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Online auto shopping stumbles, magazine says

©Associated Press, published March 20, 2000

DETROIT -- The Internet is a good place to find information before buying your next car. But it's not the best place to buy one, according to Consumer Reports magazine.

The magazine, whose annual auto issue hits newsstands Tuesday, said a review of five major Internet car-buying sites found a lot of useful information, but not good service.

The issue also includes the magazine's widely followed annual ranking of best buys, and few changes are made in this year's rankings. One exception: The Toyota Tundra replaced the Ford F-150 as best full-size pickup.

For its Internet study, Consumer Reports asked 1,056 people to request quotes for six different vehicles from sites such as Microsoft's CarPoint and Dealers who responded had to be within 100 miles of the shopper and had to deliver the quotes within two business days.

Only 35 percent of the shoppers received a quote within the time limit. The quotes were often not for the exact vehicle specified in the query, and 22 percent of the shoppers were told they'd have to visit the dealer to get a firm price.

"At this stage, we don't think the Internet is a very attractive option for actually completing the purchase of a car or other vehicle," said Lou Richman, finance editor for Consumer Reports.

CarPoint generated the highest percentage of leads, responding to 43 percent of queries. Autobytel was second, responding to 39 percent.

Richman said despite the hassles, many of the shoppers who tried to get quotes said they would consider using the Internet if they went shopping for real.

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