The Hi-Tech Investor: Get a motor on the net

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The Independent Online
Buying cars online could be the next trend in internet shopping. Cars are expensive, and buying them is complicated. Several companies think there is a gap in the market for an easier way to buy cars over the web.

Autobytel already sells more than 2 million cars through its website in the United States. The service, owned by Inchcape, has now come to the UK, promising hassle-free car ownership.

Autobytel joins services such as Woolwich Motorbase and Freeway, which also provide "one-stop shops" for choosing a car, financing it and arranging insurance and maintenance. Autobytel only sells cars over the net and, unlike other centralised car buying sites, it deals with second-hand and new vehicles.

The Autobytel website is clear, easy to navigate and provides plenty of information. Visitors choose whether they want to look for a new or used car and whether they are buying privately or for business.

If you know which car you want it is simply a question of selecting the marque from a pull-down menu, then choosing the model from a list. For used cars the system searches its database for suitable models, starting close to the buyer's home and working outwards.

Autobytel supplies cars through member dealers. The website displays basic prices but the quote comes within 24 hours from a local franchised dealership. Web users cannot ask for quotes from dealers in different areas in order to find a cheaper new car, but they are free to do so on second-hand models.

Car buyers can arrange financing through Autobytel, either as a loan or as a personal contract plan (PCP) where part of the cost is deferred. Autobytel has arrangements with Bank of Scotland and Alliance & Leicester. Currently, it offers finance at 6.9 per cent for a secured loan and 9.7 per cent unsecured. The site also provides insurance and breakdown cover.

www.autobytel.co.uk

Money cornucopia

Find is a simple, uncluttered personal finance website. There is nothing fancy about Find but it is one of the quickest ways to track down lenders, mortgage companies, investment houses, insurers or the home pages for organisations such as the London Stock Exchange.

Each category has two sets of listings. The first, shorter list has brief descriptions for each company: these are paid for entries. The full listing is a single mouse click away, and the site is updated daily.

www.find.co.uk

Bug check

It's hard to predict whether the Millennium Dome will be ready on time, whether champagne stocks will last, or whether there is anywhere still available to party. Checking progress towards solving the Year 2000 bug is much easier. Action 2000's website lists industries and public-sector services and classifies their Y2K readiness as either blue, amber or red. Fortunately, most banks seem to have got their acts together.

n www.bug2000.co.uk

Stephen Pritchard can be contacted by email at hi-tech-investor@dial.pipex.com

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