Where’s the best place to compare cars?

by Car Negotiation Coach

Where should you research and compare cars when you are getting ready to buy?  Edmunds is one of my favorite websites because they have so many different tools for car buyers.  And since I recently did a TrueCar review, today I thought I would do a review of Edmunds.

But in the spirit of being impartial, while I explain the cooler features of Edmunds I’ll also list out a few areas that need a little work.

Edmunds Review

Edmunds has four very interesting services within their website that I’m going to review.  There’s a Compare Cars tool, New Car Price Quotes, Edmunds True Market Value®, and Edmunds True Cost to Own®.  Each of these components are very helpful to car buyers but there’s still room for a little improvement.

Let’s take a look under the hood and maybe someone from Edmunds will read my tips for improvement and make the site even better :-D .

Edmunds Compare Cars Tool

compare cars

What is it?

A side by side comparison of different cars.  Choose vehicles and see how they compare across a range of categories like price, safety features, available options, measurements, and  Edmunds True Cost to Own®.

What I like about Compare Cars

  • It’s intuitive, well designed, and easy to compare the features of four cars at once.
  • You can compare photos of specific car features on different models all at once.  For example, you can view interior photos side by side, engine photos, rear views, tires, etc.
  • You can change the trim levels to compare different options packages for the same car side by side.
  • If you don’t know where to start, the Car Finder feature allows you to start by entering a price range, features, and car type to narrow down the list of vehicles to compare.

What needs improvement

  • You can only use the Compare Cars tool for new vehicles.  I’d like to be able to compare used vehicles and have the ability to look at the differences between model years for a single make/model.
  • In addition to the Edmunds True Cost to Own® value that is shown (more on that below), I’d like to see an estimated residual value for each vehicle.  I’d also like to see the residual value expressed as a % of purchase price as well since car prices will differ in your comparison.
  • I don’t like the “sponsored cars” mixed in with the results of the Car Finder feature.  You can ignore the sponsored cars, but they can be a little confusing.  For example, I narrowed my results to Acura’s and the sponsored cars still included a Chevy and a Nissan.

Edmunds New Car Price Quotes

Edmunds new car price quotes

What is It?

Edmunds sends your request for car prices to local dealerships who email you with free price quotes.

What I like about Edmunds New Car Price Quotes

  • I love that you can contact up to 5 dealers at once.  This is the highest number I’ve found and most websites only offer 3 quotes.
  • Most car dealerships are listed on Edmunds.  Dealerships have to sign-up and pay to use each different car price website.  As a result, other websites may provide slightly different results.  By looking on Edmunds you have the best bet of finding all your local car dealers.
  • Before getting dealer prices you can see each dealer’s rating and comments from other car shoppers.   Edmunds also shows the distance to each dealer from your zip code and a handy map link.
  • Before getting dealer prices you can also see Edmunds True Market Value® pricing (to see what others have paid for that car).  More details on TMV® below.
  • In the Edmunds price quote screen, you can easily tab between car reviews and a variety of car photos from different angles.  This is much better than many other sites that only show one stock photo per car.
  • You can check inventory to see what’s listed in stock at local dealers.  Just keep in mind this may not be updated by dealerships very frequently.

What needs improvement

  • On top of requesting car prices via email, I’d like to see an instant quote that dealers must honor like the one provided by TrueCar.
  • Phone number should not be a required a field when requesting car prices.  I understand why car dealers want contact information, but I prefer to keep all negotiations over email and I don’t want to receive calls.
  • I’d like to see an online method of tracking the various price quotes you receive, but for now you can use this car comparison spreadsheet I’ve created.

Edmunds True Market Value® or TMV®

Edmunds TMV

What is It?

Edmunds TMV® is the average price paid for a car based on local sales.  TMV tells you how far below MSRP® most people have been able to negotiate.

What I like about Edmunds TMV®

  • I love that the True Market Value® number is shown at the time you request new car price quotes.  In the old version of the Edmunds website you had to hunt around for this number and it was not displayed where you need it most.
  • TMV® Alerts show you predicted price trends for all models each month.  This is handy to help you figure out whether you should buy now or wait a month for prices to go down.
  • The Edmunds TMV® number is automatically adjusted to include the options and colors you select as well current incentives.  If Edmunds didn’t do this, there would be no way to compare apples to apples.

What needs improvement

  • Edmunds TMV® is very similar to a TrueCar Price Report, but  TrueCar does a little bit better job graphing prices and categorizing what should be considered a bad, good, or great deal.
  • Edmunds TMV® reflects manufacturer incentives, but they are not broken out.  So if you want to know if there are current incentives and when they expire, you have to check a separate section of the Edmunds website.
  • You can view price information based on your zip code, but you can’t compare that to national price information.
  • Edmunds doesn’t show you exactly how many car sales are included in the TMV® number or the time frame of car sales that are used in calculations.

Edmunds TMV® gives you a good target price for your negotiations with car dealers.   However, since TMV® is that average price paid, it should be your minimum goal.  Read How to Buy a Car at the Best Possible Price to get below that target number.

Edmunds True Cost to Own® or TCO®

Edmunds TCO

What is it?

Edmunds TCO® is a tool that estimates the total five-year cost of buying and owning a vehicle. The components of TCO® are depreciation, interest on financing, taxes and fees, insurance premiums, fuel, maintenance, repairs, and any federal tax credit that may be available.

What I like about Edmunds True Cost to Own®

  • It’s important to understand costs of ownership about a car beyond price and I haven’t seen any other car websites that offer something similar.
  • I like that TCO® is calculated for both used and new vehicles.  It’s easy to see how historical cost data is compiled for used vehicles, but I like that Edmunds makes a prediction about new vehicles as well.

What needs improvement

  • I’d like to see True Cost to Own® presented right next to True Market Value® at that time you get new car price quotes.

Other Edmunds Car Comparison and Research Tools

Miscellaneous things I like on Edmunds

  • Edmunds reviews every car imaginable. You can find a detailed look at any car.  Most cars are reviewed with a great selection of photos and many have videos and 360 views.
  • Edmunds has some very useful car calculators like lease and loan calculators, affordability, and trade-in calculators.
  • The new car buying guide that comes out each year is very informative.
  • Edmunds maintains a good list of current car incentives and rebates (Just don’t get hung up on these, dealers often have cost structures and incentive plans that aren’t published that allow them to offer discounts.)

Miscellaneous items for improvement:

  • Edmunds has a direct link to a Carfax vehicle history report for every used vehicle.  But unfortunately, you have to pay to see it.  I’d like to see the eBay Motors model adopted where a vehicle history report is included for free.
  • I’d also  like to see the ability to order a paid car inspection directly from the website (eBay does this as well).

As you can see from my review, I have very few complaints about Edmunds.  Mostly constructive criticisms that won’t impact your car buying research.   If you’re trying to compare and research cars, Edmunds should be where you spend most of your time.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Clare @ Young and Thrifty

Good job creating such a detailed review of Edmunds. This post really gives readers a heads-up on what to look out for when they visit this site. I agree with you, side by side comparisons should be extended to used vehicles.

Car Negotiation Coach

Thanks Clare. Yeah, used car comparisons would be very useful as well. I’m sure someone out there does that already and I just haven’t stumbled across their site yet….and if it doesn’t exist yet it’s only a matter of time.

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