Shopping for a car is exciting, but the more you prepare for this big purchase, the better you'll feel when you drive away in your new wheels.
Among the things you'll want to know: if the car has had a lot of recalls and what's the real cost to drive? These are the websites you should check before you buy.
If you have a vehicle, you've probably had a recall. They happen a lot. To some cars more than others. Which is why the first site you should check is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's recalls page.
At NHTSA.gov/recalls, you can enter the type of vehicle or the VIN number and see about any past or current recalls.
Next, if you're buying from a private owner, go to the National Insurance Crime Bureas VINCheck.
You'll need the VIN number for this but it will let you know if the car you are about to buy is stolen.
If you are buying used, go to iSeeCars.com's VIN Lookup. You can get a report with up to 200 data points that includes everything from price and driver history to projected depreciation.
And finally, one site that helped influence my last decision when it came to buying a car: Consumer Reports. This is a nonprofit agency that does exhaustive testing on all makes and models. Consumer Reports also surveys readers to find out how these vehicles last over the years. It's another great resource, although it does require a membership to get extensive information about vehicles.