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Monday, December 5th
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.
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.
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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