A couple of decades ago, the search for a used vehicle began with hours spent squinting through the classifieds. You’d then head out to get a closer look at each candidate, and this could involve fending off aggressive salespeople at local used car dealerships or mumbling through awkward interactions with private party sellers. Then along came the Internet, an innovation that allowed us to search for used cars online.
In many ways, the Internet has simplified the process of shopping for a used car. But it can also make this task more overwhelming. There’s an almost endless selection of websites offering to help you select your next pre-owned vehicle, and you may find yourself drowning in a sea of information and choices. These sites aren’t all cut from the same cloth, and knowing which ones you can rely on can be tricky.
That’s where we come in. Here at Klipnik, we live and breathe used cars, and we’ve explored pretty much every used car resource available. Below (in alphabetical order), we’ve listed the sites that we find ourselves returning to over and over again and which have earned our stamp of approval. They provide all of the assistance you could ever need to find and buy the used car of your dreams.
Top Websites by Type
For Sale Listings
Autotrader. Whether you’re looking for an older used car or a newer model that’s certified pre-owned, you’ll find a wide selection of choices to consider on Autotrader. The user-friendly site allows you to narrow your searches based on the variables most important to you, such as vehicle mileage, feature content (e.g. third-row seats), or engine type. Plus you can filter by seller type, in case you want to see only listings from dealerships or private party sellers. Finally, we love its Saved Search functionality, which can email or text you whenever a new listing appears that meets your criteria.
Carfax. You probably know that Carfax provides vehicle history reports which can inform you if that used Camry you’re eyeing has ever been in a major accident or if that pre-owned Accord on your list has had a regular history of dealership service. It’s an essential tool in vetting any potential used car purchase. But you may not know that the company’s website also provides a broad assortment of For Sale listings posted by local dealers — and that each listing includes a free Carfax vehicle history report. The site also allows you to narrow your searches based on information that these reports provide. For example, you could instruct the Carfax search tool to show only those cars that have had just a single owner owner and zero accidents, making it easy to find the very best examples out there.
Craigslist. When it comes to the breadth of listings offered, it’s hard to beat Craigslist, especially when you are looking for a used car bargain. Though the site may not have all of the bells and whistles provided by rivals like Autotrader and Carfax, it is unparalleled when it comes to offerings for less than $10,000. We should note that many of these listings, usually from novice sellers, may leave you wanting for details, such as good (or any) photos and important specifics like how many miles the car has. But if you don’t mind doing a little extra digging, craigslist can be a terrific place to find hidden gems, whether you’re looking for a mint disco-era Cadillac or a fuel-sipping commuter on the cheap.
Ratings and Reviews
Car and Driver. Car and Driver offers car reviews that are both useful and entertaining, written in the publication’s unique voice. Most of the site’s reviews are based on time spent with each vehicle during a one-week press loan. Car and Driver also evaluates models in its long-term test fleet, with coverage typically spanning the course of a year and 40,000 miles; these reviews can shine a light on issues related to reliability and usability that appear only as the miles add up. In addition, the site offers a selection of reviews “from the C/D archives” that can be helpful if you want to get an impression of what classics such as the 1972 BMW 2002tii were like to drive when new.
Edmunds. Edmunds offers easily digestible car reviews with a modular layout for quick access to the site’s wealth of vehicle information. Notably, the reviews provide useful data about each model’s feature content, including the equipment differences that exist among various trim levels, which can otherwise be quite difficult to discern. The site also offers numerous lists that rank the editors’ top picks in a variety of categories, such as SUVs, hybrids, and sports sedans. In addition to reviews penned by its staff, Edmunds delivers a wealth of consumer reviews written by vehicle owners who have lived with the car — sometimes for many years. These reviews can share important details about the car’s long-term strengths as well as any notable problem areas.
Edmunds. Edmunds also provides pricing tools that can help you identify great deals on used cars. You can choose between pricing geared toward private party or dealer transactions. Pricing estimates are based on previous vehicle sales. They’re reflective of local trends, so you’ll always get pricing that’s in step with what vehicles are selling for in your area.
Hagerty. The classic car marketplace is unique and ever-changing, and Hagerty offers tools that can help you obtain pricing estimates for many models in this segment, whether you’re looking at vintage Ford Mustangs or modern-day classics like the Pontiac G8 GXP. And for those interested in investing in classic cars, Hagerty also offers a tool that allows you to compare a vehicle’s historic values against those of other collector cars, or benchmark financial indices such as the Dow Jones and the Standard & Poor’s 500.
Kelley Blue Book. Kelley Blue Book is perhaps the best-known resource when it comes to car pricing and valuation. As with Edmunds, this site provides location-specific pricing estimates based on data gathered from countless transactions. Unlike Edmunds, which requires you to select a car’s optional features one at a time, KBB’s pricing tool allows you to select entire packages with a single click, making it easy to tailor your estimates to the exact car you’re considering.
A note on pricing guides: Generally speaking, we advise using estimates from these sites as rough guides rather than as the pricing gospel. They tend to be more accurate for cars with higher sales volumes (and hence more transaction data), which means that unusual versions of a car and/or examples that are exceptionally well-kept are likely to be undervalued. At the end of the day, any specific car is worth what someone will pay for it, which may be notably more — or less — than the estimates these sites provide.
Online forums are a great resource for older cars (7+ years old) — especially make- or model-specific forums such as Benzworld, Corvette Forum, VWVortex, and the like. These sites allow you to tap the expertise of informed car owners and enthusiasts. If you’re looking for real-world testimonials regarding a model’s performance over the long haul, you’ll find them here. And once you pick up your new ride, forums members can help you find a mechanic who’s an expert at fixing your specific make and model as well as offer some great DIY tips and how-to’s.
Here at Klipnik, we offer resources geared specifically toward just one group of people: used car shoppers. If you fall within this demographic, our singular focus makes it easy to find content that speaks directly to your needs.
Our Used Car Buying Tips give you insider info about the specifics of buying in the used car marketplace — explaining why, for instance, one of the first steps in buying any used car is identifying a trustworthy local mechanic, or how purchasing a 5 year-old car vs. a new one can save you over $20,000.
Our Best Used Cars section recommends specific makes and models, typically grouped by a range of years, so that you can quickly assemble a list of great cars that will meet your needs and fit your budget — whether you’re looking for something that ranks highly for safety or reliability or that simply offers the biggest bang for the buck.
We also offer feature interesting and unusual used cars for sale on our Find of the Day page. We believe these listings represent the best value-oriented buying opportunities on the market.
The Bottom Line
If you’re shopping for a used car, the websites mentioned above can provide you with the guidance you need make a truly informed purchase. These resources allow you to consider exciting possibilities from the comfort of your living room.
So before you head over to the nearest used car lot to browse their wares, take a moment to familiarize yourself with these sites. They can help you find a car that you’ll enjoy for many years, and they can also save you plenty of time, money, and worry throughout the entire shopping process.