As exciting as it is to buy a new car — err, at least one that’s new to you — the process of finding and purchasing any vehicle can be a bit of a headache. No one enjoys a high-pressure salesman breathing down their neck, trying to get them to take home a car that’s just not what they’re looking for. Thankfully, there are plenty of websites aimed at the conscientious car buyer, all of which are lined with everything from midsize sedans to all-terrain pickup trucks.
These virtual car lots allow you to swap the salesman and pressure-laden environment for a comfortable chair and air conditioning, while still providing all the necessary information regarding each car’s condition and history. But the question remains: Which site is the most competent and void of scammers, crooks, and the like? Read on to find out.
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 car. It also lets you filter your results based on fuel economy and a host of other specifications. For instance, do you want a car with an intuitive navigation system? How about a sedan with four doors and keyless entry? Check the box for either option 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. CarsDirect also lets you save your favorite cars and search history when deciding between different vehicles, and each search result provides a slew of images detailing the selected cars’ condition. Submit an inquiry about the particular make or model you’re looking at, or choose whether you’re looking for special financing. There are links to car dealers’ websites, as well as comprehensive maps with directions to each dealer’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, while offering tools for locating specific parts or services pertaining to a car you may already own. The site offers a daily newsletter, a blog that’s regularly updated, and several other resources aimed at the classic car owner. It even touts an online storefront where you can buy diecast models, apparel, books for collectors, or wall calendars. If that wasn’t enough, Hemmings is also an excellent resource for supplementary buying tips and links to upcoming local auctions.
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. Why? Because CarGurus ranks ads based on dealer reputation, when applicable, and price. The site then 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, 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 it be classic Porsches or cars from the late AMC brand, there’s a community for almost every car out there. Browsing the classifieds section on these sites only increases your chances of finding what you’re looking for. Plus, most the listings here are by experts who not only know what they are selling, but are also invested in not getting a bad name in their respective communities.