Find the right used car for you: 24 sites

If you're in the market for a used car, you won't regret searching through these sites, from AutoTrader to Kelley Blue Book to Craigslist to Oodle (and don't forget eBay).

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
7 min read

Automakers have been in the news quite a bit lately. The future of some is very much in doubt. And since the economy is hitting most of us quite hard, I thought it appropriate to take a look at sites that help us find high-quality used cars.

Many of the sites in this alphabetical roundup will provide the research and information you require before you buy a car. Others will allow you to find cars in your area or buy them right on the site. Either way, they're all worth a look.

AOL Autos AOL provides some of the best informational resources on the Web, if you're looking for a car. Whether it's reviews from some of its experts, information on sales, or news, the site has it all. It's a full-featured resource that you'll want to check out.

Automotive.com provides outstanding research. Don Reisinger/CNET

Automotive.com Automotive.com is a huge site offering car availability in your area, research pages, and loan information. But where it really shines is in its reviews, which provide everything from value and pricing to quality and miles-per-gallon information. It's a very useful site.

AutoTrader.com AutoTrader makes it easy to find used cars for sale and even lets you sell your own car right on the site. But if you're looking to research some models, the site's "Research and Compare" page enables you to find the right car for you based on its make, model, type, and price range. All of the reviews are informative.

Carfax Don't even consider buying that used car until you consult Carfax with its Vehicle Identification Number. Once you get to Carfax, you can input the VIN into the search field, and the site will return the vehicle's history report. The report details past owners, when it was manufactured, where it has been registered, and most importantly, whether it has been through a major accident. It's a paid service (one report will run you $29.99), but it's a necessary step in buying a used car.

CarGurus A community of car lovers combined with vehicle information, CarGurus is a nice site, if you want to find out about a car from those who already have owned it. The site has active discussion forums, which are helpful when you need to ask questions. And its research pages and automobile history reports are worth checking out. But the real value of CarGurus is in those forums.

CarMax Much like AutoTrader and Cars.com (below), CarMax provides you with research information on cars in which you're interested. It also allows you to find cars for sale in your area so you can find what you're looking for sooner. And if you're looking to get rid of your old vehicle, the site will buy your car from you for its estimated value. It then sells the car on CarMax to turn a profit.

Cars.com has some outstanding reviews. Don Reisinger/CNET

Cars.com Cars.com is one of the best ways to learn about vehicles in which you might be interested. Its research menu boasts outstanding reviews on practically every car dating back nearly a decade. The site's shopping-advice page comes in handy when you want to determine the real value of a vehicle. It's a must-see before you start your search for a used car.

CarShopSmart CarShopSmart, affiliated with AutoTrader, is a nicely designed site that might be useful. If you want to research vehicles, it boasts some basic information. But the focus of the site is on finding a car in your area or locating dealers close to your home. Unfortunately, though, the size of its vehicle database is a little too small for my liking.

CarZen If you'd like some car-buying advice, CarZen may be the place to find it. From negotiating tactics to in-depth vehicle information, the site will provide you with all the resources you need to place a strong offer. It even helps you find the right car with the help of its fantastic tool, CarConsult. Try it out. You might be surprised by what you find.

Consumer Reports Consumer Reports provides outstanding car reviews, and its simple scoring system helps you quickly determine if a car is for you. The reviews aren't as in-depth as they are on other sites, but what Consumer Reports lacks in quantity, it makes up for in trustworthiness.

Craigslist Craigslist might be a classifieds site, but it's a great place to find cars that are available in your area. Whether you're buying a vehicle or are putting your own up for sale, you can do your research elsewhere and then hit the popular listings site. A variety of vehicles in any price range are always listed.

DriverSide If you want another opinion on the value of your next purchase, consult DriverSide. Besides information on how to fix a car yourself, the site gives you the trade-in value and street value of any car you might be interested in. Because it's relatively new, the site hasn't built up a reputation like Kelley Blue Book and NADA (below) have, but it might be worth trying out.

EasyAutoSales If you think you're ready to find your next used car, check out EasyAutoSales. The site lets you browse classifieds featuring vehicles from both private sellers and dealers so you don't miss one sale. Its database is huge.

eBay eBay might just be an auction site, but its car page is a great place to find automobiles for sale, as well as research and advice from other drivers. In fact, you can find user reviews on cars from a variety of both U.S. and international automakers. The sale prices are pretty good too.

Edmunds boasts quite a bit of information. Don Reisinger/CNET

Edmunds Edmunds is one of the most celebrated names in automobiles because of the depth and quality of its car reviews. And when you surf to the site and check out those reviews, you'll see why. Simply put, Edmunds reviews are the gold standard in the vehicle business. You'll know exactly what you're getting yourself into when you consult Edmunds. It's a must-see.

Kelley Blue Book Widely considered one of the most trustworthy resources in the automobile space, Kelley Blue Book will provide you the real value of cars you're looking to buy. Whether you want to buy a car from a dealer or from the neighbor, the site will tell you exactly what the car is worth so you don't lose money on the deal. And in my experience, most of those estimates are spot-on.

MotorTrend One of the most trusted names in cars, MotorTrend is an ideal source for anyone looking to research and buy a used vehicle. The site includes in-depth reviews on a slew of car models. Its "Driving Test" page is another great resource so you can see exactly how the car will drive before you jump in.

NADA Much like Kelley Blue Book, the National Automobile Dealers Association provides you with accurate value information on any vehicle dating back decades. Whether you're looking for the value of a 1982 Buick or a 2007 Chrysler, the NADA site will tell you what it's generally worth. Have it handy when you finally sit down to talk pricing.

Oodle Much like Craigslist, Oodle provides classifieds for users who want to find cars in their area. But unlike Craigslist, it aggregates classifieds from across the Web. The site has a slew of cars available in any price range. Its semantic search technology makes it easy to find the car you're looking for, and its e-mail alerts will come in handy, if you're looking for a car that's not currently listed. That said, don't expect any research or additional information other than the car's basic make and model. Oodle is the place to buy, not to research.

PriceHub If you're looking for information on how a car drives, PriceHub isn't for you. But if you want to know what a particular make and model has been selling for recently, PriceHub is the place to be. It finds recent sales of cars all over the United States. Once you search for a car, it will tell you exactly how much it's going for on the open market and where they're selling. It's great information to be armed with before you make an offer.

You can find cars for sale in your area with Usedcars.com. Don Reisinger/CNET

UsedCars.com If you've already performed your research, and you think you're ready to buy, try UsedCars. The site lets you search for the car you want in any area. Simply input the year, make, and model you're looking for, and follow that up by inputting the ZIP code. You'll be brought to a page showing all the listings of that car's availability in your area.

Vehix If you haven't heard of Vehix, you'll want to try it out. The site features great information on used cars from a variety of automakers. Its research page is a great resource on cars, and its video buying guide, one of the best elements of the site, makes it even more useful. It's worth checking out when you perform your research.

Web2Carz Although the name of the company is a little suspect, the site provides information on buying used cars. It even has some helpful car ratings. But the most value from Web2Carz comes from its iPhone and iPod Touch app, which allows you to consult Carfax reports, see detailed car listings in your area, view car images, and more. Even better, it's free.

Yahoo Autos Yahoo Autos is a fine resource for researching cars and finding available vehicles in your area. The site's reviews are pulled from different sites across the Web. But Yahoo also offers information on financing a used car and finding insurance.