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| HOME | US | USED CAR ONLINE BUYING SITES |

Used car finder: Where Can I Buy A Car OnlineUS Used Car Online Buying Sites

Americans buy over 20 million used cars annually (and that's just the number bought from new car franchised dealerships - it doesn't include used car dealerships and private sales). Well-maintained, low mileage, import used cars are popular as are low mileage, cared for domestic models. Buying a used car online is obviously very different from both buying a new car online and the traditional method of buying used cars. And we would be the FIRST to suggest that buying a used car online without test driving it is folly of the first order.

However, we think that using the Internet to locate used cars that match your needs is the way to go. Keep in mind too that many of the used car buying sites listed below may offer certified used cars (that have been inspected, carry a warranty and sometimes even have a 72-hour return policy). Of course with private sales you are much more on your own. If you don't find the used car you are looking for here check out the Used Car Classifieds section of our site as well.

Once you've found a used car that you think is right for you check out our Used Vehicle History section to make sure the car's history is clean. To get the most out of your test drive check out these resources - Optimizing the Used Car Test Drive, SmartCar Guide to taking a test drive and a test drive checklist.



QUICK INDEX:
Web Site
Overall
Rating
Go to
Site
Read Our
Review
Autobytel 9/10 NOW BELOW
Used Cars at CarsDirect.com 9/10 NOW BELOW
FordDirect 9/10 NOW BELOW

Overall Rating: 9/10E-Commerce Rating: 8/10
Your Best Bet!Used Cars - Find a Used Car in Your Area
http://www.autobytel.com/content/buy/used/index.cfm

Autobytel is a good place to buy a used car online. Searching online inventory is quick and easy. The displayed list of results is fairly well presented and details on individual cars are good. Should you want more information on a car you've found you are usually offered more than one contact method (toll free telephone or email).

Pros:
The search process is quick and easy using distance (25 miles to Entire U.S.) from your zip code and allowing you to specify age range and price range on the initial search page. Search results are fairly well presented and you can re-sort them by price, transmission type, mileage, vehicle or distance from your zip code. Details on individual vehicles are good with VIN listed and link to Carfax vehicle reports.

Cons:
The search process does not allow you to specify mileage as a search criteria. If you want more information the email form on the details page is not secure. There is no indication given as to how long you will wait for someone from the dealership to contact you once you request more information.

How to:

  • Search for a Used Vehicle
    Simply indicate your desired make, model, year, price range and zip code and distance to search within and click on Search. To see details on an individual vehicle simply click on the vehicle name.

  • Get more information on a vehicle
    When you have found a vehicle that interests you simply telephone or email as per the information given in the light yellow column on the right hand side of the vehicle detailed listing.


Overall Rating: 9/10E-Commerce Rating: 8/10
One of our Favorites!Used Cars For Sale at CarsDirect.com
http://www.carsdirect.com/used_cars/search

The CarsDirect approach is good with a simple search process and lots of cars in the database. A new results listing system has been brought on board and it is FANTASTIC. Results can be re-sorted in a number of ways and links at the top and on the sides show you the breakdown of your results list by age, price range, mileage, color etc. It is VERY WELL DONE indeed. Contacting the seller is easy.

Pros:
At first glance the ability to only specify make and model and your zip code on the main search page seems like a drawback - but on the next page you'll see that isn't the case. The earlier cumbersome format with banner ads interspersed intrusively throughout the results is gone. There is lots of information provided on individual vehicles and VIN seems to be included on all. The Auto Check free vehicle history report seems very comprehensive for the price (that being zero). Contacting the seller is easy and you can save cars that interest you.

Cons:
The only negatives I can see are that the email form where you request more information is not secure and that no turnaround guarantee is given in terms of when you'll hear back from the selling dealership.

How to:

  • Search for a Used Vehicle
    On the main pagec lick on the Used Cars link at the top of the page. On the next page indicate your make, model and zip code and click on the Search button.

  • Get more information on a vehicle
    Once you have a results list displayed (see above) simply click on the vehicle Make/Model link to see detailed information on that vehicle. On the right hand side of the page you will be able to contact the seller via email and/or telephone.


Overall Rating: 9/10E-Commerce Rating: 7/10
One of our Favorites!FordDirect
http://www.forddirect.com/

At first glance it can be tricky to figure out how to search for used vehicles on the FordDirect site (it's through a very small and inconspicuous link on the main page in the bottom right hand corner). But once you figure it out you're sure to find the procedure quick and easy. You can also search for non-Ford vehicles although of course there is no guarantee that you will find them on a Ford Dealer's lot. The listing of displayed results is a tad cumbersome but workable and the vehicle details are relatively good. Getting more information on a particular vehicle is easy to do.

Pros:
The search process is quick and easy using distance (10 miles to any distance) from your zip code as well as make, model, age range and price range. Search results are fairly well presented and you can re-sort them by mileage, price, year or distance from your zip code. Details on individual vehicles are fair with the VIN listed and links to printable vehicle details (which might be useful).

Cons:
The search process does not allow you to specify mileage as a search criteria. If you want more information the email form on the details page is not secure. There is no indication given as to how long you will wait for someone from the dealership to contact you once you request more information. It would be nice to see FordDirect include links to Carfax vehicle history results on the vehicle details page.

How to:

  • Search for a Used Vehicle
    Hover over the Find A Used Vehicle link in the lower right hand corner of the page, input your zip code and click on the arrow. On the next page specify make (you can search for any make, not just Ford), model, age range, price range and search radius. Click on Next when you are done setting your criteria.

  • Get more information on a vehicle
    Once you've got a results list displayed (see above) click on the vehicle name to see the detailed vehicle listing. To get more information you can use the nonsecure email form on the right hand side of the page or click on the Call Internet Representative - also on the right but a little higher up than the email form (the latter will pop up a window containing the name and phone number of the Internet Representative at the dealership).


Overall Rating: 8/10E-Commerce Rating: 9/10
One of our Favorites!Vehix.com
http://www.vehix.com/

A very good search tool with a large number of cars in the database (over 100,000). Results are well-displayed and can be re-sorted in many ways. Details on individual vehicles are good.

Pros:
The search process is very good although a bit sluggish since as you specify additional criteria it analyzes vehicles in the database on the fly. You've got a lot of criteria to choose from - price range, mileage, transmission type, engine type, drive type and fuel type. And you can search 25 miles to any distance from your zip code. You can select how many results you'll see per page and you can further refine your search once the results are displayed (so for example if you set $15,000 as your initial upper price range then changed your mind you could change it to $10,000 on the results page). Results can be re-sorted by year/model, price, mileage and distance from your zip code. Details on individual vehicles are good (VIN is included with link to Carfax free report) and contacting the seller is easy.

Cons:
If you want more information the email form on the details page is not secure. There is no indication given as to how long you will wait for someone from the dealership to contact you once you request more information.

How to:

  • Search for a Used Vehicle
    Underneath the Search Inventory heading click on the Used radio button, click on the Advanced radio button and type in your zip code. Click on the Continue button. On the next page specify make, model, search radius, price range, mileage range and engine, drive, transmission and fuel type. Click on View Results button when you are done specifying criteria.

  • Get more information on a vehicle
    Produce a results list (see above) and then click on the vehicle name (second column from the left). To get more details you can either telephone (often a toll free number to a dealership) or use the non-secure email form on the right hand side of the page.


Overall Rating: 8/10E-Commerce Rating: 7/10
CarMax: Used Cars
http://www.carmax.com/dyn/usedcar/usedcar.aspx

CarMax won't necessarily have what you are looking for in your city but it never hurts to check. Their search is quick and easy and also allows you to search by vehicle type or price range alone rather than specific make and model combinations. Results are listed very effectively and details on individual vehicles are good with the exception being that none of them have a VIN! You can get more information on a vehicle by email or telephone.

Pros:
CarMax takes a different approach to searching by asking you to specify a store location to search at (the store closest to you wil be selected by default after you enter your zip code) and then showing you vehicles at other CarMax stores which match your request - if the store is nearby the car can possibly be transferred for free to the lot nearest you. If the lot is far away then a fee ranging from $200-$900 will apply to bring the vehicle to you. Search results are very well presented and you can re-sort them by year, make, model, trim, doors/body, price, colour, transmission type, number of cylinders and mileage.

Details on individual vehicles are good and you can easily contact CarMax for more information on any vehicle. On the contact form it says that if you email or telephone during 'regular office hours' (specified on the form) you will hear back within 60 minutes - wow!

Cons:
There is no way to specify a mileage range or age range in your search for the perfect used car.

If you want more information the email form on the details page is not secure. The VIN is not listed on the vehicle details page.

How to:

  • Search for a Used Vehicle
    Enter your zip code and click on the Continue button.

  • Get more information on a vehicle
    Once you have a results list displayed (see above) click on the vehicle model or make to see the detail page. To request more information click on the Send Us an Email button or call the phone number provided.


Overall Rating: 7/10E-Commerce Rating: 7/10
AUTONATION Car Dealers help you find new and used cars, trucks and SUVs
http://www.autonation.com/index.cfm?action=inventorysearch

Although this site has quite a few vehicles it can be difficult to find certain brand/model combinations in your location (for example Toyota Camry's within 100 miles of a Seattle zip code found only ONE vehicle). The search is okay although lacking a couple of what I consider 'must haves'. Search results are well displayed and can be re-sorted. Details on individual vehicles are good and getting more information is easy.

Pros:
You can search by Make & Model, Vehicle Type or Payment. Search results are fairly well presented and you can re-sort them by year, make, model, trim, mileage, price and distance from your zip code. Details on individual vehicles are good with VIN listed and link to Carfax vehicle reports.

Cons:
The search method I would expect most of us would use (Make & Model) does not allow you to specify things like mileage, age range and price range. If you want more information the email form on the details page is not secure. There is no indication given as to how long you will wait for someone from the dealership to contact you once you request more information.

For my advice on how to (partially) overcome the limitations of the search tool see my technique in Search for a Used Vehicle below.

How to:

  • Search for a Used Vehicle
    Click on the Used radio button and enter your zip code and search radius and select a Make but leave the Model box at default (All Models). On the next page you'll be able to 'filter' the results by price (with an upper limit - so for example, 'see all vehicles less than $15,000') thus eliminating those too expensive. Unfortunately the filter underneath the Vehicle heading does not seem to work and there is no option to do this with the YR heading at all.

  • Get more information on a vehicle
    Once you have a results list displayed (see above) simply click anywhere within the listing for that vehicle. To get more information on a vehicle you can fill out and submit the email form on the details page or telephone the contacts listed in the blue box just below the 'Quick Quote' heading (though why you'd need a quote since the internet price is clearly listed is beyond me).


Overall Rating: 7/10E-Commerce Rating: 7/10
swapalease.com - car lease takeover
http://www.swapalease.com/

When swapalease first came along it was a novel concept - now many sites are offering lease transfer (for both buyers and sellers). Still, swapalease still has some advantages - there are lots of cars on the site and the process is well explained.

Pros:
Search results are fairly well presented and you can re-sort them by monthly payment, miles per month, months left in lease and state/province where the vehicle is located. Search tool is strong in terms of leasing characteristics allowing you to specify monthly payment range, miles per month and months left in the lease as search criteria.

Cons:
The search does not allow you to search in terms of distance from your zip code and in the results screen the sort is only by state/province not by distance from your location. In big states (like California) knowing that a vehicle is in California is really not that helpful. Details on the individual vehicles could be better - for example VIN, which I consider very important if not mandatory in terms of used cars, is not one of the pre-written questions you can ask the seller. The form to ask for more information is not secure and of course if you decide to take over someone's lease the service is NOT free.

How to:

  • Search for a Used Vehicle
    On the main page, under the Find A Lease graphic select make and model and click on the Continue button. The resulting list can be re-sorted.

  • Get more information on a vehicle
    After finding a vehicle (see above) click on the more info button to see details on an individual vehicle. You can ask pre-set questions on the form on the right.


Overall Rating: 7/10E-Commerce Rating: 6/10
One of our Favorites!Used Car Listings - MSN Autos
http://autos.msn.com/classifieds/listings/default.aspx

This site - a joint venture between MSN Autos and AutoTrader - has a lot of great features and a vast number of cars in the database. Using their advanced search you can specify a lot of criteria in one fell swoop. They also allow you to search back to vehicles from 1981. Results are very well presented and can be re-sorted in a variety of ways. You can also save vehicles for future consideration. Unfortunately there is no mandatory information required from sellers so cars being sold by individuals may not have VINs.

Pros:
The search process is quick and easy using distance (10 miles to All) from your zip code. It is very cool that you can specify up to 3 make/model combinations! You can specify vehicle type, make, model, age range, price range and mileage range on this initial search page. You can also specify optional search words and search by exterior color, fuel type and a number of features (i.e. side airbags). Search results are very well presented and can be re-sorted by year, vehicle, price and mileage. Individual details are quite good. You can get more information on a vehicle by email or telephone. There are some good links within the vehicle details page to allow you to learn more about the vehicle you've selected and you can also compare up to 3 vehicles to each other within the list of vehicles your search produces.

Cons:
There have been some changes since eBay motors left this collaboration and they aren't for the better. Some useful search criteria disappeared (i.e. the ability to see listings placed within a certain date range) and the same thing has happened with sorting tools (you can no longer sort by distance from your zip code for example).

Unfortunately some privately listed vehicles do not have VINs. If you want more information the email form on the details page is not secure. There is no indication given as to how long you will wait for someone from the dealership to contact you once you request more information.

How to:

  • Search for a Used Vehicle
    Select your vehicle type, make, model, year, price range, mileage range and search parameters and click on Search.

  • Get more information on a vehicle
    Once you have a results list of vehicles displayed click on the Vehicle Name. You'll see lots of information on the vehicle as well as a form to send to get more information from the seller (whether a dealership or an individual).


Overall Rating: 7/10E-Commerce Rating: 5/10
Autoweb.com Used Cars Online
http://www.autoweb.com/content/buy/used/index.cfm

Autoweb is another member of the Autobytel family of sites. It is quick and easy to search inventory. Results can be re-sorted and are displayed in a fairly good format. Details on individual cars are good.

Pros:
The search process is quick and easy using distance (25-500 miles) from your zip code and allowing you to specify price range on the initial search page. Search results are fairly well presented and you can re-sort them by vehicle, mileage, asking price or distance from your zip code. Details on individual vehicles are good with VIN listed and a link to an AutoCheck vehicle report.

Cons:
The search process does not allow you to specify mileage as a search criteria. If you want more information the email form on the details page is not secure. There is no indication given as to how long you will wait for someone from the dealership to contact you once you request more information.

How to:

  • Search for a Used Vehicle
    On the main page simply select your make, model, price range and input your zip code and distance from your zip code to search. Click on the NEXT button.

  • Get more information on a vehicle
    Once you have produced a list of cars you are interested in (see above) simply click on the vehicle name to see details on that vehicle. On the next screen you can either contact the dealership by phone (usually toll free) or complete the non-secure email request form.


Overall Rating: 6/10E-Commerce Rating: 7/10
LeaseTrader.com - Car Lease - Lease Assumption
http://www.leasetrader.com/

This site is one of the latest in a slew of lease swapping/assumption sites that are springing up all over the Internet. Simple search method, a fair number of cars and easy to use and understand design.

Pros:
I very much like that there is an advanced search that allows you to look for a vehicle within 25 to 250 miles from your zip code. Search results are fairly well presented and you can re-sort them by year, make/model, mileage, state, monthly payment and months remaining in the lease. Details on individual vehicles are good with VIN and a link to Experian AutoCheck to see the free history (for what it's worth). You can compare vehicles within the results screen.

Cons:
The form to ask for more information is not secure and of course if you decide to take over someone's lease the service is NOT free.

How to:

  • Search for a Used Vehicle
    For some reason you still have to click on the Click for Advanced Search link to be able to search within a distance of your zip code. Select your make, model, style, type, months remaining, monthly payment, age range and enter your zip code and distance to search within.

  • Get more information on a vehicle
    Once you have a results list (see above) simply click on the View details link. Note that to contact the seller in any way you MUST complete the free registration (which is done on a secure form).


 
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