Some handy apps for car buyers

Posted: January 04, 2012

Auto sales numbers show car shoppers are venturing back onto dealer lots. Many are toting smartphones and tablets, too. Even when you're car-shopping on Craigslist, car-hunting applications will help you identify the better deals.

Looking for the nearest Lamborghini or Lotus dealer? The Edmunds app, by the car site, is free and advertising-supported for Android and Apple.

Using your device's location service, the app finds dealerships, maps the way there, and provides shoppers' comments about dealers. Loan and lease calculators can help you decide how much you can afford to spend on a fresh set of wheels.

The Edmunds research function allows you to dial any make, model, and year to view a vehicle's features and specifications, safety ratings, driver reviews, and local pricing for new or used vehicles.

For used cars, Edmunds delivers a handy chart showing what the car is likely to be worth as a trade-in, private sale, or dealer retail.

However, while hunting for specific makes and models of used cars, results behind an "inventory" button on the Edmunds screen were missing. Instead, a note said: "Used cars coming soon! Currently, we are working to fill-up our virtual lot with cars in your area."

AAA Auto Buying Tools is a new-car-shopping app for iPhone that's free from the national auto club. It begins by asking for your zip code.

Then you can "build a new car," or, if you happen to be wandering the local car lot, enter a specific car's vehicle identification number, or VIN. You find the VIN for a new car on its window sticker. The app retrieves the factory specs for that car.

You can enter a used car's VIN, too, and view its safety ratings and other details, but the results will include the old car's price when it was brand-new.

Information on cars includes estimated dealer costs, options, and safety ratings. The app also includes a "AAA Member Price" for vehicles, representing a discount that some dealers will honor for auto-club members.

NADA Pricing is the free, advertising-supported iPhone application from the National Auto Dealers Association, publisher of the traditional yellow and blue car-price books. It identifies nearby dealers for whatever make you like, and Google Maps their locations.

On pricing for used cars, it delivers a quick guide based on make, model, year, options, and mileage. Some user reviews of the app complain that currently it only goes back to the 1998 model year.

Contact staff writer Reid Kanaley at, 215-854-5114, or @ReidKan on Twitter. Read his columns at


comments powered by Disqus