The days of scanning a newspaper's classified ads to buy your next used car are over. In place of tiny columns of cryptic abbreviations and terse descriptions of cars' conditions, the Internet boasts searchable listings with generous detail and expansive photo galleries. Here are some of the best sites.
When you want cheap, Craigslist is the first place to go. Because it doesn't charge a fee to post a listing, it's a haven for bargain sellers – largely private owners and small dealerships, but also some ordinary dealers.
However, Craigslist's biggest downside is that the free posting invites scammers, and some sellers put little thought into their ads. It also doesn't have the comprehensive search tools of the paid sites and forces you to choose a particular region in which to search.
Paid automotive marketplaces
A step up the ladder from Craigslist, websites like Cars.com and AutoTrader.com offer many car listings and make it easy to find the specific car you want. Advanced search options include color, body style, mileage, transmission, color and even particular features like leather seats or a sunroof. You can also search for multiple vehicle models at once.
Cars.com and AutoTrader.com generally won't have the cheapest of the cheap that you'll sometimes find on Craigslist, but there's still plenty of value to choose from. Note that although car sellers must pay to list, there's no cost to buyers.
Once a dominant force in online auto sales, eBay today offers relatively few cars, and many sellers advertise the same fixed price that you'd find anywhere else online. But some cars are still listed under eBay's traditional auction system, where you can potentially snag a great bargain if other bidders show no interest in the car you want.
Brady Holt, a Washington D.C. newspaper reporter, has had a lifelong interest in cars in the automotive world, and he'll share his thoughts at every available opportunity. Brady has written for Examiner.com since 2008, publishing hundreds of car reviews, automotive news pieces and other features. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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