Over the past few years I've used the following four online services to buy a car. Here's how it went, followed by three other options.
I bought my 1998 BMW M3 convertible on eBay. Lesson learned: Make sure it's such a good deal that you're okay with any foibles undisclosed by the seller. So how do you know you're getting a nice price? Do an advanced search and look at the completed listings. You'll see what sold. Maybe even more important, you'll see what didn't.
TrueCar is a great tool for removing the mystery of the MSRP. Say you want a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500. For that truck, TrueCar has more than 10,000 actual -transaction prices that help you see what you should pay -(probably $2,000 under invoice). Be forewarned that if you do sign in and search a particular model, dealers will begin calling you within about three minutes.
This is an aggregator that covers a number of the popular car-buying sites. The key feature, though, is Craigslist aggregation. I used it to locate and buy a truck that ended up being 800 miles away. And manually searching an 800-mile Craigslist radius is a little masochistic even for hardcore used-car junkies.
Cars.com is useful simply because it's so huge that it quickly exposes outlier prices—both high and low—thanks to the national sample size. It's also great for finding leftovers, since you can search new cars and then sort by oldest first. Did you miss out on the Pontiac Solstice GXP back in 2009? Not to worry, Malouf Buick GMC in New Jersey still has a new one. Although they're evidently not in much of a rush to sell it.
A few other options:
360-degree views reveal features and flaws. Most cars are delivered the next day, with a seven-day test drive. If you live in Atlanta, pick up your car at the eerie but fantastic car vending machine.
If you're selling, Carlypso comes to your house, inspects your car, and installs a device that lets potential buyers take (authorized) test drives. Available only in California.
If your car passes a 185-point inspection provided by Beepi, it will list and sell it within thirty days or buy the car from you. Buyers get a ten-day money-back guarantee.
This story appears in the July/August 2015 issue of Popular Mechanics.
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