Used Car Search: Tips for Starting Your Search Online


Although most car buyers buy their vehicles locally, most of their car shopping and research is done online. After all, it is easy to find, research, and compare vehicles all from the comfort of your own home. Save time and money by waiting to go to the car dealer until you are sure of which car you want.

When searching for used cars online, you'll come across a number of websites, software programs, and smartphone apps that enable you to search with a keyword phrase instead of selecting a specific make and model. If you are looking for a particular make, such as Ford, but you don't have a preference about the model, the ability to use a generic search phrase is recommended. The same rule applies if you are shopping on a tight budget — you are just looking for a car (any make and model) that you can afford.

As for that search phrase, it is recommended that you take into account the type of used car you'd like to buy. With the example above, a "Ford" search can produce a wide range of Ford vehicles, including cars, trucks, minivans, and so forth. A "Ford Focus" search will produce more focused results. If you have a specific make and model in mind, use a search phrase that includes them.

Those shopping on a tight budget may not have specific make and model in mind; they just want a vehicle that they can afford. When doing a Google search, you may search with the phrase "cheap cars for sale."  You won’t need to add the word cheap on a car website because most car buying sites or car finder apps have the ability to set a price range. This is a great feature if you are shopping on a budget. When you use a generic search phrase like “car” and set a specific price range, you will see all the results for cars in your area that meet your search criteria! This means you'll have the largest selection of vehicles (regardless of make and model) that you can afford.

A good website will enable you to enter in your zip code and then select a search radius. For example, if your search radius is set to 25 miles, you will only see vehicles within a 25 mile radius of your zip code. Feel free to play around with this distance because a larger search radius may result in a larger selection of vehicles to choose from. Take advantage of email or phone calls to contact sellers beforehand to determine if the vehicle is worth taking the time to drive and see.

It is also common to see a few additional search filters on car finder apps and vehicle buying sites. You may be able to enter in a minimum and maximum year, select a color, and so forth. If you have a specific want or need in mind, activate these filters. Your results will be targeted, meaning you'll see the vehicles that fit all of your search criteria. Keep in mind that the more filters you apply, the less results you will receive.