Everyone needs a little help when it comes to the process of purchasing a new or used car. The process can seem daunting at first, because there are so many vehicles to choose from and sources of advice to check out. Even people who love cars and like car shopping find it hard to narrow down a list of vehicles that will fit the needs of their lives, whether it’s a convertible sports car or a capable SUV crossover. We think you’ll find valuable advice in this small guide for the whole vehicle purchasing process, and it all starts with the most important step: research.

Research is the first step in any auto shopping journey because without it you can easily make uninformed decisions or pay far too much for a vehicle. The good thing is that you can do the relevant research you need to before you set foot in a dealership, all online. Although you’ll find plenty of sites offering tips and advice on cars, we’ve found one site in particular to be ideal for those looking to make a purchase, and that is Cars.com. This site is well known for being a great place to locate a dealer or cars in your area to buy, but it is also an amazing source of knowledge about autos of all kinds. Whether you’re looking at Volvos or GMCs, you’re likely to find detailed video and written reviews produced by car experts who know their stuff. They include the good and bad of every vehicle they look at, because that’s exactly what a car buyer needs.

Every vehicle has pros and cons depending on your needs, and that’s why it’s so important to pay attention to what features are important to you as you go about your research. You might quickly decide, for instance, that only a seven-passenger van or SUV will work for your requirements. All of a sudden, you’ve narrowed down the competition by a large factor, and your research can grow more and more detailed as you compare a few models. With the right resources, you can have all the knowledge you need about a few autos before you go on to the next step.

One you have your requirements figured out and you have some options in mind, it’s equally important that you do some comparison shopping between several dealerships in your area. This is because, even with new vehicles, the prices are going to vary between dealers, including the charges for higher level options that you might want, such as back up cameras or premium navigation and sound systems. If you make the additional effort to determine the cost of similar vehicles at more than one dealer, you have a much better idea where you can get the best deal for your valuable car budget.

This is particularly important when it comes to used vehicles. You probably know that used vehicles from the same model year can vary a lot in quality based on how many miles they have been driven, how they have been treated, and what maintenance and repairs have been done over the life of the car or truck. When you have done your research on a car, you are going to be able to spot problems or maintenance issues on used cars that may cost you more money in the future.

Following the basic steps outlined here will make a huge difference in your car buying experience. Research is the most important thing to do, and it helps with every step of the way. The more you can inform yourself about the cars you’re interested in, the more likely you’ll end up with a vehicle you love.