Shopping for a used car can be quite an ordeal. You have to do your research, find a car that interests you, scour the internet, and contact the seller. Hopefully, they’ve described it fairly and honestly. That’s a lot.
It’s far more work than buying a new car in which you walk into a dealership, drive a bunch of cars, and hash out a deal. The amount of work involved in purchasing a used car is reason enough for some buyers to skip the internet altogether and head to a local new car dealer instead.
We’re here to help take away some of that stress. We’ve put together a list of the Best Used Car Websites that you can refer to the next time you’re in the market for a used vehicle. We can’t absolve you of all your worries, but we can certainly help narrow down the best sites to start your search.
Check out the following websites before you head out for a test drive. We think you’ll be able to find a site that helps you feel more comfortable so you can concentrate on nailing down a good deal.
Autotrader has been around for a very long time, producing paperback flyers that used to clutter the vestibules of grocery and hardware stores. This practice goes way back to a time before the internet, and its expertise and recognizable name make it a trusted avenue in the car-buying space.
Autotrader’s greatest strength is its huge audience, wide network, and the sheer volume of new and used cars. The search function’s simplicity makes it easy to use and quickly pulls together a list of the make and model that you’re interested in from local sources. You’ll certainly get a good idea of what’s available and the prices you can expect to pay from doing a comparison on Autotrader.
It’s important to recognize that Autotrader is merely a digital classified section, which means that the company does very little to verify sellers’ legitimacy, and it doesn’t do any physical inspection, so verifying the condition of the vehicle won’t happen either. There are no vehicle history reports available, so you’ll have to do your own research. This can be a platform for sheisty dealings, so be aware and do your research.
CarGurus is another major player in the used car marketplace. The company was launched in 2006 by Langley Steinert, one of the co-founders of TripAdvisor. Clearly, his knowledge of the online deal-seeking experience has led to some great success as CarGurus is the favorite shopping platform for many experienced buyers.
It’s also backed by a large community of members that pepper the question-and-answer boards on a regular basis to keep information up-to-date and relative. The shopping experience delivered by CarGurus is a fairly transparent and informative one. The website uses complex algorithms to put together a list of the vehicles you’ve shown interest in, just like other sites.
Where it gets interesting is when CarGurus analyzes all the listings and gives you its opinion. You’ll know which deals CarGurus thinks are best, good, fair, and the worst, based on market value, miles, and options. This can be a very helpful feature because price doesn’t always reflect the value of a deal.
The main issue we see with CarGurus is that it lacks any verification process. Anyone can sell a vehicle on CarGurus, and while that does provide for an expansive selection of great cars, it also allows a shady seller or a below-standard car to slip in and take advantage. This is something worth keeping an eye on.
Kelley Blue Book
You may recognize the Kelley Blue Book name for the nearly 100 years it has spent being the go-to valuation tool. It provides a car’s private party, trade-in, and dealer estimated values. Did you also know that you can use the KBB as a platform to buy and sell cars? Kelley Blue Book is a one-stop shop for almost all things related to car shopping.
The biggest asset that KBB has going for it is its trusted name. Kelley Blue Book has been around since the 1920s, and people recognize that. This has led to a large database of new and used cars. To supplement its valuation estimates, KBB offers a lot of other tools and resources, including an Autocheck history report for every vehicle.
Kelley Blue Book’s old-school personality shines through when it comes to the site’s technology, however, and that’s not a good thing. There are a lot of complaints that the mobile app is glitchy, and that the site itself can be touchy. While KBB has all the information you need to make an informed purchase, you may have to work harder to access it than you would with other sites.
If you’re shopping for a used car but you’re not interested in pursuing a private-party sale, CarsDirect might be the perfect route to success. Around since 1998, CarsDirect is a dealer-only platform that connects buyers with deals on new and used cars and also provides some peace of mind to users.
CarsDirect has some really great features for used car shoppers. The site has a very comprehensive search function, so narrowing down the perfect car is a straightforward process. Input a few range values and preference clicks, and you’ll be on your way to picking out the right car.
If you’re unsure or just not ready to make a purchase, you can save your search and come back later without losing your bearing on the site. Finally, CarsDirect is truly comprehensive when it comes to the shopping experience. The company can facilitate connections between buyers and dealers, insurers, or lenders, really simplifying the process.
It’s hard to complain about a site that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. The only downside that we see is that a private seller can’t list his or her car on the site, but the fact is that CarsDirect doesn’t hide or shy away from that. This also adds some levels of accountability and verifiability, so we don’t really see this as a drawback.
Bring a Trailer
When you have a very specific or rare vehicle in mind, regular used car sites won’t cut it. Many of them don’t allow vehicles past a certain age, so if it’s a classic you’re looking for, you’ve got to try something else. Fortunately, there’s a decent, transparent, non-sleazy way to buy a classic or rare car: Bring a Trailer.
Bring a Trailer is an auction site where enthusiasts, collectors, and performance-minded buyers and sellers can enter into a transaction that both can be confident about. This is the feel-good option over other, more popular auction sites. BaT, as it’s known in the automotive world, does its best to verify the condition of a vehicle, the legitimacy of the seller, and offers very comprehensive descriptions while also including tons of pictures.
There is a downside to BaT: You’re not likely to walk away with a steal of a deal. The reason why is that sellers using BaT are enthusiasts, and they know what their vehicles are worth. Most of them are moving on to a new project or rare car and those types of purchases are rarely financeable. That means they have an idea of how much money they need to get for their cars, so low reserves and steals are less likely. What you do get, though, is a rare vehicle in a verified condition from a somewhat reputable seller.
Another interesting, alternative option to the typical used car website is AutoTempest. Founded in 2008, this is a reliable used car search engine that pulls from all the sites we’ve mentioned above as well as eBay Motors, Cars.com, Carvana, and Craigslist. The end result is a collection of used cars that fit your criteria from a number of different sources.
AutoTempest provides a pretty straightforward experience for car shoppers. With a little bit of data input into its system, it provides a long list of vehicles from different sites that you can click on to get an idea of what’s available. AutoTempest also has a library of buying guides of the best cars, trucks, and SUVs, so you may find that helpful if they have a relevant guide for you.
The downside of AutoTempest is that you can’t buy from or through it. When you select a car off its list, you are redirected to another company’s site to continue the shopping experience. This may be frustrating, and it removes literally none of the guesswork from the process.
There are a number of other great sites for buying and selling used cars that deserve an honorable mention. Sites like Cars.com, Hemmings, and Edmunds all have their own set of pros and cons and can be instrumental in finding you a good deal.
Cars.com has been around since 1998, making it one of the original used car websites. It features a huge inventory of listings, making it a great stop when looking for a good deal. The downside of this site is that it’s an attractive medium for scammers to take advantage of car buyers.
If you’re looking for a classic car, we have another option you can try: Hemmings. This is another enthusiast site but doesn’t operate solely on auctions. There are thousands of listings, so it’s a good site to start your search for that car you’ve been dreaming of since high school. The issue with using Hemmings is that it’s relegated to niche cars only. Chances are you won’t be able to access an off-lease minivan using Hemmings.
Lastly, Edmunds is another old standby that has built a solid reputation for itself during its 50-plus years in business. The website offers buyers several tools to understand the actual cost of owning a particular vehicle, which is helpful for prospective buyers. One area we wish they’d improve upon is the amount of contact information required to inquire about a vehicle. Inputting your phone number will undoubtedly lead to dozens of calls by eager salespeople, and that’s enough to turn some customers off entirely.
Keep our list of the Best Used Car Websites in mind if you’re thinking about purchasing a used car. These are good resources to help get a great deal and make an informed decision. You’re still going to have to do your research and get a vehicle history report. Companies like Carfax will give you some insight into a car’s history, so reference that as well. In the end, there’s always some risk to buying a used car, but we think you can hedge your bets if you use the companies on this list.