We buy almost everything online, from garbage bags to video games, so why would cars be the exception to the rule? Whether you’re looking for a very specific make and model or just something that runs and doesn’t cost much to own, odds are you can find it online instead of spending a Sunday walking through every used car lot in town. Here are the classifieds sites you need to browse and the resources you should use when shopping for your next car online.
Alternatively, if you’re buying new, automakers and dealers are increasingly making the buying process digital.
You can browse these virtual car lots from the comfort of your living room; you don’t even need to put pants on. The best used car sites show you listings, but they also provide key information about a specific vehicle’s condition, features, and ownership history. They’re 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, Auto Trader’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 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, apparel, books, or wall calendars.
If that’s not enough, Hemmings is also an excellent resource for buying tips and links to upcoming local auctions, and it launched an auction service that lists anything from a classic Mini to a modified Corvette. Knowing how much to pay for a classic car is tricky. If you have a question, the experts at Hagerty likely have the answer.
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 dealership 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 while 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 true 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 big price cut.
The best site for cross-site comparisons
If you’ve ever used sites like Kayak or Sky Scanner, AutoTempest 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 car makes and models, along with comprehensive car reviews and a compilation of frequently asked questions. And, it saves search results for easy access later, while offering several 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.
Car enthusiast Forums
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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