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Wednesday, August 17th
If you've ever used TripAdvisor to plan a vacation and loved the service, you should take a look at CarGurus: the sites share a co-founder. In operation since 2006, CarGurus gets the most visits out of any online automotive marketplace in the US. The site uses in-depth analytics to give you insights into a new car's value, ranking it from "overpriced" to "great deal" and everywhere in between.
Excellent research tools
You could use CarGurus for the information alone. Go to the Research tab and you'll find Test Drive Reviews, Price Trends, Tips & Advice, and General Information on topics like deciding between certified pre-owned and new vehicles or what's covered by a new car warranty.
Filters come later
You'll want to have an idea of what you're looking for when you visit the CarGurus site, because it only lets you search by make and model (or by showing you ALL of the vehicles in your zip code): there's no filter to include certain features or price ranges on the first step of the search process. You'll find those once you've entered a make or at least your zip code: narrow down the options by color, desired features, dealer rating, or, our personal favorite, NHTSA Overall Safety Rating (safety first!).
Plenty of vehicles to choose from
CarGurus returned many more matching vehicles than most of their rivals. In our sample search for a new Toyota Highlander, we got results for nearly 100 cars within a 50 mile radius. Expanding that search to nationwide, there were over 4500 available. In a time when cars are selling faster than ever, it's critical to have lots of options, and CarGurus absolutely delivers in that regard.
Helpful and informative
In both the short results list and the individual vehicle listings, CarGurus doesn't bury the lead. You'll know exactly which dealership is selling the car, how long it's been listed on CarGurus and how many people have saved it as a favorite, whether or not there have been any price changes, and a price analysis to tell you if you're getting a good deal compared with similarly-equipped vehicles. And yes, you can also see lots of photos, look up the VIN, check out the features, and even get a preview on available financing.
Ready to connect?
So, you've found the new car of your dreams on CarGurus. What's next? You can use their fill-in-the-blank form on the right side of the page to send a message to the dealership. We think it's pretty novel compared with some car-buying sites' forms: you can choose several options in the dropdown boxes, like "I'd like to know your best price" or "I'd like to test drive this" . We also found options for connecting directly with the dealer via online chat (right above the Get a Quote form), and you're given all of the direct contact information for the dealer right underneath the photos. We love that CarGurus doesn't play any games or force you to use their method of contact so that they get the credit for it.
Just a few things to watch out for
You shouldn't have any concerns with CarGurus itself. The company is accredited and "A+" rated by the BBB, and barely over a dozen complaints were noted there in the 12 months leading up to this review. Looking at consumer commentary elsewhere, we found some issues when people used the CarGurus site to sell their vehicles but buyers almost always seem to come away happy with their experience here. That being said, be aware that your buying process will ultimately depend on the dealership itself. CarGurus does a good job of showing you detailed ratings and reviews (when available) on each dealer, but we read a handful of comments that said some dealers refused to honor the CarGurus price quote or hadn't provided accurate vehicle information for the CarGurus' listing.
Excellent way to buy a new car
CarGurus puts a lot of power in your hands when shopping for new cars. You'll find more listings here than on many other platforms, and it's easy to see where they're located and how to get in touch with the dealerships. Plus, the pricing insights can let you know what kind of wiggle room you have to negotiate - and how many other people might have the same idea. CarGurus gets one of our highest recommendations among services for buying a new car.
Gone are the days of heading blindly over to the nearest dealership, hoping to find something you'll like and being largely at the mercy of the salesperson who greets you at the door. Now, most people do extensive research online before ever setting foot on the lot - and that's assuming they're not having the vehicle delivered directly to their home, sight unseen. Today's new car-buying experience is vastly different from what it was even ten years ago.
So, what are the ways you can put online car-buying platforms to good use? Your first step is to gather information. What makes and models do you prefer? Which cars have a stellar track record for quality and safety? How much should you expect to spend to get your must-have features? The best sites will give you all of that knowledge and then some.
Next, use a car-buying site to figure out what cars are in stock near you - or nationwide, if you're willing to make a trip to pick it up or if the dealer offers delivery (usually for an extra charge). Use all of the available tools to narrow down your options by color, price, desired technology, miles per gallon, or any other criteria you've prioritized. When you click on a specific vehicle's listing, you can typically see which dealership is selling it and how to get in touch. You may even be able to see ratings from previous customers to determine if the dealer has a good reputation.
Finally, it's time to work with the dealership to make your purchase. At this point, most shoppers will head to the lot to finalize the deal: setting up financing if needed, bringing in their trade-in when applicable, and driving away. But, look at the vehicle listing closely and you may find you have the option to have the car brought right to you. Why not?
There are quite a few websites offering to help you find your new car. How can you tell which one to use? Keep these factors in mind:
To help you in the search for your new set of wheels, TopConsumerReviews.com has evaluated and ranked the best options for online car-shopping. We're sure that this information will save you time and get you connected with a vehicle you'll love to drive!
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