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While Edmunds.com was launched in 1997, the Edmunds company was started in 1966 as a publishing company specializing in the consolidation of automotive specification data. Edmunds distributed printed booklets targeting car shoppers to help them make informed buying decisions. Decades later in the 1990s, Edmunds released its data on CD-ROM plus other notable books dedicated to car buyers. One of these books was Edmunds Strategies for Smart Car Buyers. Another was Edmunds New Cars & Trucks Buyer's Guide. Its first web presence occurred in 1994 with a guest post on a site named the Electronic Newstand. Today as Edmunds.com, the company made its services digital—and the rest is history.


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The Good

  • Great comparison tool
  • Information for customers
  • Cost-to-Own feature

Edmunds.com promises to be the path to savings when it comes to buying a car online. Search for any new or used car online and compare multiple price offers among its extensive network of over 10,000 dealers nationwide. Choose the deal you want and bring your printable certificate to the dealership. This certificate can save thousands of the manufacturer's suggested retail price. Plus, you will receive contact from a dealer to guide you through the process.

Edmunds specializes in providing customers all they need to know before buying a used or new car. Using Edmund's nationwide database, customers can find a complete listing of used or new cars in their area. They can search Edmund's car inventory by make, model or body type. Their used car listings include photos, videos, vehicle details and pricing, along with easy ways to contact the dealership for more information.

To do this, customers are provided with the following tools:

  • Compare Cars tool
  • New Car Price Quotes
  • Edmunds True Market Value®
  • Edmunds True Cost to Own®

One of the best parts of Edmunds.com is its True Cost-to-Own feature that reveals the real hidden costs in a vehicle's purchase and maintenance over 5 years. Sometimes, a car may be cheap to buy at first but then requires high maintenance costs over time. Comparing vehicles side-by-side through this feature will reveal this information ahead of time and help you save money in the future.

Eight factors are taken into account in determining the 5-year cost of the vehicle. The True Cost-to-Own report calculates the vehicle's depreciation, interest on financing, taxes and fees, insurance premiums, fuel, maintenance, repairs, and federal tax credit over the course of the 5 years to determine this information. Edmunds also compiles all this exhaustive data into an easy-to-read pie chart so you can see at a glance what problems you may run into after purchasing the vehicle.

One of Edmund's signature offers is what they call up front pricing. They provide a free True Value Appraisal Tool for car owners looking to sell their vehicle. This tool allows sellers to tell what their car is worth up front by comparing the dealership trade-in, private party and dealer retail price estimates.

Another signature offer is Edmund's Price Promise. This is a way for buyers to save money when vehicle-shopping. This tool makes it possible to lock in a price before going in to the dealership.

There are three steps to this process:

  • Compare multiple offers from Edmund's network of dealers
  • Lock in savings of up to thousands off MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price)
  • Print and Bring printable certificate to the dealership

It goes like this:

  • Find the exact car you want on Edmunds.com
  • Compare Price Promise special offers from their network of dealers and lock in your best deal
  • Get a dedicated dealer contact to help you make your purchase

Customers can print out the actual certificate, guaranteeing their savings and bring it with them to the dealership (sort of like a coupon for cars).

Regarding the above-mentioned tools:

For new car buyers, Edmunds offers the Compare Car tool, which informs them of each new car's pros and cons -plus expert input on the car's performance, comfort, function, fit and finish to help determine if that vehicle is the right fit.

The New Cars Price Quote is favorable because it allows customers to contact up to five dealers at once. Most car finder websites only offer three quotes.

Edmund's True Market Value (TMV) helps customers figure out whether they should buy now or wait a month for prices to go down by predicting car trends for all car models every month. The TMV is automatically adjusted to include the options and colors customers select-plus current incentives.

Buyers seeking a car loan are also covered. Edmunds has an associate site called up2drive.ccom for auto loans. The site offers individual loans for new and used cars and even car loan refinancing at an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of as low as 2.99% or higher. It is free to apply online, allowing approved applicants to write an expedited check directly to the car dealer or current lender.

Another tool Edmunds makes available is their payment calculator. In fact, they have calculators for a variety of functions related to buying a car.

Edmund's Payment Calculator helps with:

  • Monthly Loan Payment: estimates your payment for a car loan
  • Monthly Lease Payment: estimates your payment for a car lease
  • Pricing: finds the price range for a new car
  • Low APR vs Cash Back
  • Maintenance costs and recalls
  • Gas Guzzler Trade In

As it has done since its inception, Edmunds.com continues to offer detailed information to car buyers, sharing lots of tips and advice articles on buying, selling or leasing used cars-this time entirely online.

The Bad

  • Complaints of mobile app
  • Issues with tools

Edmunds launched their app for iphone and ipad in 2010. Although reviews have been consistently positive with a 4-4.5 rating, one complaint is that the new version does not comply with 'upside down' screen rotation for picture viewing and will not view pictures in upside down orientation on the iPad. The app works correctly in upside down orientation until you click a picture and it forces a right side up viewing.

The Edmunds list of tools are highly favorable, with only a few factors deserving of constructive criticism:

  • A phone number should not be a required a field when requesting car prices.  It's understandable why car dealers want contact information, but customers most likely would prefer to keep all negotiations over email than to get calls.
  • Regarding the True Market Value Tool, Edmunds doesn't show exactly how many car sales are included in the TMV® number or the time frame of car sales that are used in calculations.
  • Customers can view price information based on their zip code, but cannot compare that to national price information. Compared to one of its major competitors, Truecar, TrueCar does a slightly better job with graphing prices and categorizing what should be considered a bad, good, or great deal.

One serious improvement should be to incorporate a free history report like ebay Motors does. Currently on Edmunds.com, the vehicle history report is not included. Edmunds just provides a direct link to the Carfax website where customers have to pay for a history report.

More constructive criticism:

  • The Compare Cars tool can only be used for new Customers should be able to compare used vehicles as well with the ability to look at the differences between model years for a single make/model.
  • The Edmunds True Cost to Own® value should offer an estimated residual value for each vehicle as well as a percentage of the purchase price since car prices will differ when comparing.
  • It would be better for Edmunds to separate the "sponsored cars" feature from the Car Finder Feature. Currently, both are mixed in together, with "sponsored cars" blended in with the results of the Car Finder feature.  It is possible to just ignore the sponsored cars, but it can be a little confusing.  If, for example, a customer narrows their results to Toyotas the sponsored cars will still include a Chevy and a Nissan.

All in all, these are suggestions to improve an already solid service. Edmunds delivers on its promise to do what it sets out to do: help customers make the best informed decision when buying a car.

The Bottom Line

Since 1997, Edmunds.com has successfully assisted many customers in making the best, well-informed and calculated buying decisions. Certain functions can be tweaked to be even better but overall, its variety of tools and services make Edmunds one of car buyers' favorite websites and apps.

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