The ongoing semiconductor chip shortage has made finding a new car surprisingly difficult. Some of the market’s most sought-after models are in short supply, and some popular features are temporarily unavailable. Shopping used is a great alternative to long waiting lists and inflated prices, especially since the number of resources available to buyers grows on a regular basis. Some are better than others, however.
The best used car sites offer a user-friendly interface that provides shoppers with comprehensive details about the car they’re looking at, like high-resolution photos showing the interior and the exterior, its service history, plus its standard and optional equipment. Some even tell you if you’re looking at a great deal, or if the price isn’t quite fair.
We’ve put together a list of the classifieds and auction sites you should browse when shopping for your next used car online. Alternatively, if you’re buying new, automakers and dealers are increasingly making the buying process digital.
These sites are useful, but remember that it’s always wise to check out a used car in person (and, if possible, take it for a thorough test drive) before you hand over a big wad of your hard-earned cash.
The best well-known site
Few sites surpass AutoTrader.com when it comes to advanced search tools. Like most sites on our list, AutoTrader’s initial search lets you choose the make, model, and price of your desired used cars. It also lets you filter your results based on fuel economy and a host of other parameters. Do you want a car with an intuitive navigation system? How about a sedan with four doors and keyless entry? Tick the options you need and let the results come to you.
The best site for the basics
Simple and straightforward, CarsDirect.com is all about the basics. You can search for used cars within a specific area based on body style, price, make, and/or model. Search results include offerings from both dealers and owners, with an option to view your desired car’s Carfax report. When you find what you’re after, you can submit an inquiry about it to receive more details from the seller, or request special financing if needed. There are links to car dealers’ websites, as well as comprehensive maps with directions to each store’s location.
The best site for classic car lovers
Hemmings is a classic car collector’s dream. The site is a blast from the past, reveling in everything from 1960s Chevrolet Impalas to Studebakers from the 1930s to newer classics from the 1980s while offering tools for locating specific parts and services pertaining to a car you already own. It publishes a daily newsletter, a fascinating blog that’s regularly updated by a team of knowledgeable writers, and several other resources aimed at the classic car owner. It even touts an online store where you can buy die-cast models, books, or wall calendars.
The best site for browsing on the go
Autolist may look similar to other sites here at first glance, but it has a leg up on the competition when it comes to mobile connectivity. Although the Autolist website is attractive and easy to use, it’s the accompanying mobile app for Android and iOS that makes it a standout. The intuitive software allows you to quickly scour the databases of other shopping apps, as well as various dealer websites. It also provides helpful information, such as how long the vehicle has been on sale, how its asking price has fluctuated over time, and what its Carfax report looks like. If you prefer to shop for your next ride on the move, this is the resource for you.
The best site for finding a bargain
If you’re looking for a bargain, CarGurus is your best bet. It ranks ads based on dealer reputation, when applicable, and price. The site goes a step further to educate buyers with information about a vehicle’s market value. That way, you’ll know whether now is the best time to shop or if you need to expand your search area. You can also see how long a vehicle has been listed on the site and how its list price has changed over time. This gives you negotiating power on cars that have been listed for a while, or lets you know when it’s too soon to ask for a price cut.
The best site for cross-site comparisons
If you’ve ever used sites like Kayak or Sky Scanner, AutoTempest.com will be right up your alley. The site combines search results from eBay Motors, Cars.com, AutoTrader, CarsDirect, and others, casting an all-encompassing net over a smattering of other used car sites on our list. AutoTempest’s homepage also features buying guides, checklists, and advice, as well as tips on negotiating and how to avoid purchasing a lemon, among other topics. The site provides specific guides for a selection of makes and models, along with car reviews and a compilation of frequently asked questions. And, it saves search results for easy access later, while offering suggestions for top-notch shipping services.
The best site for those looking for the ultimate shopping experience
The Kelley Blue Book is a car buyer’s best friend. It provides accurate estimates on what your car is worth, how much you should pay for a used car, and a deep selection of used and new car listings. You can browse top picks and tips, calculate a monthly car payment, and compare several cars. Expert and consumer reviews are also available, along with options for finding local dealers and checking your credit score. You can browse an assortment of awards pages, too, giving you a way to quickly peruse the best of the best.
The best auction site for enthusiasts
Launched by Doug DeMuro in the summer of 2020, Cars & Bids quickly became the go-to destination for enthusiasts looking to buy or sell a car. If you want a 2018 Corolla, you won’t find it on this platform. If you’re after something a little bit more special, like a low-mileage Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG or a one-year-only BMW L6, the site has you covered. Each auction includes a full gallery of the car (including close-ups and service records when they’re available) and a thorough description that highlights its main features, its ownership history, and its known flaws. Carfax is included as well. Many sellers include videos, too, which takes some of the stress out of buying a car sight-unseen.
Although it’s easy to search by make, model, and year using any of the aforementioned sites, there’s no harm in concentrating your search. If you’re looking for something specific, don’t be afraid to check out the online car owner and enthusiast groups associated with what you’re seeking. If using Google, tack on “forums” or “owners club” to whichever vehicle you’re searching for. Whether you’re peddling vintage Porsches or cars from the late AMC brand, there’s a community for almost every vehicle out there — even unloved ones. Browsing the classifieds section on these sites increases your chances of finding what you’re looking for. Plus, most of the listings are from experts who not only know what they are selling but are also invested in not getting a bad name in their respective communities.
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