How to Save Time on New-Car Research

Researching a vehicle is not an easy task as there are tons of little pieces of information that you need to take into account. The problem is that most of us do not have enough time to give each detail the amount of attention it deserves. As such, the best approach is to thoroughly research the aspects of a vehicle that would benefit you the most. For instance, if you are you are concerned with safety, then look out for the features that would actually make your car safer.

Before you start, however, you should create a proper vehicle list and figure out where you will obtain your information, which you can learn in this article. If you have already done so, but you are not sure how to be a quick yet thorough researcher, then take a look at these tips.

Major Vehicle Aspects

Before you focus your research, you need to know all the key aspects of a vehicle. We have listed seven of them here:

1. Price

Regardless of your income, you should have some form of budget before purchasing a vehicle. Having one would let you know how much you should pay for it and indicate what you can and cannot afford. If you are not sure how to create a car budget, you can learn more in this article.

When searching up the price of a vehicle, look beyond the base MSRP, because it’s unlikely to be the amount you will end up paying. There are five main parameters that you need to account for when researching the price:

  • Trim levels: Trim levels exist to divide vehicle models by their features. The higher the trim level, the more features the model will have. Going from one trim level to the next can increase the base MSRP by $1,000 or more.
  • Features and packages: Manufacturer options, such as additional equipment, safety features and so on, can increase the base MSRP by more than $1,000.
  • Additional fees: Every car buyer is required to make additional payments to cover freight, PDI, air tax, tire stewardship and regulatory charges. All of these add up to about $2,000 per vehicle.
  • Dealer add-ons: Dealers can make additional charges for VIN etching, rust-proofing and other services. These tend to be optional, but can cost up to $1,000 or more.
  • Sales tax: Sales tax is calculated as a percentage of the MSRP and additional fees. The percentage varies by province and territory, ranging from five to 15 per cent.

When researching the price of a car, add the collective cost of all mandatory fees, which is usually around $2,000, to the MSRP of your preferred trim level and then add the sales tax to the resulting amount. This should give you a solid idea of much you will pay for the vehicle. It’s possible to get a discount, but this should not be your concern at this stage of the car buying process.

You can find vehicle MSRPs on manufacturer websites or right here at

2. Size

Before researching vehicle size, you need to know exactly what the word “size” actually encompasses. Here are three “types” of sizes you need to worry about:

  • Passenger capacity: There are two metrics that can help you determine the amount of passengers a vehicle can handle – the number of seats and dimensions. In theory, five seats should indicate that five people can fit in, but that is not always the case. Sometimes rear seating rows are just too tight to properly house full-grown adults. A good rear seat should have enough leg and head room for the occupant to feel unconstrained. The best way to obtain useful information on passenger capacity is by reading vehicle reviews, many of which tend to state explicitly how many people a car can accommodate comfortably.
  • Cargo capacity: When it comes to cargo capacity, volume determines how much cargo a car can accommodate. If you are not clear on how vehicle dimensions work, then look up reviews with examples of the kind of objects that can fit into the vehicle in question. Be sure to take into account folding rear seats since you may not always be able to make use of them.
  • Overall length and height: Length and height should not be a major concern unless you are buying an SUV or pickup truck. The reason for concern here is the fact that larger vehicles may not always fit into your garage or parking spot properly.
3. Fuel Efficiency

Fuel prices always fluctuate, which means that you cannot trust them to stay low forever. So, if you buy a fuel-hungry vehicle today, there is no guarantee that refuelling it will not cost you a fortune tomorrow. As such, the smartest thing you can do is buy a fuel-efficient vehicle. The problem is that certain vehicles are more fuel-hungry by default due to their size, such as SUVs and pickup trucks. So, if your ultimate goal is fuel economy, then a smaller vehicle is the way to go.

Fuel economy is measured in two ways: fuel units per fixed distance (e.g. litres per 100 kilometres) and units of distance per fixed fuel unit (e.g. miles per gallon). In Canada, we measure fuel efficiency in litres per 100 kilometres, which means that the lower the number, the greater the efficiency. For instance, 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres equals to more fuel savings than 13.4 litres per 100 kilometres. In the United States the exact opposite is true since they measure fuel economy in miles per gallon.

These measurements are based on two separate tests, one that simulates city driving and one that simulates highway driving. On average, vehicles save more fuel in highway tests than city tests.

4. Safety

When it comes to safety, vehicle reviews usually provide all the information you need, including everything on safety features and ratings from prolific organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

However, if you want to delve deeper into the subject, then you will need a proper list of features for each vehicle. Safety features tend to be listed on manufacturer sites, but you can also find them here at This is how these lists usually look like:

If you are interested in recalls, then you can use With this site, all you need to do is select your make and model and you should be able to see the information that pertains to it.

To access more information, you would need to subscribe to the website, but this service is not free.

We also suggest using where you can look up safety ratings and news that relate to crash test results for almost every vehicle. As is the case with, you need to select your make and model in order to access the data.

Alternatively, you can use the website’s search function, which is perfect for looking up news on specific vehicles.

5. Features and Options

No matter what vehicle you pick, it is bound to come with a specific set of features, which can range from air conditioning to a premium sound system. Some features are mandatory, being attached to a specific trim level, while others are optional.

Optional features are available individually or in packages. If a feature belongs to a particular package, you may not always be able to separate it from the package, which means that you either have to buy the whole package or forego the feature altogether. The latter solution is particularly valid if you do not need or want most of what the package has to offer.

6. Horsepower and Torque

Horsepower and torque are essential for a vehicle to operate, which means that you should at least know what these terms mean and how they differ.

  • Horsepower is a unit used to measure a vehicle’s power output. It is also a good metric for determining how fast a vehicle can travel. A single unit of horsepower is equal to 746 watts or 33,000 foot-pounds per minute.
  • Torque is the turning power created in an engine by rotating parts, which allows a vehicle to accelerate. In other words, torque is the force that transitions a vehicle from standing still to moving at full speed. It is measured in pound-feet.

Most car buyers need not concern themselves with horsepower or torque – unless they need their vehicle to perform a specific task. Torquey engines are usually good for towing or hauling heavy loads, which they do so at the expense of fuel. As such, engines with less torque and more horsepower tend to be more efficient. However, too little torque forces engines to work harder to accelerate, which wears them out faster.

If you are not looking to extraordinary towing or hauling capabilities, then we suggest striking a fine balance between the two.

7. Aesthetics

A vehicle’s appearance is not as important as many of its other attributes, but you should still devote some of your attention to it – because no one likes driving an ugly car. The best way to determine if a vehicle is easy on the eyes is by looking at it yourself. Most manufacturer and review websites provide photos that let you examine a vehicle inside out from every conceivable angle. You can also obtain opinions from review sites as well as your friends and relatives.

8. Resale Value

When vehicles age, they lose value. The more value is lost, the less money you will make by reselling the vehicle. This is called depreciation. While almost every single vehicle loses some of its initial value, they do not all depreciate equally. A good rule of thumb is to check how much a car will be worth in three years because that is when depreciation slows down. A car should retain over 50 per cent of its initial value by that point in order to boast a solid resale price.

The best way to determine if a vehicle is going to depreciate quickly is by configuring it on since review sites do not usually discuss this subject at length (if at all).

Decide Which Aspects Matter and Create a Short List

If you want your research to yield useful results, you should focus on the aspects of a vehicle that would benefit you the most. List two or three of them and then spend as much time reading about them as possible.

If you have already settled on a vehicle type and budget, then you should have a solid idea of what you need a vehicle for and how much you can spend on it. If your budget is tight, then you should focus on price and fuel economy to make sure your monthly payments are as low as possible. If on top of a tight budget you also need a vehicle that can accommodate a family, then you may want to add size and safety to your list. You should consider every other aspect as secondary.

Use your judgement to determine which aspects matter the most, but keep in mind that being practical is likely to yield the best results.

Where to Obtain the Information

The internet is teeming with information, but not everything that you find there is accurate. We list a few solid resources in this article, but if you need to know more, take a look at this piece.

What to Do Next

Once your initial research is done, it’s time to compare your findings and put together a focused vehicle list.