How to Look for Used Cars Online

November 5th, 2016 by
searching for used cars

With literally millions of online used car listings, finding that perfect used car may require a significant effort


More than 38 million used cars were sold in 2015, and you can bet that the vast majority of those were listed in a variety of online venues. That’s a lot of online listings to go through! How in the world can you find anything, let alone the used car that’s right for you if it feels like you’re searching for a needle in a haystack? Fear not! There are some things you can do to make this process less daunting than it might feel to you right now.

First, figure out if you’re searching for a car or a dealer. What’s the difference? If you know what you want, you can just start searching for the car itself. For example, if you know you’re interested in a particular category of cars, such as small SUVs or mid-sized sedans or something along those lines, most of the sites that offer lots of listings of used cars for sale (Autotrader, Truecar, Cargurus, Cars,com, Edmunds, Carfax Used Car Listings, Craigslist, etc.) can automatically help you narrow down your search to those categories, as well as what’s available within a certain number of miles of the zip code in which you live.

If you’ve got this narrowed down to the make and model, even better. Most sites will allow you to set filters with those parameters, so you’ll quickly be able to narrow down your search to what interests you most. But first go to sites like Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds to get a feel for what these used cars are selling for in your area. Although the prices you find there can only serve as a guideline, it at least gives you a starting point.

Now you can go back to the online listings with a better idea of which ones might be really good deals. Don’t be freaked out if you see the exact same car listed on several different sites – dealers want to advertise their inventory as widely as possible.

If you come across a vehicle with a price that seems too good to be true, then it probably is! Those eye-popping deals more often than not wind up being cars with problems that will cause you massive headaches down the road. For any listing that interests you, see if there’s a vehicle history report available for free. If there isn’t, think twice about pursuing it. You want to be able to tell quickly and easily if the car has been in a serious accident. If you’re including cars for sale by private parties, consider buying a temporary subscription to a vehicle history report service such as CARFAX or AutoCheck so you can easily look up the VINs of cars that interest you.

But if you don’t really have much of any idea what you want, it might be better to first search for a dealer or two. The biggest and best used car dealerships are going to have lots of inventory on their lot, and you can work with a sales rep who will help you figure out what you want, and you can try any number of kinds of different vehicles in the process. The key to this approach, of course, is finding dealerships you can trust. Ask friends and family for their opinions on places where they’ve purchased used cars and had good experiences. Also be sure to check customer reviews of any potential dealership on sites like DealerRater, Yelp, and Google. You should be able to pretty quickly determine who’s worth visiting and who isn’t. Finally, there are some telltale signs that serve as the hallmarks of great used car dealerships. Look for those that offer the following: Haggle-free pricing, free vehicle history reports, a money-back guarantee, warranties with each vehicle, and help lining up good financing.

Finally, if you come a across a good deal, don’t wait to act on it – the best deals never last long!

If you are looking for  used car and happen to be in San Diego County, Auto City is a great way to start shopping for a used car. Please visit our inventory page to see what we have to offer. We have hundreds of carefully selected vehicles and excellent financing for any credit. Every used car for sale by Auto City comes with a warranty and money back guarantee. That’s piece of mind!