Recently, we brought you an in-depth look at the best car magazines in the UK . Judging by the traffic it generated, people are apparently still genuinely interested in print publications.
Realistically speaking, however, traditional car magazines are on their way out. As with almost every other topic, online car websites have long overtaken print magazines in terms of their readership and influence. Some of the big print rags have managed to port their business online. In many cases, however, new players have taken over their spot by creating exciting new formats tailor-made for the online market place.
In this special, we’ll take a look at the very best car websites the web has to offer. You may just be surprised at the results: Although nothing beats the feeling of a great print publication, the marketplace has become a lot more diverse and colourful. And that’s certainly a positive development.
Edmunds, Parkers, Kelly Blue Book
Car magazines often pride themselves on the quality of their journalistic content. But let’s be honest here for a second. How many actually read these publications for the depth of the writing or intellectual pursuits?
The main point for buying a car magazine, for most readers at least, was always to get an overview of the market and compare the technical specs of different cars. Here, the Internet has totally changed the game. New platforms allow consumers to quickly and transparently get an overview of the entire market in ways that the old magazines could only dream of.
The three biggest of these platforms are Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book (for the US market) as well as Parkers in the UK.
From Print to Online
All three were formerly published in print. Edmund‘s history reaches back into the 60s, when it began offering consumer car guides. The 90s saw the company expand into an even more diverse range of book titles and data CDs. After entering the Internet, it quickly turned into one of the most successful websites. In the UK, Parkers followed a similar trail. It started out as a monthly car price list published as a magazine. In the new Millennium, its website quickly grew into the country’s biggest car platform. It is still expanding its visitor numbers each month.
What makes a site like Parkers great is that it combines a wealth of data with editorial reviews as well as insider information and the power of online data management with the expertise of thousands of employees talking directly to dealers around the country.
Parkers and Edmunds have made the process of buying a car more transparent, safer and easier than ever. The industry as a whole has a lot to thank them for that.
There are sites allowing you to rate your highschool teacher. So it can hardly come as a surprise that the same should be possible for your vehicle. Car Complaints is the biggest website of this type. And it does an excellent job at presenting the information in a way that is actually not just entertaining (in a morbid way) but also incredibly useful.
An Archive of Failures
Essentially, Car Complaints is an archive of failures. For almost every model on the market, you can check its biggest flaws and compare them to immediate competitors.
Research will, for example, tell you that the Audi A4 mainly suffers from engine failures and complete transmission failures. The Volvo S60, meanwhile, suffers from electrical problems and excessive oil consumption.
You can read all of the reports filed by readers of the site which is a helpful addition to the cold statistics. Take the Toyota Camry. It does suffer considerably from excessive oil consumption. But almost all reports mention this only starts happening after around the 100,000 miles mark, which makes the issue seem seem a lot less troubling.
One of the greatest feats of Car Complaints is that it allows you to compare different generations of the same model. Especially when you intend to buy used, this can be a significant help.
To this day, we’re still not entirely sure what Jalopnik actually is. Is it the greatest car magazine ever invented? A place for dealers and industry executives to discuss business with car buyers? A forum masked as a blog?
Whatever it is, Jalopnik is incredibly entertaining and innovative. It is also exactly what the car industry needs: An unpretentious and informative mag without the usual ties to the big car manufacturers. We’d even call it unbiased – if you could forget about its heavily pro-American and anti-European car maker preferences, that is.
Its minor weaknesses aside, Jalopnik presents a wealth of topics in an excellent blend of tongue in cheak humour and hard facts. Its recent articles include reports about an enthusiast who put ‘A Chevy 350 Engine In A Porsche 914’, the first woman ever to race and the most beautiful handmade cars in the world.
And then, there’s Oppositelock, a blog-style forum where Jalopnik’s readers can share stories and discuss cars.
All of this make Jalopnik possibly the best car website on the web.
Internet Movie Car Database
If you find yourself paying more attention to the vehicles in a movie than the actual storyline, we have the perfect car website for you. The Internet Movie Car Database (IMCDB) offers just over 4,500 models, catalogued by their on-screen appearance. Based in France and run by an international team, the IMCDB is a true labour of love. Over the years, it has grown into a valuable resource.
Thanks to this diligence, you can now find everything you always wanted to know about movies in cars. For example, which brand is most popular among directors? (It’s Ford, followed by Chevrolet, Mercedes and Volkswagen) Or: Which movie would you need to watch if you wanted to see a classic Abbott-Detroit Model 44 in action? (Mabel’s Blunder from 1914)
The IMCDB is continually expanded by its members and includes plenty of current movies. Thanks to a well working search function, you can also take the opposite direction and check your favourite movies for interesting car appearances.
Either way, this database, one of the best car websites to be found, is sure to keep car fanatics happy for a very, very long time.
Lauren Fix – The Car Coach
Whenever news channels like CNN or Fox Business News are in need of a car expert for one of their programmes, they call Lauren Fix. Thanks to her commanding presence on the screen and her successful Youtube channel, Fix has established herself as an expert both for current industry news and a supporter of anyone wanting to repair their car without having to resort to expensive dealers.
Lauren’s website doubles as a portal into her activities. These include the three books she’s written as well as an informative blog. In the latter, she writes about anything from how not to get ripped off by a mechanic to The ‘Ten Commandments for Courteous Driving’.
The centerpiece of the site, however, are Lauren Fix’s car reviews. These offer an unpretentious, straight-forward and smart look at the best new models. Always keeping an eye out for the average consumer, Fix offers everything you need to know about cars and improve your technical know how. And you won’t have to turn into a mechanic yourself.
If there were an award for the most stylish car website out there (and there may just be one, we just don’t know about it), this website is sure to take first spot. Petrolicious was founded by Afshin Behnia and a small team of friends and esteemed visual artists in 2013. Since then, it has managed to amass a huge online following. On the Petrolicious Facebook account, disciples discuss the latest articles and videos and exchange their views on driving and automobile culture.
In some ways, you could argue that this isn’t even a website about cars. Rather, it’s a sort of gallery for incredible photography and short movie clips which just happen to be built around cars. Even the most die hard environmentalist could melt to the beauty of these just five minute short videos, which always take one legendary vehicle as a point of departure.
But petrolicious is about more than just breathtaking photos. Each new item reveals a story, focusing on the people behind the technology. A motor1 report explains the philosophy behind this car website: “I had the idea of a site dedicated to the celebration the culture and lifestyle that comes with owning a classic car. It had to be something beautiful. It had to be the opposite of reality TV”, says Bahnia, “To some degree the inspiration is visual, like how the car itself looks,” explains Behnia. “These cars and their beautiful styling play a role in the aesthetic. Everything else is determined by the personality of the owner and his/her story.”
The focus on quality rather than quantity has actually been an important factor for turning Petrolicious into one of the biggest new car blogs on the market. Today, even leading newspapers from as far away as Germany want to talk to him. It is a testimony to the vision that he has created.
Jay Leno’s Garage
Clearly, there’s an audience for vintage car journalism. If Petrolicious hasn’t already made this abundantly clear, then Jay Leno’s Garage definitely will.
After all but retiring from show business, Leno has built an entire Youtube Channel around his passion for classic cars. Each episode sees him taking it for a drive, talking to owners and experts and asking all the questions you always wanted to ask.
What makes Leno’s Garage stand out from the fold is not just the personality of the presenter. Leno’s picks are frequently unexpected, for example. Cars on the show have included elegant classics such as a Dino Monza – as well as insane monster trucks like the Toyota Tundra. And if the videos don’t catch you, then perhaps the comments section will. Here, car geeks from around the world gather to exchange their opinions.
The most popular items on Jay Leno’s Garage have drawn up to a million viewers from around the world. If you love cars, you should join them.
A Girls Guide to Cars
Unfortunately, in our society, women are still heavily objectified. In few industries is this as true as it is in the car industry: Girls mostly serve as hostesses on trade fairs and bikini-clad models on promotion pictures. Their role is usually downgraded to the impressionable babe on the seat next to the driver.
Obviously, this image is in need of some radical change. For one, for quite some time now, women have overtaken men in terms of driving licenses and road trips. Admittedly, they are not yet generating the most revenue, as men are mainly responsible for purchasing the fastest and most luxurious cars, But clearly, they have by now turned into a financial force to be reckoned with.
Secondly, the idea that women are less proficient drivers is up for review.
Generally speaking, women drive more safely and focus on cars that are economical and reliable. Their aesthetic choices are different, too, and tend towards more subtle vehicles. Since women influence 80% of car buying decisions, their preferences will reshape the entire industry given enough time.
Some incredible car websites have mushroomed around this phenomenon. A Girls Guide to Cars is possible the most fun of them.
This website pays homage to a new generation of female drivers. For one, it portraits pioneering personalities, such as Aurora Straus. Secondly, it functions as a fully-fledged car magazine, albeit with a twist: Many of its features discuss a car’s merits from a female angle, occasionally arriving at totally different results.
All of this makes A Girls Guide to Cars not just an excellent car website for women, but for men with an open mind as well.
Almost all of the car magazines on the market today offer some kind of regular opinion piece. The Auto Extremist, meanwhile, is pure, undiluted opinion. It may also be the oldest Internet-only car magazine out there. Started all the way back in 1999 by car industry expert Peter M. DeLorenzo, this website offers what he himself happily calls ‘incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business’. No wonder many of his pieces are actually called ‘rants’.
Compared to the tame wordings of many car publications, the genuinely outraged tone of DeLorenzo, combined with his sharp intellect and decades of experience combine into a combustible blend that will set your synapses on fire. Auto Extremist is like a heavy black coffee, no milk and certainly no sugar. Enjoy it, but in moderation.
Green Car Reports
The concept of this site is so simple and obvious that it’s astounding no one has come up with it earlier – or tried to copy it, for that matter. Green Car Reports places the focus firmly where it probably should be in these troubled times: On the green-ness of vehicles and the technology used to make their ecological footprint smaller. Buying guides are based on factors such as fuel consumption. Electric cars are given priority over diesels. And in-depth features explain the technologies advances driving the clean car movement.
Most self-respecting car magazines these days do pay lip service to these aspects. But they rarely award them more than a hasty sideglance. On Green Car Reports, they suddenly turn into points that can and should influence your buying behaviour.
A passion for cars
The possibly greatest thing about Green Car Reports, however, is that it is still first and foremost a car website, run by car enthusiasts. Reviews focus just as much on the fun of the driving experience as they do on performance and energy efficiency. And articles such as a report on the ‘most bizarre green cars ever built’ prove that rather than going all dystopian, the editorial team doesn’t take itself more seriously than need be.
Don’t expect any hippie philosophies here. This is simply put what a car website should look and feel like in the 21st century.
Automobile & Carwitter
As we mentioned in the opening paragraphs, the traditional car magazine still exists. It has merely freed itself from the shackles of the printed medium and gone online. In the digital domain, the values of print journalism continue to flourish. We wouldn’t want to rehash our expansive article on the best UK car magazines. Instead, here are two platforms that can serve as examples for the return of the car mag.
Automobile Magazine is an American publication, but that shouldn’t keep you from reading it. A tagline like „No Boring Cars“ should spark your interest regardless of where you’re based. With news and reviews, a classic car section and opinion pieces, Automobile Magazine certainly doesn’t re-invent the wheel. But within the clearly defined limits of the format, it has something very few other car mags can offer: A personal profile.
Its opinion features are slightly more in-depth and exciting. Reviews are slightly more personal and readable. And its topic selection is a lot more stimulating. It also offers a selection of consumer resources that offer real value. These include links to the best car insurances and overviews of the best and worst cars. Visiting Automobile Magazine may not be a revolution – but it is certainly never boring.
Carwitter, on the other hand, is from the UK. Which is something you can tell from the entirely self-shot pictures on the site, which feel real and unpretentious. This unglamourous outer appearance is part of carwitter’s concept, which revolves around the concept of impartiality and non-affiliation. This lends its reports an air of credibility few of its rivals can match. An expansive “how to” section completes carwitter’s offering. Thanks to these features, it has become one of the best car websites out there.
The Humble Mechanic
This website is not for everyone. In fact, it is useful for Volkswagen drivers only. Do you own a Golf, Up!, Jetta, Passat or Polo? Then, the Humble Mechanic is an incredibly useful website chokeful of helpful hints and hands-on how-tos. Run by an experienced Volkswagen mechanic, this blog is about understanding your car better and learning to repair it without having to rush to the garage every single time you encounter an issue.
The Humble Mechanic has an expansive archive of articles. But the real treasure trove of the blog is the ongoing series of Youtube podcasts. These discuss a wide range of topics and are open to reader questions. What’s even better: Next to the regular shows, there are also shorter, one-question video clips available on Youtube. These allow you to get answers quickly.
It’s even useful to watch the show if you do not have a question or if you’re driving a different manufacturer’s model. There is always something to learn on The Humble Mechanic. Perhaps it’s a car website for everyone after all!