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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.
Saturday, June 25th
CarMax has been around for over 60 years. With more than 200 stores in 41 states, you've probably seen this used car dealership somewhere near you. If you're looking to buy a used car, starting with the 45,000+ vehicles in CarMax's nationwide inventory is a smart choice.
Very easy-to-use website
The process of using the CarMax site to find your next used car couldn't get any easier. You can start shopping by vehicle type, make, or price range - or type in your preferred make, model or other keywords (like AWD or blind spot detection) right in the search bar. Also, be sure that your preferred CarMax location is in the upper right corner of the page; it'll detect your location automatically, but you can choose a different store if you like. You'll be taken to a list of results that you can filter even further, and arrange the list any way you wish: lowest to highest mileage or price, distance from you, and so forth.
Transfer cars from other CarMax locations
What happens if you see a used car you like, but it's at a CarMax that's hundreds (or thousands) of miles away? No problem. You'll see a transfer fee listed right on the vehicle's details. You'll have to pay that in advance and it's non-refundable, but it's well worth it to get the car that has all of the specs you've been picturing in your new-to-you car. For what it's worth, we've never seen a transfer fee over $500; most are somewhere in the $99-$199 range, depending on the distance between CarMax locations.
Schedule a test drive to reserve a vehicle
When you've spotted a CarMax vehicle you're interested in, we strongly recommend that you schedule a test drive within the next seven days. Why? When you've made a reservation, that car is no longer viewable in detail or test-drivable by anyone else. That offers a big advantage over many of the used car platforms we evaluated, which often explicitly state that there's no guarantee that any given vehicle won't be sold before you get there.
Why have people used CarMax to buy over nine million pre-owned vehicles? This company has some features that make it stand head and shoulders above your typical used car lot or big-brand dealership. First and foremost, you never have to haggle for a better price here. The amount you see is what you'll pay - and that's true whether or not you trade in a vehicle or use their financing. For those of us who absolutely cringe at the thought of bargaining back and forth with a salesperson, this is a huge perk.
"Love Your Car Guarantee"
Another shopper-friendly aspect of buying a used car through CarMax is their "Love Your Car Guarantee" . That starts with a 24-hour test drive - no guesswork as to whether or not that full-sized SUV is going to fit in your garage or if all of your car seats can fit comfortably, because you can find out before you sign on the dotted line. Even after you buy the vehicle, CarMax gives you a 30-day money-back guarantee, up to 1,500 miles. Do you get the idea that they really want you to be happy with your purchase here?
Used cars are thoroughly inspected
Plus, CarMax goes to great lengths to inspect and choose the cars they sell on their lots. You'll never find a vehicle here with flood damage, frame damage or salvage history. They have a detailed 125-point checklist for every inspection, and anything that doesn't meet their standards is repaired or replaced before being listed for sale. On average, a CarMax vehicle gets 15 hours of attention - replacing parts, fixing bigger dents and scratches, and detailing inside and out - so that you can feel confident in buying any used car they carry.
Fantastic extended warranty coverage available
Beyond that, CarMax offers some of the best extended warranty coverage in the industry. The cost depends on the vehicle price, the length of time/mileage, and the selected deductible, but customers report that it's well worth the investment (and it can be rolled into your financing if you choose). The policy covers anything that isn't specifically excluded; those are usually wear-and-tear items like brakes and windshield wipers, and of course they won't cover anything you've damaged. Your car can be serviced either at a CarMax location or at one of their network of approved partners; you'll save $50 on your deductible when you choose the former.
Not necessarily for every used car buyer
Are there any downsides to buying used cars at CarMax? Maybe, depending on what you're looking for. A fixer-upper? Nope - broken cars don't meet this company's high standards. A great deal that you get with your world-class bargaining skills? That's not going to be possible; as we mentioned, the price is the price, end of story. A private sale? Not here. And, as of the time of this evaluation, there were nine states where CarMax didn't have a presence yet.
Our first choice for buying used cars
But, in our opinion, those are really minor compared with the overall picture. CarMax takes great care of its customers from start to finish, their reputation is excellent (including an "A+" from the Better Business Bureau), and you're likely to drive away with a used car that's in terrific shape and priced fairly. What's not to love about that? For all of these reasons and more, CarMax is the first site we'd recommend for buying used cars. They earn our highest rating.
Headquartered in Chicago, Cars was launched in 1998 to connect car shoppers with sellers, primarily dealerships. With over 50,000 cars added to this site daily, it's a great way to find your next used car in a time when pre-owned vehicles can be hard to come by.
Searching is easy
To find your used car match here, you'll click either Make or Body Style to start. Other dropdowns include preferred distance, max price and location, or use the "advanced search" link to get really specific with mileage, deal rating, drivetrain, transmission, and interior/exterior colors. From there, your results are easy to sort by price, mileage and so forth. Plus, you can use the filters to narrow it down even further - in case you've got convenience or entertainment features in mind, or your car needs to have third-row seats.
Use the "matchmaker" if you need help
Totally unsure what you need? Cars has a fun tool they sometimes refer to as "Matchmaker" ; you might have seen humorous commercials showing how people and their vehicles "met" on this platform. You can get there by using the dropdowns under "Shop by what matters most" . Select the overall body style (car, truck, SUV, van) and your max price. Next, you'll use some sliders to indicate what matters to you, from roominess and cargo area to ride comfort and technology. We found our recommended vehicles to be absolutely spot on, and it was super-convenient to be able to click either on model details or local inventory to get the ball rolling.
Excellent info at a glance
We're very enthusiastic about the quality of the listings on Cars. Scrolling through your used car matches, you'll see at a glance exactly where each car is located, the price and mileage, a rating of whether or not it's a good deal (and a dollar amount for how it compares), a link to the free CARFAX report, the rating of the dealership, and quick-access buttons for calling or checking the car's availability. What else could you ask for?
Super attention to detail
When you look at a specific car's listing, all of your questions will probably be answered. From dealer ratings to customer reviews on the make and model itself, you'll be well-equipped to decide if you want to take the next step and contact the dealership. It's every bit as thorough as what you'll find if you see the vehicle's listing on the dealer website, plus you've got Cars' Deal Gauge that shows you how it compares with similar cars for sale. Plus, you can either use the Cars online form to ask about availability, or click the link to see the car right on the seller's website. Cars earns our appreciation for not making people do the guesswork to figure out how to reach the dealership directly.
Car buyers love this site
Cars gets plenty of love reputation-wise. The Better Business Bureau gives this platform a perfect "A+" rating and accreditation, and we were impressed to see just nine complaints registered there in the past three years. More than 80% of Cars users give it a 4- or 5-star rating, and people are especially happy with the way this service helps them compare different makes and models of vehicles and narrow down their options - and then see what's actually available near them.
Top-rated resource for buying used cars
The only reason Cars doesn't earn our first-place ranking is because you're still at the mercy of individual dealerships once you've chosen your car here. Cars doesn't guarantee that you'll have a good experience once you've left their site and moved on to the negotiation process. Still, that's a really minor issue. Cars is an excellent way to save time and hassle when buying used cars, and we give this service one of our highest ratings.
The co-founder of TripAdvisor is the brains behind CarGurus, created in 2006. According to their statistics, this site is the most visited automotive marketplace in the United States. Users really appreciate how this platform rates each vehicle listing on a scale from "overpriced" up to "great deal" , using powerful analytics to analyze inventory and come up with a valuation in real time.
Makes it easy to find cars
Using CarGurus goes two ways: you can shop by body style, or you can enter details like make and model, price range, and/or zip code and search radius. This site goes a little deeper in the body style options. You've got the basic sedan, SUV and truck (with helpful pictures in case you're not sure of the difference), plus coupe, hatchback, convertible, wagon and minivan too.
Detailed, useful filters
Next, use the filters to sort through the choices. Maybe you only want cars available for home delivery, or you prefer listings that are new to the market. Done and done. Other filters include engine, features, and deal ratings, but our favorite is "NHTSA Overall Safety Rating" (because we're careful like that). Once you've got your matching results page, keep in mind that the first few shown will probably be sponsored ads and not necessarily your best matches.
No mystery involved with car sellers
What's nice about looking for used cars through CarGurus is the full disclosure of each vehicle's location. Yes, you can use the CG site to send an inquiry to the dealership or seller, but if you'd rather stay incognito for a little longer, you can just go directly to the place offering the car for sale. Each dealer has reviews you can read on the CarGurus site too, and you can even see the price history on each vehicle you're considering.
Better for car buyers than sellers
CarGurus has accreditation and an "A+" rating from the Better Business Bureau, with just 13 complaints filed there in the year prior to this evaluation. Customer reviews are a mixed bag, but they divide pretty evenly down the line between buyers and sellers. Almost everyone that uses this site to sell their own cars comes away disappointed, but lots of car buyers say that this service is excellent.
Experiences with car dealers vary
However, we advise you to be aware of a few things. First, as with many referral services like this one, there's no guarantee that the dealer will honor the price quoted on CarGurus or that the vehicle will be available by the time you reach the lot. We found a few reviews that described situations like that. Second, this service doesn't make any promises about the quality of the dealers with whom it partners. Some customers said that they had some shady experiences with dealers falsifying CARFAX reports or not disclosing problems; there's no recourse with CarGurus if that happens.
Decent resource for used car-buying
CarGurus gives you a lot of information you'll need to have a good experience buying a used car. We found plenty of listings in every area we searched, and we really appreciate this service's transparency with where the cars are located. As long as you keep in mind that the rest of your transaction will depend on the reputability of the dealer/seller and not on CarGurus, you should have no problems here.
More than 14 million people visit Autotrader every month in their search for a vehicle. This site can be a good way to "cover a lot of ground" quickly, because with a single search you can see hundreds of listings from big dealerships, local used car lots, online-only services (including at least one from our other reviews), as well as private sellers.
Lots of search options if you look carefully
While the main Used Cars page makes it look like you'll need to enter a make a model to get started, look closely and you'll see you can also browse by make, by style, search by budget or use the advanced search options to get specific about the vehicle you want.
Helpful features to filter even more
When you're taken to your initial results page, you can then filter and sort to eliminate anything that's not a good match. We liked the "quick buttons" of suggested filters, like "2019 and older" or "6 cylinder" . Another great tool is the "My Wallet" feature: just enter your approximate credit score range, the percentage of your down payment, your monthly budget and any trade-in details, and your search results will adjust to show the estimated monthly payment on each vehicle.
Information is easy to find
Autotrader does an excellent job of getting you all of the information you need, right from the start. It's great to be able to scroll through the results list and see not just the price but even some cars marked as being a great deal, the name/phone number/distance of the seller, links to the CARFAX report, mileage and more. Some used cars also have an "Accelerate My Deal" option - you can start the process online and save time at the dealership if you're pretty sure you've found the car you intend to purchase. And, whether you use the Autotrader form or you contact the seller directly, it's completely up to you how you want to get the ball rolling and see if the car is still for sale.
Check the KBB value
Within the details of each Autotrader listing, there's even more to help you analyze the vehicle. You'll see a Kelley Blue Book fair market range for your specific zip code (and it's updated every week), any remaining factory warranty coverage, any available photos and sometimes even a video walk-around. The only part that was a little lacking sometimes were the details on the included features, but that could be the sellers' responsibility to enter and not Autotrader's fault.
Watch out for scams
How about reputation? On the one hand, Autotrader is accredited and has an "A+" rating from the Better Business Bureau, with very few complaints registered there. That's usually a good sign, but this service gets a lot of negative feedback elsewhere. We found a concerning number of car buyers who said that many cars listed here are fraudulent (like Nigerian prince-type scams). That's not Autotrader's doing, but they could do a better job of preventing those listings from ever being published.
Most listings are from dealerships
Fortunately, though, the vast majority of listings on this site are not private sellers. For example, as we searched for Toyota Highlanders in our area, there were more than 200 results from dealerships and just three that were private sales.
Gives you lots of used cars to consider
Overall, we like using Autotrader because it gives us one-search access to a wide range of used car sellers - not just private listings or just big dealerships, but some lesser-known options too. We recommend caution when considering private sales because of the fraud concerns, but other than that you should be able to use Autotrader to see a satisfying range of used car options.
Edmunds knows cars. You'll have a hard time finding any other site for buying used cars that goes the extra mile (pun intended). For example, their editorial team test drives more than 300 vehicles a year, driving a half-million miles to provide in-depth reviews (even videos). You can put Edmunds' 50+ years of expertise to work for you as you decide which car is best for you.
Straightforward vehicle search
Ready to find your next vehicle? Click on the "Used" tab and then choose how you want to search: by make/model, type, or price. Next, click the button to indicate if you prefer listings of vehicles that are in-store or that can be purchased online for home delivery (or don't click either one if you'd like to see results for both). Once you've entered your zip code you'll see all of the matches near you.
The filters you'd expect
From there, feel free to use the filters button if you've got further preferences. You can choose color, safety features, vehicle history, package options, and more to help narrow down your search. Finally, the "sort by" dropdown is helpful for prioritizing whatever you want to see first: lowest price, lowest mileage, year, date listed, or value.
Not as much detail provided
There's not a ton of information in the basic results list. You'll see price, distance from the zip code you entered, mileage, value assessment, and a photo. But, once you click on a used car that interests you, you'll be able to see more - some of the features and specs, detailed analysis of the price, how long the listing has been on Edmunds and any price changes in that time, and so on. We would have liked to see greater details in the features/specs department, and we were disappointed that prospective car buyers only get a limited vehicle history through AutoCheck unless they pay for a full history report. Many of Edmunds' rivals offer complimentary reports from CARFAX right on their vehicles' listings, so this drops Edmunds in our rankings.
See consumer reviews on dealerships and car makes/models
We like that used car listings on Edmunds incorporate both dealership and vehicle ratings/reviews from customers. We thought it was interesting that those didn't necessarily line up with buyer feedback in other places, but that's not something we'd worry about.
Terrific reputation as a research tool
You won't find too many negative comments about Edmunds. The Better Business Bureau gives this platform an "A+" and accreditation, with only three complaints filed there in the three years prior to this evaluation. Most people say that Edmunds is an excellent option for researching cars prior to purchase: they're informative, detailed, and accurate without being pushy.
Cars listed might not be available
Besides the lack of a free, comprehensive vehicle history report, Edmunds also comes up a little short when it comes to vehicle availability. You'll either have to fill out the online form on the Edmunds site to send in an inquiry, or you'll have to visit the site using the dealer's link waaaaaaaay down at the bottom of the listing. That's not uncommon, but on one vehicle we liked we saw that right in the featured photo, the dealer had attached a "pending sale" banner. Buying a used car can be frustrating, and having to take that many extra steps to then find out it wasn't actually available for purchase? Not our favorite.
Great for research, just okay for car-buying
Edmunds is a world-class resource for learning more about any cars you're considering for your next purchase. No matter where you buy your used car, we recommend you stop here to get the most in-depth information out there. But, should you rely on this service to actually connect you with your car once you've chosen? It's not the worst thing you could do by any means, but other platforms do a better job of giving you up-to-date listings and thorough vehicle histories too.
TrueCar got its start in 2005 as an automotive digital marketplace that aims to make it easy, transparent and efficient to buy used cars. While you can use this service directly as a consumer, you'll also find that it's the platform behind many well-known auto-buying programs offered through businesses like Sam's Club, American Express, and Navy Federal Credit Union.
Basic search capabilities
From the main used car page on TrueCar, choose whether you'd like to shop by brand, body type, or price range. Once you've entered your zip code, you'll get a list of results that you can further narrow down by price, mileage, model year and more, and then sort your matches by price, distance from your location, mileage, year, or newest listings.
Many different types of used car sellers
Your listings will include vehicles sold by large dealerships, small car lots, and even internet-only used car services (like the three you'll find in our other reviews). While TrueCar doesn't exactly highlight who the sellers are, you can usually figure it out on your own from the listings - and you can use that to go directly to the dealership or website if you like.
Missing some details
This site isn't as robust as its rivals with respect to the details they offer. For example, while the vehicles are listed according to whether they're a good deal, overpriced, and so on, we didn't find those evaluations to be accurate. For example, on one car we liked, it was just $50 below the average list price and yet was still classified as "great price" . You also get very limited vehicle history here - just a summary of the accidents reported, title, and number of owners, unless you pay for a full report from AutoCheck.
Still a good service for doing research
On the other hand, TrueCar is still a good option if you're doing research before you buy a used car. From reviews and rankings to shopping guides and other articles, you'll find plenty here to help you along.
Not the best reputation
TrueCar has had a pretty sturdy reputation in the past. The company is both "A+" rated and accredited by the Better Business Bureau, with less than a dozen complaints filed there in the year leading up to this evaluation. But, some of their more recent reviews elsewhere aren't as positive. 75% of people who use TrueCar give it a "great" or "excellent" rating - but do the math and you'll realize that means that a fourth of their users say it's "average" , "poor" , or flat-out "bad" .
Refusal to honor price
We're not sure if it's a factor of the current used car market, but more than a few people complained that the cars they were matched with on TrueCar weren't available anymore by the time they went to the dealer (even within 24 hours of setting up the appointment to go in and buy the vehicles). Other people said that the dealers refused to honor the TrueCar price once they went to the dealership in person. It's concerning to us that many of this service's comments within the last six months use the words "waste of time" or even "scam" .
Just okay for buying used cars
When you're just trying to get an overview of the used cars in your area, TrueCar isn't a horrible place to start - and it's even a decent way to compare multiple sites for buying used cars all at once. But is it the best resource out there? Not really. Plan on having to take a few extra steps beyond what you find on TrueCar before you're able to actually buy your next vehicle.
Carvana may be the best-known brand in the 100% online car-buying industry. No salespeople, no commissions, and no pressure. Just shop for your used car online and decide if you want to pick it up at a Carvana "vending machine" location near you or have it delivered right to your doorstep.
No problem finding used cars here
The Carvana site is easy to use. Search for your desired make/model or by keyword to get started; otherwise, use the options to narrow down the choices by payment and price, body style, and so forth. From there, use the "Sort By" option to list your results by price, mileage, vehicle age, or alphabetically by make and model.
150-point inspection and CARFAX history
All Carvana vehicles go through a 150-point inspection, and you can see for yourself exactly how any vehicle measured up. You can see what was replaced or fixed, any cosmetic issues, plus the CARFAX vehicle history.
No guesswork on delivery
We really like how each vehicle listing tells you when you can expect delivery. For example, one vehicle we liked was available for delivery within three business days if we completed the purchasing process in the next three hours. Theoretically, anyway, you could use Carvana if you're in a hurry to get a car and can't wait up to 14 days (or longer) like some of their rivals require. You can also get free delivery within certain areas. Make sure your location is correctly entered on the search page and you'll be able to preview your delivery costs while you browse their used car inventory. Even within a free delivery area, you may still have shipping costs of up to $590, based on the distance between where you live and where the vehicle is currently located.
Place a pre-order hold
Carvana also lets you place a pre-order hold for $100. What's that? All Carvana vehicles go through an inspection process before being made available for purchase; if you see a car that you think you might want to buy once it's listed, the $100 is refundable if you change your mind.
7-day "test own" period
You'll have 7 days to "test own" your Carvana used car. If it doesn't live up to your expectations, you can either return it for a refund or exchange it (up to 3 times) for a different vehicle. Beyond, that, every car has a 100-day/4189-mile limited warranty
Some people really love Carvana
If customer feedback is any indication, you're either going to love or hate Carvana. Out of more than 4,000 ratings, about half give this service a perfect five stars. We're glad to see comments from people who say the experience delivered exactly what was promised, from delivery timeframes to the vehicles' condition. Some clients have used Carvana in both directions (buying and selling used cars) and think it's practically the best thing since sliced bread, so to speak. The Better Business Bureau gives Carvana both accreditation and an "A-" rating as well.
Thousands of complaints
On the other hand, over 1,200 people gave Carvana the lowest possible score of just one star. Frequent complaints revolve around paperwork (such as not getting registration papers until months after the purchase was completed), major delivery delays, and problems with the vehicles that went undetected during Carvana's inspection process. We've heard of some customers spending the better part of a month (or longer) getting a Carvana vehicle delivered, finding significant issues, sending it back for exchange, and then repeating the entire process in the hope of finally getting a decent used car.
Room for improvement
We give Carvana a "just average" rating. While we might have gone lower because of the negative feedback, this service still has a decent number of satisfied customers and comes out ahead of the other "buy from home" platforms we evaluated. The lesser of three evils? It's not going to be the way most people will have a good experience buying used cars, but for some consumers it works.
Web2Carz seeks to "inform, entertain and enable" people searching for their next vehicle. You'll find automotive buying guides, helpful articles about specific car models and much more, as well as a platform for finding used cars for sale. Don't be fooled by the initial appearance of this site - far from outdated, you'll find coverage of daily automotive news and ample info about the most current model years here.
Search capabilities are a little lackluster
You may want to use those research features first, because Web2Carz requires you to enter a make and model to begin your used car search, along with your zip code and preferred maximum distance. On the next page, you can use sliders to indicate your maximum mileage and price, your preferred model years, and (again?) maximum driving distance. There are also buttons for sorting those results by distance, price, year, mileage, CARFAX report and CARFAX 1-owner vehicles. Unfortunately, that's where it stops. You can't specify any must-have features, like a sunroof or lane departure warnings, color, or trim level. That's a disadvantage that puts Web2Carz below most of the resources we reviewed for buying a used car.
Listings are inconsistent
What will happen when you click on a car you like? That varies. Sometimes, Web2Carz will redirect you right to the dealership listing. For others, you may have to do some sleuthing on the listing to see where it's being sold and then reach out directly. (For example, on a 2018 Toyota Highlander, we were able to see a map and the dealership name in the photo listing on the Web2Carz site.) You can submit an availability request through this platform too.
Details... or not?
For cars with a direct link, you'll get all of the information the dealer provides - which is usually pretty detailed. On those used car links that stay on the Web2Carz site and make you request more info, sometimes you'll get next to no details on the car's features and only stock photos for the make, model and trim level. This inconsistency makes for a frustrating shopping experience.
Inquiries go into the void
How about reputation? Not only is Web2Carz accredited and "A+" rated by the Better Business Bureau, there were absolutely no complaints filed there. Given that this service has been in operation for the better part of two decades, that's no small feat. But, most of the reviews we found for Web2Carz were from people who used the site at least two years ago; the small number of comments we found more recently said that no one ever got back to them on the vehicles on which they made an inquiry.
Best for research, not for buying used cars
There's nothing inherently bad about the Web2Carz site, but it's not our favorite resource. You don't get the same type of information with each car listing, making it almost like a game of chance when you click on a car you like. Feel free to use this platform to do your car-buying research, but we suggest looking at our higher-ranked services when you're ready to get down to business.
Cars Direct launched in 1998 and considers itself one of the pioneers in online shopping for used cars. You can use this site just to do research on vehicles you'd like to consider or to locate them for purchase.
On the main Used Cars page on the Cars Direct site, you can select a make and model in the dropdown boxes, or click on the links for body style or price range. Just make sure it's got the right zip code in the box next to the green "Search" button.
Lots of listings... on a third-party site
Cool so far, but when we got our results list we were less-than-thrilled to see that very few of them were at dealerships; the vast majority were listings from Carvana (who you'll also find in our reviews). Cars Direct doesn't have a way to specify what kinds of listings you want, so there's no way to set it to hide results from a particular source.
Only paid listings
That's because Cars Direct only shows you listings from dealerships that have paid them for leads. For example, when looking for Toyota Highlanders, we were shown hundreds of Carvana listings and just a handful from dealerships - despite the fact that our research showed dozens on dealership lots within 25 miles of our location.
Not nearly enough information
Besides that, listings here are really bare-bones. CARFAX report? You'll have to pay for it. Photos? Maybe a few, maybe a lot. Any remaining manufacturer's warranty? Anyone's guess. All you'll get from Cars Direct is a form that lets them send your information along to the dealership. You could just as easily go directly to the dealer's website and get much more info yourself.
Car experts nonexistent
Who is Cars Direct, really? Trying to answer that question while looking into this platform's reputation was quite a rabbit hole to go down. There are two parent companies associated with Cars Direct; Internet Brands Inc. and iMatrix. They're both internet marketing companies, but one has a "D-" from the Better Business Bureau and the other has an "A+" and accreditation. You won't find any car experts here. Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.
Site sells your information
We wanted that info because Cars Direct doesn't get a lot of happy feedback from those who've used the site to try and buy a used car. Most of them say you can expect to get an endless stream of phone calls and emails - not just from car brokers and dealerships (which you'd expect, even if you didn't like it) but also from totally unrelated businesses like warehouse clubs, security system providers, pest control companies, and so on. Cars Direct will get you connected, all right - but not necessarily with the good pre-owned vehicle you were searching for.
Not recommended for buying used cars
At the end of the day, Cars Direct is a mediocre resource for buying used cars. No matter what, you're going to end up on a third-party site because this one doesn't facilitate the actual purchase of the vehicle. You also aren't going to find the most comprehensive list of cars near you. Try a higher-ranked service to help you buy a used car.
Driveway is one of the newest buy-from-home used car sellers online today and is a division of Lithia Motors, Inc. Their inventory includes new, used, and Certified Pre-Owned vehicles, all with no-haggle pricing.
In-depth filters for searching
When you first land on the Used Cars page, you'll see a random assortment of the more than 25,000 vehicles in Driveway's inventory. You can easily search by make, model or keyword; otherwise, use the filters on the left side of the page to shop by payment type (cash or finance) and any budget parameters you have, plus apply filters to include your preferred body style/color, year and mileage, fuel type and MPG, and so on.
Excellent level of detail
You'll see plenty of information about the car that interests you. You'll usually find a dozen photos or more, a CARFAX report with the vehicle's history, and easy estimates for financing. Shipping costs are clearly displayed on this page too; just make sure that the Driveway site accurately detects your zip code where it says "delivery to" . Your taxes and fees will also only be an estimate until you get to the point of finalizing your purchase.
$500 refundable deposit
To reserve a car you find on Driveway, you'll have to pay a $500 deposit via credit card. The good news is that it will apply towards the purchase price, and it'll be refunded if the order is canceled or if you're approved for a $0 down vehicle loan. Also, be aware that Driveway doesn't guarantee availability of any used car prior to the purchase being finalized. It's possible for multiple people to put down a deposit on the same vehicle, but only one will get the car.
Not all cars come with guarantees
Can you count on your Driveway used car to meet your expectations? Maybe. All cars are inspected prior to being listed for sale, and every vehicle has a 7-day/400-mile return policy. But, they don't all have guarantees beyond that. If your used car has less than 80,000 miles on it at the time of purchase, it may come with a 60-day/3,000-mile guarantee. Check the details in the vehicle listing to see if it qualifies.
Lack of response
It's hard to get a clear picture of Driveway's reputation. They're so new on the market that there's not a ton of feedback. At the time of this evaluation, they had a concerning "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau, but that was because they'd been in business for such a short time and failed to respond to 8 complaints. That wouldn't ordinarily be a big deal in our book, but almost all of those complaints said the same thing: "we bought a car through Driveway four months ago and we still don't have the registration" .
That doesn't include the buyers who said that the vehicles they got were in much worse condition than promised. This includes customers who bought a car and found issues that only arose after a few weeks or months, but that were related to items that should have been taken care of (like regular servicing). It's definitely a challenge to find people with good things to say about their experience with Driveway.
Better choices for reliable used cars
Driveway has a few advantages over their similarly-structured "buy from home" used car rivals, but it's not enough to earn our recommendation. There's no reason car buyers should be waiting for months post-purchase to get the needed paperwork, and there's no excuse for failing to reply to customer complaints. Driveway doesn't get our absolute lowest ranking - but it's close.
Vroom is one of several used car buying services that let you do it all from home. You can find a car, trade yours in, and take delivery of your pre-owned vehicle without ever having to make a trip to a car dealership.
Need to know what you have in mind
Vroom isn't going to be your ideal way to research the used car you want. When using the site, you're expected to have an idea of what you're looking for, shopping by truck/SUV/sedan or by entering a make/model/body type in the search box. Next, use the filters on the left side of the page to narrow down the results by year, price, miles, fuel/efficiency, engine/drivetrain and popular features. Your list of matches can be organized by newest-to-oldest, price (high-low or low-high), and lowest miles.
Non-refundable deposit to place a hold
If you choose to place a hold on a Vroom used car, you'll have to pay a deposit. Bad news - your deposit is non-refundable. They say this is "to cover the costs associated with putting a vehicle on hold" . You can click on the letter "i" in the circle by the price to get a better idea of your anticipated fees. As an example, on a 2014 Toyota Highlander with 110,000+ miles, the car was priced at $22,499 with an estimated delivery price of $699, a $249 deposit, and documentary fees that varied by state ($300.50 in FL/NJ/NY, $350 in AZ, $150 in all others).
Delivery fees are also non-refundable
All Vroom vehicles come with a 7-day/250-mile return period. However, your delivery fees are non-refundable (and that's important to note, given that those fees can be as much as $1,399, depending on the delivery distance). Beyond that, you'll also have a 90-day/6,000-mile limited warranty; unfortunately, Vroom doesn't go into much detail about what's covered and what's not.
How long can you wait?
This is not the service you want to use if you need a car right away. Vroom vehicles are usually delivered within 14 days of when the purchase is completed. We also found more than a few customers who said that their delivery date kept getting pushed further and further out. You might like Vroom if you're buying a hard-to-find make/model and you've got plenty of time and patience, though.
Poor BBB rating
Vroom has the rock-bottom worst reputation of any service we've found for buying used cars. Not only does the Better Business Bureau give them an "F" rating, but the BBB has also gone the extra length to write up a lengthy alert on Vroom's listing. There were nearly 3,000 complaints filed in the year prior to this evaluation alone.
Horrible track record
Many customers report a wonderful sales process that went south as soon as they put down a deposit or finalized their purchase. However, complaints included no ability to get support, registration paperwork never completed (thus rendering the vehicles unable to be driven legally), and so much more. Beyond that, both the BBB alert and shopper comments indicate that Vroom may be selling cars with accidents in their history and falsifying documents to hide that fact. It's ironic, because at the bottom of their site it recommends that customers verify vehicle information before purchasing. How, exactly?
Avoid buying a used car here
There are plenty of reliable ways to get a good-quality used car out there. Vroom is not one of them. We can't recommend strongly enough that you avoid this platform when searching for your next pre-owned vehicle.
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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