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Thursday, December 8th
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.
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!
Select any 2 Used Car Sites to compare them head to head
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