Searching for the best place to look for used cars? Read on...
So you are looking for your next car and wondering where exactly you can find the best deals. I will share with you my experience, car buying process, tips and thoughts on the subject. Depending on your budget, car knowledge, experience and goal, by the time you finish reading, you will be well on your way to finding the right car for you.
The first rule in your used car search. There will always be opportunities to buy and be willing to walk away from a deal. Just like anything in life, you just do the best you can to put the odds in your favor.
So, with that being said, buying a used car can and is stressful BUT you don't have to worry too much about the perfect car.
The Truth about Used Cars
As mentioned above, there will always be opportunities to find another car. In the past, when I was looking at a car (Nissan Maxima) back in the day, there were (3) identical and similar used cars for sale. However, each used car is really a unique find.
Each car was driven differently and owned by different owners.
Weird as it may sound, you must remove the emotional aspect of the car and get a FEEL for the car. You will know in your gut if the car feels like a good buy. At least, that's one of the criteria that I use to decide on pulling the trigger on buying a car.
You can read the other blog posts on how to spot problems and do your due diligence on your test drive and check list.
Let's get into the Best Places to Look for Used Cars...
There are tons of listings from Facebook to OfferUp and more popular sites like AutoTrader.com. I'll share my experiences with each site and give the pros and cons for each. Then you will be able to equip yourself with the tools needed to make your car buying experience pleasant.
As a good rule of thumb, it's always good to have an idea of the type of car you want or are looking for. SUVs are popular now and the rules apply for any personal vehicle that you are planning to buy.
You obviously know the benefits of buying used and while there are some risks, we'll start with the sites that have the greatest coverage with your purchase.
Best Place to Buy a Used Car
Best Option is the Most Expensive
CPO: Certified Pre Owned - If you can afford a certified pre owned vehicle from the brand's dealership, then I would recommend this option for those with long term perspective and has a larger budget to make the purchase with.
A CPO'ed car is almost as good as brand new. However, I would still check the Carfax report for any potential issues. Local dealers are easy to find and can help jumpstart your search.
- Pros - By purchasing as a certified CPO car, you have the benefit of having an extended warranty to cover you for 24 months typically or possibly shorter. Secondly, the car was inspected by the dealership and has technicians that can address the problem specifically. Note: I am not talking about buying a Mercedes Benz from a Honda Dealership. I'm referring to a Mercedes Benz certified pre-owned at a Mercedes Benz dealership
- Cons - Price. With a certified pre owned car, you will be paying more than what's available on the market, but you have peace of mind that you are covered for the years ahead. However, if you are getting financing, the additional price is spread over the life of the cars.
Car Sites: Local Options
The next best option to finding a used car is locally. You can look online on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist to see local listings. You will want to buy from a private owner, preferably. When buying from a private party, you can save thousands of dollars compared to retail prices or a dealership.
Why? This is because you can gauge the owner and if they took care of the car. However if they don't have plates or a valid inspection sticker, those are red flags.
FB Marketplace is today's best place to find good local buys. You MUST act quick as I have seen multiple cars sold in a day or so if the price is right. The good thing is that you can use the search function to create filters and radius on the area to search for. This helps you target an address nearby for your search.
I would lean towards finding a seller that is the actual private party and not a used car dealership. Private parties or private sellers are average people looking to get a fair market value of their car. This is because trade-in pricing is typically very low.
FYI, I purchased my BMW wagon from Facebook Marketplace from a private party.
Mixed in with private sellers in the FB Marketplace are used car dealership listings. Unfortunately, most used local dealers ADD thousands of dollars on top of their asking listed price. I have experienced it dozens of times and all the time.
They add dealer prep fees and other fees on top of them. As of this year, I have seen $2k to $7k added to their listed price. The other tactic is to list the "down payment" as the asking price and the rest is financed.
I would stray away from used car dealerships if possible. Unless it's a good deal and you know that additional fees will be tacked on. However, there are exceptions to the rule with local dealers, check their Google and Yelp ratings to get a better picture of customer experience.
Craigslist used to be my favorite place to browse local listings. This is a tried and true website where you can find killer deals. I would suggest that you look for listings with plates and VIN numbers available. This will ensure you are dealing with the owner and not a curbside dealer.
Tip: Expand your search in your area and select on the map places that are more affluent in order to have better choices. Typically a household median that is higher would have better maintained vehicles. This is what I have experienced in the past.
This is especially true once you check the Carfax for service history. Dealer service indicates no expense was spared.
Online Car Sites
AutoTrader is a good site to start your search. You can simply enter the make and model of the car you are looking for. I typically select the color and the transmission to help filter out the car listings. Then I apply other filters like price range.
After you have the results listed, I suggest that you sort by Price. This will make it easier to quickly search your options. I would UNCHECK, include extend home delivery since you want to keep it local.
Another favorite for me is Cars.com. They have a good simple interface and a good selection of car listings to choose from. I usually sort by price as usual but also look at the great deals. Note, with the great deals, you will have to do your due diligence on the dealership or seller. As mentioned before, be aware of the dealer.
CarGurus.com is another helpful site that I suggest you check out for your next car. They have a very good selection and provide locations on where cars are located. I would suggest unchecking Listings without Available Pricing.
I recommend filtering based on color and transmission. The great deals are typically really good pricing but sometimes the sellers will add fees. Just be aware of that. I used CarGurus.com to locate my recent purchase but it was related to a Carvana listing. Overall, I definitely would bookmark this site.
I remember the days when TrueCar provided market prices and actual prices paid for cars in relation to the blue book value. Now, their website is a car listing site which is helpful.
It has a simple interface that makes it easy to navigate and sort. I also like this site as well. It might not be the biggest site like Kbb.com but it still offers a better experience. Try it out and maybe you will be able to find your next car.
As a car guy, I follow the car scene and AutoTempest has sponsored a number of bigger YT stars. I tried their services to help find my next car.
They aggregate a lot of different car sites as sources using an advanced search to find your car BUT the problem I see is the interface and the results.
I think that it's a good idea but there's alot going on the pages but not many results. I have had better results using the other sites and FB or CL directly.
Kelly's Blue Book is well known in the industry for used car values. I personally love them and use them all the time to check on car prices or blue book value. They are pretty close to the market demand and prices.
However, based on your own needs you might increase or decrease based on the condition of the car you are looking at. I browsed a few listings but most of the time I see dealership listings.
Their interface is a little confusing but as mentioned earlier, I just use them for pricing.
ebay motors is an interesting site to consider to find a used car. Just like anything on ebay, I always look at the seller's rating before placing any bid or buy it now. Pricing has always been on the higher side when compared to other listings.
I think that is because ebay takes a 10% fee from the sold price. You can try browsing but I strongly suggest seeing and test driving the car before bidding. Ebay also includes AutoCheck, their version of a free vehicle history report.
Touchless Online Car Vendors
I stumbled on Vroom.com while searching for my next car. Vroom seems like a good service with a similar model of Carvana. Their inventory was limited for me but you might have better luck.
As for pricing, they seem competitive but my purchase ended up with Carvana.
Carvana is a great service. I actually used them for a car purchase and will be providing a full review. Overall, their car buying process is really simple. I did everyone on my desktop though instead of mobile. Their pricing is reasonable as there are no dealership fees but not as good as buying from a private party.
NOTE: Expect to pay $2k-$5k above private party, which essentially raises it to retail pricing. Carvana includes a free vehicle history report.
As I have gotten older, I realized that time is money and it might be worth spending a little extra to save yourself the grief and anguish of used car lots. The great thing is the 7-day money back guarantee and if you don't like the car, they will take it back. (Followup to follow)
Tools You Need to Consider
In order to determine the fair market price for your next car, you will need to use KBB.com or NADA for blue book value. Car values can fluctuate
Simply punch in your car details, mileage and features. You will get a good idea of what your car might be priced at. There are a few key considerations to factor in.
Factors that will justify increased asking price:
- One Owner Car - Cars with one-owner can command the top tier pricing. The less of the notch count on the owners, the better. Check the carfax report for the number of owners.
- Dealer Maintained - Cars with a maintenance history at the dealer can command more since no expense was spared. However, the overall condition of the car trumps anything else.
- Low Miles - Low mileage cars are not driven much and ultimately less abused. However, super low miles can still spell trouble if oil changes were not done regularly. It can lead to a slug. So be aware of little old ladies' cars. You will still need to check the condition in person.
While you might be able to find a unicorn of a one-owner, dealer maintained car with low miles, it will not last long on the market. Someone, especially auto brokers, will try to pick them up to resell on their lots. So if you do find something, reach out to the seller to schedule a test drive.
Note: Cars that have been sitting for a while and have not sold. Typically, there is something that is deterring other buyers from buying.
For example, I saw a beautiful white BMW with low miles and good maintenance history at a good price. hmmmm....
When I saw the car, yikes! The smoke smell hit me like a ton of bricks when I opened the driver's side door. Thus, I always try to ask if it's a non-smokers car. There are ways to get smoke smell out and that will be covered in another article.
- KBB.com - Kelly's blue book
- Carfax Report - Car vehicle history report
- Facebook Marketplace
I have listed Google as a tool.
TIP: Type in the VIN number in Google and see what comes up.
Sometimes you see an accident report or a forum listing from years ago from the previous seller. It's interesting to see what you come up with. I was about to purchase a Porsche Cayenne from a seller who had purchased it years ago from a Porsche Enthusiast. However, with the pricing being too good to be true and the condition it was in... I opted not to purchase since it would end up more of a project than a daily driver.
So, in conclusion, check out the sites above. I have personally used all of them and I believe you will be able to find the right car for you. Don't rush and don't fall in love too quickly. There are plenty of opportunities that come up. Again, a cpo car would be my recommended choice for most buyers. However, if you are in the car enthusiasts community like myself, and can wrench, there are some gems to find out there. You just have to keep looking.