Ultimate guide of car shopping websites

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We’re a bit biased about how people should shop for used cars. We think everyone should get alerts when dealers drop prices and no one should have to download an app for a great experience on any device. We wanted to find out who else does a great job helping car shoppers find a car. Thus, we’ve created this ultimate guide just for you.

car shopping websites with responsive designSince there are a bounty of websites to help car shoppers research and discover the car of their dreams, we needed a format to rank websites. We created a set of pros and cons for every car shopping website we could possibly think of by breaking down things like design, the tools available to car shoppers and the technology behind the website.

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Mojo Motors

mojo website main pagePros: Email alerts, responsive design, price history, large photos, no advertisements, navigation speed

Cons: Limited inventory

Mojo Motors has been named a rising star among used car websites and growing in new markets across the country. Mojo Motors was the first automotive site to integrate ‘follow’ functionality on their website, allowing users to follow their favorite cars the same way they would follow someone on Facebook or Instagram. Mojo emails shoppers when vehicles they’re following drop in price, sell or new ones become available.

Mojo Motors is also one of the only automotive sites that is advertisement free and leverages responsive design. This means the user experience has been optimized for mobile phones and tablets. As a result, more than half of all traffic to Mojo Motors is on mobile. The biggest downside to Mojo Motors is the website only operates in select markets and it only lists dealership inventory. While the company is expanding rapidly, there are still many states that the company doesn’t have large amounts of inventory.

AutoTrader

Autotrader homepage june 2014Pros: Large inventory of new and used cars

Cons: Advertisements, photos, no price history

AutoTrader is the largest online used car marketplace with the largest supply of inventory, covering all 50 states. In addition to their dealer network, a large supply of inventory from private sellers gives plenty of cars to choose from. While you can almost certainly find a vehicle through Autotrader if you’re patient enough, there are some serious drawbacks that diminish the user experience. One of the biggest problems is that the website is not responsive. This means that if you’re shopping from your phone or tablet, you have to use their mobile site or their app.

If you’re shopping from the desktop, the website and search result page is cluttered with ads. AutoTrader displays a different ad every time you do a search. Lastly, the photos on search pages are incredibly small making it hard to view the vehicles. While inventory may be plentiful, the user experience suffers from AutoTrader’s focus on selling ad space.

Kelley Blue Book

KBB website review screenshotPros: Search tools, large inventory, vehicle reviews

Cons: Advertisements, no price history, website navigation

KBB.com is owned by AutoTrader group which gives them a large inventory of used vehicles. KBB.com was originally an automotive valuation company and known for their Blue Book Values. Even though Blue Book is used by car shoppers and dealers, this study found the Blue Book Value isn’t always reliable. Even though the website isn’t optimized for actually purchasing a car, KBB.com is still a good resource for research and they have many top 10 lists of the best family vehicles, crossovers, sedans, etc, which can help you find the perfect car to match your needs.

Edmunds.com

Car shopping website review Edmunds.comPros: Large inventory, vehicle reviews, Price Promise

Cons: Advertisements, no price history, small pictures, website navigation

Edmunds provides some of the best vehicle reviews and research on the web for car shoppers. Where they excel in research, they lack in creating an easy-to-use shopping experience. Unlike MojoMotors.com, BestRide.com or even the majority of the other websites in this guide, it takes multiple steps to see a list of used or new vehicles near you. It might be a good place to learn about your next car, but you’ll save the frustration by shopping on a more user-friendly interface.

Cars.com

cars.com website screenshotPros: Large inventory, dealership reviews

Cons: Advertisements, no alerts, not responsive

Cars.com is the second largest used car marketplace (AutoTrader is first) with inventory all over the country. While Cars.com has ads on many of their pages, the pages are less cluttered and easier to navigate than AutoTrader. Cars.com has a helpful dealership reviews section to learn about the best dealerships in your area. Cars.com is not responsive, making it difficult to browse from a phone or tablet. Cars.com also doesn’t allow the user to sign up for alerts, so you wont know when your favorite car drops in price.

CarGurus

CarGurus Website ScreenshotPros: Price history, Navigation speed, email alerts

Cons: Unreliable price evaluator, not responsive

Car Gurus has a relatively clean interface and provides a good browsing experience although their website doesn’t leverage responsive design. The filters are easy to use and respond quickly to changes. CarGurus offers a “Good Deal / Bad Deal” tool to help users identify competitive prices. While this feature is interesting, it’s not particularly reliable. The tool has trouble taking the condition and features of the vehicle into consideration. The price estimator may give a ballpark price range, but someone working with a tight budget cannot rely on these results to be accurate. CarGurus is one of the few websites to show price history and will notify you if a vehicle you like drops in price.

Carfax

Carfax website landing page

Pros: Search by vehicle history, responsive design, photos

Cons: Limited inventory, no price alerts, no price history

Carfax has one of the easier websites to find used cars with large vehicle photos and responsive design. Since the company is already one of the most popular vehicle history report providers, it is a household name for anyone in the market to buy a car. However, inventory is limited and price alerts are non-existent, so you wont know when vehicles change in price.

Craigslist

Craigslist homepage map

Pros: Large inventory, private sellers, no advertisements

Cons: Website navigation, scams, no filters

Craigslist is one of the largest online classified websites, selling everything you can imagine. Their autos section posts vehicles for sale from private sellers as well as dealerships. The vehicles range from classics, to winter beaters to everything in between. Private sellers usually have lower asking prices than dealers, but when buying from a private seller, shoppers will want to bring their own mechanic to inspect a vehicle. There’s always the possibility of an online scam on a deal that looks too good to be true. Craigslist navigation is tricky because there is no consistent format and limited filters mean that you can spend hours scrolling through hundreds of posts before you come across something you like.

AOL Autos

used cars on aol dot comPros: Large inventory, vehicle reviews

Cons: Advertisements, photos, not responsive

AOL is a large aggregator of inventory and is paid to give a shopper’s information to a car dealership. AOL has a lot of advertisements that crowd out vehicle photos and important information, but they do offer vehicle reviews where shoppers can learn about new car models. While they have a big inventory to browse from, there are many sites out there with better user experiences.

Yahoo! Autos

yahoo autos screenshotPros: Large inventory, Navigation speed

Cons: No alerts, advertisements

Yahoo! Autos is powered by Cars.com, so their interfaces are essentially the same. Yahoo is a well known source of automotive news and is a great place to reference to stay up to date on automotive trends. However, with no alerts and a handful of distracting advertisements, it is not the cleanest and easiest website to use for car shopping.

Ebay Motors

ebay motors websitePros: Large inventory, alerts

Cons: Not responsive, website navigation

Ebay is the largest public auction site in the world and has a massive used automotive section with inventory from private sellers and dealers. The benefit to shopping on eBay if you’re well versed in cars is you can often get a good deal, if you’re not an expert on such automotive matters, good luck. Ebay is willing to protect the buyer in some cases but ultimately, the buyer is responsible for their purchase.

Ebay also has a robust alert system. Shoppers can get alerts on vehicles they save to their Watch List, when a vehicle’s listing changes or when similar vehicles are added. While eBay alerts won’t alert you about deals, it’s a good way to keep track of vehicles and makes the shopping process more efficient. Despite the obvious risks and shortfalls of buying a car online, eBay is a good resource while shopping for a car, just make sure to do your homework.

Hemmings Cars For Sale

hemmings classified websitePros: Classic cars, private sellers, limited advertisements

Cons: Limited inventory

Hemmings is the place to shop for classic and collector cars. They list rides from as far back as the 1890’s for sale and most of their inventory is full of vehicles from the 50’s through 70’s. If you’re looking for a classic car or a collectible this site is the ultimate resource, but if you’re looking for your average Honda, Toyota or BMW, you’re better off shopping elsewhere.

Carmax

carmax websitePros: Large Inventory

Cons: Limited number of stores, no haggle-pricing

Carmax offers the most unique shopping experience on this list since they are a dealership. As one of the biggest dealership groups in the United States, Carmax has a huge inventory of cars which gives used car shoppers the ability to test drive all the cars they’re cross-shopping in one place. Carmax is a one-price dealership meaning their prices are non-negotiable. Haggle-queasy shoppers like the ability to buy a car the same way they buy a box of cereal at a supermarket, but shoppers who feel they can negotiate their way into a deal might want to consider going elsewhere.

iSeeCars.com

screenshot of iseecars.com imagePros: Dealer and price analysis tools, pictures, no advertisements

Cons: Limited inventory, mobile-site

iSeeCars is a relatively new player in the game. They only work with dealerships so they lack private listings, but their shopping tools are quite advanced. iSeeCars.com has a number of resources like dealer and price analysis tools that lets shoppers see if dealers are pricing their cars fairly. The price analysis tool also compares the prices of cars they’re interested in locally and nationally. Shoppers using their phone might find the iSeeCars mobile experience to be a bit clunky and difficult to use.

TrueCar

true car website searchPros: Market price analysis, no-haggle pricing, no advertisements

Cons: No alerts, not responsive

TrueCar has a unique no-haggle pricing model so shoppers can lock-in the price they want to pay by simply signing up on the website. It’s easy to compare prices and helps shoppers understand if the price they’re about to pay is a good deal. While the design of the website is user friendly, it is not responsive and for the best mobile device experience, shoppers should download the TrueCar app.

BestRide.com

best ride websitePros: Price analysis tools, responsive design, no advertisements, vehicle reviews, email alerts

Cons: Limited inventory, filters

BestRide.com features a simple, user friendly interface without advertisements, for shoppers to search for a used car locally. Shoppers can favorite cars to get alerts when prices changes. Despite the attractive website layout, the functionality can frustrate anyone without a super high speed internet connection, especially when utilizing filters. When refining the search down to five features the page has to reload five different times.

Autobytel

autobytel homepagePros: Large inventory, responsive website, vehicle reviews

Cons: Advertisements, no alerts

Autobytel is one of the oldest online automotive websites designed to help people find deals on cars. They feature an interesting search feature that allows shoppers to browse the “top 10″ vehicles among many different categories such as “most fuel efficient” or “most horsepower.” Despite their veteran status, they are slow to release new features like price drop updates that are desired by online car shoppers.

CarsDirect

cars direct homepagePros: Email alerts, deal evaluator, car delivery

Cons: Advertisements, not responsive

CarsDirect boasts a large inventory of cars and interesting shopping features like vehicle delivery and financing options to streamline the buying process. The website is plagued with advertisements, but avoid the ads and users will find the extensive filters on the website helpful when narrowing down options. The website is not responsive so for the best mobile experience shoppers will either have to download their app which was reviewed poorly or use the CarsDirect mobile website.

Car By Overstock

Overstock carsPros: Price evaluator

Cons: Advertisements, photos, not responsive

Overstock.com is one of the most well known online retailers and have wandered into the automotive industry creating a platform to sell new and used cars. They have a price evaluator to determine a fair value based on the average selling price, but with microscopic photos, it might be hard to tell what kind of car you’re even interested in buying. Plus, Overstock only shares limited information on each vehicle and provides no direct link to the dealership’s webpage. Couple the small pictures, lack of information with advertisements and a boring website design, using Overstock is a very stale experience.

CarSoup

Car soup homepagePros: Large inventory of cars

Cons: Inaccurate data, advertisements

CarSoup has an extensive inventory of vehicles with each search yielding thousands of results just within a 50 mile radius of many ZIP codes. Robust filters also allow for highly specific searches. However, some of the searches yielded inaccurate data like prices in the hundreds of thousands for an entry level Kia. Accurate price and vehicle information are essential when shopping for a car and some users might be steered away from these issues while using CarSoup.

EveryCarListed

every car listed homepagePros: Large inventory

Cons: Inaccurate data, advertisements, photos

Like many of the other websites listed in this guide, EveryCarListed.com has a large inventory of new and used cars and even advertise on their home page, “We have millions to choose from.” Don’t get frazzled though, there are plenty of refining tools to narrow the search. Once the search is narrowed, a pitfall of using EverCarListed is their small photos making it difficult for shoppers to see if they’re looking at the car of the dreams or the opposite.

So now what?

Good question. If you’re shopping for a car, you can get right to it and start a search. If you would rather continue researching, here are some of the best articles on the subject.

- Cheapest states to buy a car

- Best and worst times to buy a car

- Is KBB accurate?

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Written by Turner Parlin & Johncarlo Pecorari & Max Katsarelas

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