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A Buying Guide to the Best Car Websites of 2021

man shopping online for a car

Buying a car online has never been easier with so many options out there today. Plus, since COVID-19 is still a big concern, purchasing online is a great way to stay safe and find a reliable new ride.

However, all of the online car buying websites can get overwhelming. How do you know where to look to get the best deal and trustworthy service?

We’re going to break down the best car buying websites so that you can decide which one is right for you. Use this article as a buying guide while you’re car shopping so that you know what to look for from an online car retailer.

Online Car Buying Guide

Before you start shopping, there are a couple of questions you should ask yourself so you can narrow down your search. First, are you looking for a new or used car? Do you already have a specific make and model you want, or are you open to shopping around?

Knowing what you’re looking for will make the search less overwhelming. If you aren’t sure what specific car you want yet, you should still make a list of your priorities. How many seats do you want? What size car do you like? What kind of features, like a backup mirror and four-wheel drive, are non-negotiable?

Keep your list of priorities somewhere you can easily access so that you can refer back to it when you’re browsing car buying websites. Now let’s start online shopping.

Best Car Buying Websites

The websites below offer different features, so which one you use will be based on your needs. For instance, some websites let you buy directly from private sellers, while others operate like an online dealership. Some offer car shipping, but it’s usually for a big fee.

Let’s break each one down so you can get the information you need.  Here are 8 great websites to shop for a vehicle, listed in random order.

1. Carvana

Carvana quickly became famous for its car vending machine, and the company isn’t slowing down. With Carvana, you can choose from their selection of used vehicles and complete the whole process online. You can even sell or trade-in your old car to them online and they will come to pick it up.

Carvana delivers to some places, or you can pick your car up from their car vending machine in person. Their payment service also lets you apply for a loan and do all the financing on their site.

All of their vehicles go through a lengthy inspection, but if you aren’t totally happy with your car, there is a seven-day return policy.

The downsides to Carvana are that they are not flexible with pricing and their in-house financing doesn’t accept co-signers.

2. CarMax

One reason people prefer to shop for cars in person is so they can do a test drive. CarMax makes it easy to shop online and still get in a test drive before making your decision. They’ll deliver the car to you to test drive at home for a small fee.

The other pros to CarMax include their extremely large used-car inventory, financing options through their website, and free vehicle history reports. Like Carvana, they also have a seven-day return window, perform incentive inspections, and offer trade-ins.

The cons to CarMax are that the prices are not negotiable and they do not deliver the cars that are bought online.

3. eBay Motors

If you want to purchase from a private seller, you can bid for cars on the eBay Motors website. Fortunately, eBay offers great protections for buyers so you can feel safe purchasing from a private seller. For instance, if you don’t receive a vehicle you purchased or there are issues with it that weren’t disclosed, you’ll be issued a refund.

With eBay, you aren’t restricted to just the private sellers in your area. You can buy from a nationwide selection of sellers.

If you want price flexibility, eBay is a great option since you can place bids and negotiate with sellers. However, they are no returns, so you have to be careful about walking into a bad deal.

4. Vroom

Vroom is another new car delivery website that competes with Carvana. It offers very similar services, like trade-in options, financing, and a seven-day return window. However, they charge $499 to have your car delivered, and it can take up to ten days. Of course, you can always look into other options to ship your car.

5. CarGurus

This website focuses on getting you the best savings on your new car. Its advanced and extremely user-friendly search engine prioritizes the best deal, and you can search by a local radius or nationwide.

It’s a peer-to-peer selling website, but they assist with the whole process, including switching the title name. However, you do have to speak directly to the seller instead of working with a professional. If you need more assistance with your purchase, you might not like that aspect of CarGurus.

6. CarsDirect

If you want to start shopping online but ultimately purchase at a dealership, you can use CarsDirect.com to compare the deals at your local dealerships from home. The site also helps you communicate with the dealership and apply for financing.

When you’re shopping, you can specify your online search by price to make sure you stay within your budget. However, not all of their cars come with history reports.

If you want to do the whole car buying process online, this isn’t the site for you. But if you want a hybrid experience where you can shop around online and then drive your car out of a dealership, CarsDirect is a great option.

7. Autotrader

If you want to compare deals between dealerships and private sellers, Autotrader has them all in one place. It’s a used, pre-owned, and new car buying website, and you can filter your search by area and type of vehicle.

You can’t buy a car directly from the site, but it does offer trade-in and cash offers options. However, since the site doesn’t guarantee the purchase, you have to be careful that you don’t get fooled into a bad deal.

8. AutoTempest

If you know you want to buy a car from a private seller but don’t want to spend hours searching every website, head to Autotempest. This website corrals all the listings from Craigslist, eBay, Autotrader, and more, so you can see all of your options in one place.

However, the site doesn’t guide you to the best deal, so you have to do the pricing research on your own. On the plus side, you can search through both new and used cars, and the site features honest reviews of different types of vehicles.

If you need to sell your current car, this website is also a great place to list it.

Shipping Your New Car Home

Buying a car online has a ton of advantages. You can spend more time searching for the best deals, get it completely financed online, and potentially never even leave your house throughout the whole process.

However, one possible hiccup is figuring out how to get your new car home. Some car buying websites have shipping options, but they usually add a hefty fee. Several sites do not have a shipping option at all.

Before you finalize your car purchase, check out third party shipping options so you can get the best deal getting it home. American Auto Shipping is a great option. You can get an instant quote online here.

After that, the process is fast and simple. You can choose between enclosed car shipping and open transport. Then just place your order online and schedule your pick-up and delivery dates. Your original quote is a locked-in price, so you don’t have to worry about any surprise fees.

We ship anywhere in the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii, and US territories. You don’t have to worry about filtering your car search to just your local area. If you find a great deal on a car you love on the other side of the country, American Auto Shipping can get it home for you.

For more details on how the process works, check out our frequently asked questions page.

Buying a Car Online Has Never Been Easier

The idea of buying a car from your couch was a crazy concept not long ago, but now it’s just as popular as car shopping in person. Hopefully, the online car buying guide gave you direction so you can choose the best online car retailer for your next car.

Be patient with the process. You may have to weed through some bad options before you land on the perfect one, but car shopping online will still save you time since you don’t have to leave your home.

With so many options out there, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than your dream car for a great price. Keep your list of priorities within reach so you can use it to guide your search.

Once you find your perfect car, ship it home with American Auto Shipping. Get a quote on our website today, and check out the rest of our blog for more car buying resources.

Dave Armstrong
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