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No matter what, your first step should always be research. You should determine exactly what's going to fit your needs (or your wants!). Do you have a particular make and model in mind, or are features going to be king regardless of manufacturer? Whether you're all about safety or you feel the need for speed, it's well worth your time to dig into the details of price, reliability and availability, especially when used car inventory is at an all-time low nationwide.
Fortunately, there are many websites that help you do just that - and then make it possible for you to find your perfect new-to-you ride. Some of these platforms even let you buy your car online and have it delivered right to your house. Before you start worrying about the safety of such vehicles, rest assured that most companies selling used cars will include a detailed, independently-verified history report right in the car's listing.
Tuesday, May 17th
CarMax is the easy-breezy way to buy a quality used car. You won't have to haggle on the price or worry that they'll sell the car you want before you get there for your test drive. This dealership goes to great lengths to make the entire process something you can trust (and even enjoy). 24-hour test drives, a 30-day/1,500-mile return policy, and phenomenal (optional) extended warranty plans are just a few things we love about buying used cars here. CarMax is our first-place winner among sites offering pre-owned vehicles.
Cars allows you to find the used car you want at dealerships near you. Unlike many of their competitors, Cars does not require you to enter your contact information to see pricing, which is great if you're hoping to do your research without being contacted by sometimes-pushy salespeople. They also provide a number of resources for researching your pre-owned car purchase.
CarGurus is a great resource for finding used cars for purchase. Their interface makes it extremely simple to not only see vehicles for sale, but also to determine if they're fairly priced. You'll eventually need to connect to the dealership or seller - either through an inquiry sent via CarGurus or by going to the dealer site directly - but this service can get you plenty of info beforehand. CarGurus earns a solid recommendation.
Autotrader's used car listings go above and beyond. Not only will you get the usual brand-name dealerships and some online-only options, but here you'll see private listings and smaller used car lots too. There's plenty of detail to help you analyze each vehicle, from KBB values that are updated weekly to CARFAX reports and more. Autotrader is worth trying when you're buying a used car.
Edmunds gets car research done right. From video reviews to comparison guides and more, this website is one of the best resources you could use to research your used car purchase. It doesn't fully measure up to its rivals on the actual buying side of things. Listings here may be outdated, and you have to pay to get a full vehicle history report. We suggest starting at Edmunds to help you choose your next vehicle and using one of the higher-ranked services to take the next steps.
TrueCar has traditionally been a high finisher in our ratings for buying used cars. But recently, they've been outpaced by some of their competitors. This service no longer gives you a free vehicle history report, and some site users have had big frustrations with dealerships not honoring the TrueCar price quote. You can still use TrueCar to get a reasonable overview of what's for sale near you and to do pre-purchase research, but you'll get more overall from a higher-ranked platform.
Have you seen a Carvana delivery truck or "vending machine" near you? This is probably the online-only used car buying service with the most visibility. Thousands of people praise Carvana for being fast, easy and affordable, with plenty of cars to choose from and a 7-day money-back guarantee or exchange. And yet, not everyone comes out a happy camper here: we found lots of complaints describing extremely delayed deliveries, missing paperwork, and vehicles that should have failed inspection but were sold anyway. It's definitely caveat emptor here, but you might wind up with a used car you like.
Web2Carz is helpful if you're in the research stage of buying a used car. You'll find make- and model-specific reviews and buying guides, up-to-date automotive industry news, and informative articles about every part of the process. But when it comes to actually purchasing a vehicle, this isn't the most useful platform. Listings are inconsistent, and you'll wind up having to contact the dealership anyway.
Cars Direct really isn't that direct when it comes to buying used cars. Their listings refer you to a limited number of vehicles: just those dealerships and online-only partners who pay them for your information, and maybe some completely unrelated businesses too. There's no way to buy your next vehicle through this site, so no matter what you're going to wind up elsewhere for your purchase.
Driveway is the latest shop-from-home platform for buying used cars. We appreciate that they have no-haggle pricing and a 7-day/400-mile return policy on the 25,000+ pre-owned vehicles in their inventory, and that the deposit required to reserve a car is refundable or applied to the purchase price. Unfortunately, that's not enough to make us overlook Driveway's reputation. The company already fails to respond to customer complaints and seems to have significant issues with getting proper documentation to buyers. You'll be better off with a different service when buying a used car.
Vroom wants you to buy your used car without ever setting foot in a dealership: shop online, pay or finance online, get your car in up to two weeks. It sounds great, but this company has a terrible reputation from start to finish. Cars arrive with problems that should never have passed Vroom's inspection, deliveries and vital documentation are delayed, and customers have a horrible time getting any help from Vroom reps. Is it any wonder that the BBB gives this company an "F" ? Choose a different service for buying used cars.
You can see how many owners it's had, any accidents reported, and sometimes the service history detailing oil changes and other routine maintenance. Buying used cars online is a huge time-saver too: you don't have to make a long drive to a dealership hoping they'll have something on the lot that you'll like, and you can avoid a lot of the "pushy salesperson" experience.
Most sites that sell pre-owned vehicles also have tools for determining how much you can afford and prequalifying for financing - which is one less thing you'll have to do in person (assuming you don't take the 100% online route from the get-go).
Which site should you use for buying used cars? There are a lot of similarities among them, and among the highest-rated services you can choose fairly freely without worrying about missing out. But, here are some things to consider about any used car website you're looking at:
TopConsumerReviews.com has evaluated and ranked the best online services for buying used cars. We're confident that this information will help you get your next pre-owned set of wheels at a price you'll love!
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