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Cars Direct Review

Thursday, December 8th

2022 Used Car Site Reviews

Cars Direct Review 2 Star Rating

Cars Direct

2 Star Rating
  • Do research or find used cars
  • See listings of cars from some dealers and online-only retailers

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.

Simple search

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.

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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.

Where's the Best Place to Buy a Used Car Online?

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.

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Used Car Site FAQ

They say that a new car depreciates, or loses value, the second you drive it off the lot. That's true! When you buy a used car, you're getting a better value: not everyone can afford a brand-new car, but there are plenty of affordable "pre-owned" vehicles within most budgets.
There are pros and cons to each one. When you buy from a dealership, you usually get certain assurances: that the car has been inspected from top to bottom, maybe some fixes for minor items or even bigger ones like new tires or brakes, and the ability to return it within a certain timeframe if you don't like it or something malfunctions. However, you're paying for those perks: comparing apples-to-apples, a private sale will almost always be cheaper than getting the same car through a dealership.
Absolutely! There are many services that make it easy to find the car you want, and some of them will even bring the vehicle to you for a test drive and/or let you buy it online and have it delivered to your home. It's a great idea to do your research before you buy a used car, even if you're planning on going to a dealership.
As a buyer, you absolutely want an inspection before buying a used car from a private seller. Most private sale contracts are "as-is" , so unless you have a lot of automotive expertise, we don't recommend you try to determine for yourself if a car is road-worthy. A professional inspection can save you a lot of time and hassle if things aren't as they appear - or give you the peace of mind that you've found a great vehicle. If you're selling a used car, it may not be worth it to provide an inspection: your buyer(s) will probably want to have one done by a mechanic they trust, rather than taking your (mechanic's) word for it.
Yes! Selling your car online is a fantastic way to reach more potential buyers. You can add photos, provide a detailed description and contact information, and voila: you should have no shortage of interested customers, without having to put a "for sale" sign in the car window.
That depends on the site. You can often list your car for free, with premium "upgrades" if you want to add pictures, a car history report, or have your vehicle featured above others in your category.
Most sites serve as a go-between and don't guarantee that the car will sell - or that the car you buy will be problem-free. Be sure to read customer reviews of any used car service you're considering, and see if the Better Business Bureau has anything to say too.
There are almost too many to list! Any used car site that offers easy navigation with useful filters, tools that help you accurately gauge a vehicle's fair market value, and simple (and non-intrusive!) ways to connect with the vehicle sellers is a good choice. For extra reassurance, you can see if the BBB has given the used car service high marks for excellence.
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Continued from above...

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:

  • Types of Used Car Sellers. Are you interested in buying from a private seller or a small, lesser-known local car lot? Or are you more comfortable with a big-name dealership? Are you interested in an online-only experience? Some sites for buying used cars give you listings from all four types, while others specialize just in partnerships with dealers.
  • Research Tools. Not every platform gives you research tools, but there's no reason you can't use one site to gather information and another to actually find a car. If you're at the earlier stages of the buying process, you should at least start with a site that lets you see reviews and get an idea of the pros and cons of many different makes and models.
  • Detailed Information. The best sites give you lots of information - almost to the point of it feeling like overload. We prefer services that offer free, detailed vehicle history reports and are completely transparent about who is selling the car - without having to use a contact form and subject yourself to spammy texts and emails.

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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