In this article I will present decisions you have to make when buying a car. This includes consumption, equipment, running costs etc. Because there is a lot of things relevant when buying a vehicle there is currently no single website which would have everything covered. So I give you the best thing I can and that is a list of websites which cover pretty much everything and give multiple perspectives on the same car.
1. Searching for a car is more that just price and looks
Looks and the price are usually the first two things we intuitively look at when searching for a car. However there is much more to the price than just the price tag. And there is much more to the car than just the looks.
Think thoroughly what you will use the car for. Do you need lots of space? Decide on the size and category of the car. How many km do you make in a year? Calculate running costs. For how long do you want to keep the car? Check reliability and servicing costs.
Basically you have to asses the following categories:
Driving & Performance - what driving systems the car has (ESP, ABS, TCS etc.), how it performs on corners, how fast it can accelerate, four-wheel drive etc.
Comfort & Equipment - what kind of equipment does it have - heated seats, fog lights, AC, folding bench, back driving camera, material used for seats and all the other things
Safety - how safe is the car if you end up in an accident; usually this means how many airbags, how well the clutch and other pedals behave during impact, etc. What systems does it have to prevent accident in the first place (automatic breaking system, traction control etc.).
Reliability - how often does it break and how serious are the malfunctions
Running costs - fuel consumption and servicing costs
Ecology - what is the emission of CO2 and other air pollutants
2. Deciding on priorities
You will most probably have to give priority to some features of the car and forget about others. It is for example quite hard to have lots of space and at the same time have a sports car. Same goes for performance and fuel consumption. So it is best if you write down what things you absolutely want in the car and which are optional. Then search for the best mix of your wishes. More on this in the next section.
3. Doing your research
On the internet there are many websites with reviews. I cannot give you a summary for each car. But what I can give you are links to websites with reviews and useful information on many car types and brands. Probably best to first narrow down your selection based on your priorities and then research each model individually and compare it with others.
ADAC breakdown statistics - german car club association breakdown statistics (translated by Google)
Reliability index - another site with reliability indexes but they are less clear what is measured and over which period
ADAC car costs - german car club association car costs statistics (translated by Google)
Poraba - Slovenian site with real world fuel consumption (translated by Google)
Honest John - Real MPG - Honest John page with fuel consumption
BusinessCar - car selector depending on running costs (also has car costs comparison - click on whole life cost)
Parkers - British site with comprehensive car information
Honest John - British site with car reviews real MPG, pricing and more
Autos.ca - Canadian site with reviews and test drives
WhatCar? - British site with summary, full review and reader rating
Mumsnet - similar site to WhatCar?
RoadTestReports - British road test reports
AutoExpress - British site with car reviews and car awards
BusinessCar - reviews and car selector according to running costs, whole life costs, CO2 and taxation.
Autocar - car reviews in article format
Carbuyer - car reviews with summary, pros/cons and a review
carsGuide - Australian site with car reviews
CarAdvice - car reviews and top cars
AnUsedCar - how often car models break information from German ADAC
AutomobileDimensions - info on car dimensions and boot size with option to compare them
TUV car cost info - german info on car model costs
4. Buying a car
Whether you are buying a used car or new one, check multiple sellers. Establish the approximate price the car should have and then negotiate hard. There is always room to lower the price or at least trade in a free service or free tires or something like that. You can find more tips on the internet (for example this CNN page). Just search Google for Negotiating car price.
If buying a used car and you are not too much into cars use a checklist like these ones provided below so that you do not get ripped off.
Used car checklist: