There are primarily four places to search for new or used cars and trucks: online, word of mouth, newspaper classifieds, and by noticing a for sale sign on the car. The most effective way to find a car or truck for sale is online. Searching for a new or used vehicle online can seem like quite a daunting task, but it does not have to be. Online listings have the greatest inventory, make searching on and comparing multiple vehicles a breeze, allow you to be as broad or narrow in the type of vehicle you are searching for, and answer your questions before they are asked.
There are numerous sites that provide vehicle listings, with the vast majority of activity occurring on Cars.com, AutoTrader.com, CarsDirect, Vehix.com, and eBayMotors.com. MSN Autos is powered by AutoTrader so when you attempt to search for vehicles for sale on MSN Autos you are taken directly to AutoTrader. Yahoo! Autos has the same arrangement with Cars.com. The two largest online classified sites in terms of monthly unique visitors are Cars and AutoTrader. Another option for people that want a reliable used car, but don’t want to deal with a long term payment is participating in a lease marketplace where you take over the lease from another person. One of the industry leaders in this category is Swapalease.com. Let’s examine each site in detail, focusing on ease of use, and inventory available.
Cars.com – Cars.com has strong search functionality. The site lets you save vehicles you are interested in, and allows you to narrow your search on a variety of features, including price, mileage, year, style, color, drive train, seller type (private or dealer), when the vehicle was listed for sale, and whether a free Carfax vehicle history report is available. You can also sort the search results by distance from the zip code entered, model year, mileage, price, and vehicle.
If you drill down to an individual vehicle there is a wealth of information available about that vehicle. You can email or call the seller, read consumer reviews of the model, look at photos of the vehicle, check the model’s safety and reliability, examine the vehicle’s features, and calculate estimated loan payments. Find Your Next Car, Truck or SUV at Cars.com. Get the Perfect Car at the Perfect Price.
A quick search of available inventory found over 10,500 new and used Hondas available for sale within 50 miles of Chicago, over 17,000 new and used Hondas available for sale within 50 miles of New York City, and over 7,500 new and used Hondas available for sale within 50 miles of Los Angeles. There are over 10,000 new and used Fords available for sale within 50 miles of Chicago, over 7,000 new and used Fords for sale within 50 miles of New York City, and over 10,000 new and used Fords for sale within 50 miles of Los Angeles.
AutoTrader.com – Autotrader.com is also an easy-to-use site, but the initial search form requests more information. One nice feature of AutoTrader is that you can search both new and used inventory simultaneously. Another nice feature is the ability to search for up to three different make and model combinations in one search, like Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, and Ford Fusion. You can also save your search, thus saving time when you return to the site later. Search results can be sorted by price, mileage, distance from the zip code entered, model year, vehicle, and whether the vehicle has a special offer. Like Cars.com, AutoTrader lets you save vehicles you might be interested in. AutoTrader provides more vehicle information on the search results page than Cars does, but does not allow you to narrow your search directly from the search results page.
Drilling down on a particular vehicle brings you to a page where you can look at photos, read more about the vehicle’s features, email or call the seller, view a map and get directions to the seller, fill out a loan application, get an insurance quote, and view a free Carfax vehicle history report if the seller offers one.
A quick search of available inventory found over 3,000 new and used Hondas available for sale within 50 miles of Chicago, over 6,500 new and used Hondas available for sale within 50 miles of New York City, and over 4,500 new and used Hondas available for sale within 50 miles of Los Angeles. There are over 7,000 new and used Fords available for sale within 50 miles of Chicago, over 6,500 new and used Fords for sale within 50 miles of New York City, and over 6,500 new and used Fords for sale within 50 miles of Los Angeles.
eBayMotors.com – There are two ways to search for vehicles on eBayMotors. You can as much or as little information about the make you are interested in (ex: 2010 Honda Odyssey) in the search box at the top of the page, or use the dropdowns to search as you would on the other vehicle inventory sites. If you have ever purchased anything from eBay you are likely familiar with their auction and buy it now processes. eBayMotors works the same way. You can purchase a vehicle via the standard auction process, or use the buy it now feature. Some listings include a best offer option, allowing you to make an offer on the vehicle. On the search results page the sort capabilities are basically the same, allowing you to sort by year, mileage, distance from zip, and price. You can also sort by the time left for the listing. eBayMotors offers all the same search refinements as the other sites (transmission, mileage, color, engine cylinders, seller), and also lets you refine your search by eBay Top-rated sellers. Top-rated sellers are sellers that consistently receive the highest buyers’ ratings, ship items quickly, and have earned a track record of excellent service.
The specific car detail page varies from listing to listing. There are consistencies throughout the listings, but eBayMotors sellers get much more flexibility when describing the vehicle. Standard information on the details page includes mileage, location, condition, whether or not the vehicle has a warranty remaining, photos, payment and shipping information, and a vehicle history report. For more information on vehicle history reports view the “Purchase a Vehicle History Report” section. Beyond that standard information the seller can include additional information about the vehicle that they create and format.
A quick search of available inventory found over 500 new and used Hondas available for sale within 50 miles of Chicago, over 300 new and used Hondas available for sale within 50 miles of New York City, and over 400 new and used Hondas available within 50 miles of Los Angeles. There are over 1,500 new and used Fords available for sale within 50 miles of Chicago, over 1,000 new and used Fords for sale within 50 miles of New York City, and over 1,250 new and used Fords for sale within 50 miles of Los Angeles.
CarsDirect.com – CarsDirect’s search process works a little differently than Cars’ and AutoTrader’s. If you are searching for a new car you are not taken to a search results page populated with vehicles being sold by dealers. Rather, you are taken to a page where you see the MSRPs for the styles you might be interested in. You then click on the drive style you might be interested in, and are taken to a page where you receive the “CarsDirect Price” and more detail on the vehicle. You then have the option of purchasing directly from CarsDirect, or you can fill out a form that will provide quotes directly from dealers. CarsDirect offers a guarantee on their price. If within 3 days you find a lower price for the same identically equipped vehicle they will refund the difference between the price you paid and the other advertised price you found. The used car search process works as it does on AutoTrader and Cars. Once you arrive at the search results page you can refine your search by model, color, whether or not it’s certified, the distance from your zip code, the year, price, mileage, and seller type. CarsDirect adds a wrinkle to the seller type as they offer something called the “Trusted Dealer”. These dealers are businesses that have a high level of positive consumer feedback. You can also sort by year, price, mileage, and distance.