gas mileage (MPG).

Reliability ratings for recent models are available from the J.D. Power consumer Center. Information on older models is available through MSN. You can check to see if a particular vehicle has a record of being involved in a crime, a flood, etc., using CARFAX and/or the government-sponsored National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.

If you just want to see models and prices, go straight to Autobytel.com. This site is designed to facilitate your on-line purchase of a car, so it takes you pretty directly to what you need to know.

See also the "Safety" section, below. For used car prices, see "Automobile Valuation Information."

Industry: Figures for sales, manufacturing ("production"), inventory, and incentive programs, are available in the "Data Center" on the Automotive News website.

Insurance: See the Automobile Insurance section of the "Insurance" entry.

Laws: The Automobile Association of America posts a handy Digest of Motor Laws that summarizes the laws of all the states, but without citations. See the entry for each state to get the actual law. See also "Lemon Laws" section of this entry, below.

Lemon Laws: Lemon Laws give a buyer who get a defective car the right to sue the seller. All states have Lemon Laws. They are summarized, with citations, in the National Survey of State Laws (Gale Research). They are posted on Lemon Law America, with citations, but you have to find the link that says "Statutes" to get past the advertising.

Loans: Information on auto loans, leasing and shopping for automobiles is posted on the Web by the Bank Rate Monitor and Car Finance. Sites that specialize in leasing information include Leasesource and Auto Site.

Ownership/Registration/Loans and Liens: Accurint, TLO, LocatePLUS, Lexis and Westlaw (xx-MV) have motor vehicle registration databases from most states that tell you the owner, VIN number, make/model/year, lien holders and license plate/tag numbers. Accurint has a "Gateway" that lets you search most state DMV databases directly. You may also be able to search a database posted free by the relevant state agency, or you can hire a company that gets registration records from that state's MVA. In many states you can also get information on outstanding loans and liens from the MVA.

Police Reports: You can purchase police reports on automobile accidents occurring in many states through PoliceReports.us.

Recalls: Information on automobile recalls is posted by AutoRecalls.org, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association and Transport Canada. More sites are listed on the Vehicle Recalls page posted by AutoGlassSearch.com. You can also find recall information in some buying guides such as Edmunds.

Safety: The Crash Test Web site compiles data from various sources on automobile models back to the 1970s. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posts lots of safety information, including crash results for selected late-model cars. More reliable information is available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. MotherProof.com is known for good safety reviews of popular models.

As mentioned above, SAExpress (417-776-4970) sells papers on and standards for automobile manufacturing.

Federal safety statutes, regulations, and related legal materials are compiled in CCH's Consumer Products Safety Guide.

Stolen Cars: Generally car buyers have to call the police if they want to know if the VIN, license plate number or other number on a car or car part has been reported as stolen.

See Also
Automobile Valuation Information
Driving Records
Parking Lots and Parking Garages
Trade Journals

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2015 Andrew Zimmerman