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Whether you’re shopping for a brand new vehicle or a used car that will be new to you, you’re expecting to commit a significant amount of money to your final selection. In fact, a car purchase is often one of the most important investments that a consumer will make in any given decade — which means you’ll want your purchase to be the right one. With the right car-buying apps, you’re bound to feel confident throughout your car-buying journey.
However, having the right car model doesn’t guarantee you’ll have the right car. Car-buying apps are modern solutions that will help you narrow down your search until you find the perfect, high-quality match.
This article will introduce you to nine of the best car-buying apps and how you can use them in your car shopping journey.
9 Best Car-Buying Apps
Smartphones are making it easier and more convenient than ever for consumers to do their research ahead of their big vehicle purchases. Below, we’ll describe some of the best car-buying apps you can implement into your research and buying process.
Best For: One-stop shoppers
The largest used car retailer in the United States, CarMax has a total inventory of 50,000 certified used cars — and the number keeps on growing. Buyers can set search filters and browse through the entire selection, straight through the CarMax app.
This mobile app is particularly helpful because it connects you directly to free vehicle history reports, which inform you about everything from ownership history to past accidents, for the cars you’re interested in. You can even make a direct comparison of as much as 10 cars at once and get a 360 view of vehicles.
Prices listed on the app are non-negotiable, but if you’re leaning toward a vehicle, you can save your search and request price drop alerts. Once you’re committed to a purchase, you can get a free appraisal for a car you want to trade in, calculate your monthly payments, and even apply for financing options — all before you visit your local CarMax dealership.
Best For: Consumers needing a second opinion
If you’re seeking used and new car options, TrueCar can help you save thousands off the sticker price of a car. The platform showcases over a million available vehicle options and upfront prices from a vast network of over 16,000 TrueCar-certified dealers. Upfront prices are always discounted rates that you can’t find just by visiting the dealerships yourself.
This car-buying app is also an excellent research tool for consumers who want to hear straight from verified vehicle owners, who are third-party sources that aren’t influenced by the car dealers in any way. You’ll even get unbiased data about the market value of a car, so you always get the most competitive prices.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search, you can input your contact information within the TrueCar app to get further pricing information, which may include more deals, and schedule your test drive.
Best For: Car shoppers who love data
One of the most trusted resources for automotive research in the U.S. is Kelley Blue Book, so naturally, the car-buying app it created is a highly informative and data-backed resource for you to use.
KBB.com is actually a great app to download before you even consider shopping, as its main goal is to help you compare vehicle models in general. Simply input vehicle models that are eligible for the types of Uber cars you want to drive and you’ll automatically see the car’s picture and worth, as well as local dealerships that are selling the model. You can even input your current car model to see what you may sell it or trade it in for.
Kelley Blue Book doesn’t sell vehicles, so that’s all the more reason to trust the information it provides as accurate.
Best For: Drivers who avoid dealerships
In addition to used and certified pre-owned vehicles from car dealers, Autotrader can help you find used car options from private sellers. All you need to do is search specific keywords, like you would on Google, and you can find vehicle options near you.
The Autotrader app allows you to save your searches or even share listings with friends and family members when you create an account. However, you don’t need an account to access the most important details, including prices and vehicle history reports when they’re available.
We particularly love Autotrader because it empowers car buyers to contact sellers via email or phone, rather than requiring you to input contact information and receive sales calls for weeks.
Because Autotrader is an open marketplace, you can even use the car-buying app to sell your car after making a purchase, or simply get an instant offer to trade in your car at a dealership.
Best For: Cautious shoppers
Not to be confused with CarMax, CARFAX is another car-buying app focused on used cars. The app compiles an inventory of millions of vehicles from nearly 30,000 partnered car dealers in the U.S. No matter what vehicle you want for your rideshare gig, you can narrow down your search with powerful search filters — even limiting your search to accident-free cars with a single past owner.
This is made possible through the use of CARFAX vehicle history reports, which are some of the most thorough and trusted in the industry. This app allows you to access these reports during your search.
Much like some of our previously listed apps, the CARFAX app enables you to save and directly compare any car listings.
Best For: Price-conscious consumers
Trusted by consumers for decades, Edmunds now offers a car-buying app that allows you to find used and new car listings in your area.
While its search tools are fairly standard, Edmunds is an extremely impressive research tool for helping you determine if prices and trade-in offers are fair, as well as if you can afford a car in the long term. This is because the app rates prices based on how competitive they are (for example, by placing a “Great Deal” sticker next to a listing) and includes a loan or lease payment calculator. You can also get estimates for ongoing maintenance costs for any given car model.
Edmunds even allows you to call and text car dealers for special car pricing offers that are only available when you used Edmunds to shop. If you’re shopping for a larger vehicle, use the app’s AR garage experience to ensure it will fit in the parking space you have.
Best For: Buyers with a blank slate
Cars.com is one of the leading auto review sites, offering both dealership and car reviews to inform your buying process. You can access 5 million ratings from both consumers and experts, while scrolling through just as many vehicles, straight through the Cars.com app.
If you’re starting with a blank slate, you can use Cars.com to get car recommendations for your personal needs based on a questionnaire. Then, you can manually compare these results with rideshare-eligible vehicles to narrow down the best car models.
During the actual car shopping process, Cars.com also helpfully places badges on listings to highlight great deals, fair prices, and popular cars that are likely to sell quickly. You’ll also be able to call, email, and text dealers for cash back and special financing offers, as well as for test drives.
8. Used Car Search Pro
Best For: Thrifty car shoppers
iSeeCars is one of the most powerful automotive search engines on the web and its app, Used Car Search Pro, connects you to mobile-friendly results on your smartphone. This used car-buying app allows you to sort through millions of cars from over 40,000 dealerships. In total, this accounts for 75% of all United States car listings.
We recommend using the app to get a visual price comparison for every car listing and to get email alerts for price drops. Used vehicle deals on this platform are rated and prioritized based on the value of a deal, so you always know when you’re getting a good price.
Best For: Buyers who like their options
Topping off our list is Autolist, a car buying app that claims to have the largest selection of used cars in the United States. Autolist has millions of vehicles to shop from and is one of the few apps that provides free CARFAX vehicle history reports for every single car option.
While Autolist has average search filters, it’s a great option for drivers who love shopping with clear visuals and want an estimate value to buy or negotiate for when you contact a dealer via phone, text, or email. Much like some of the apps listed above, the Autolist app allows you to get notified about price drops and changes in availability.
Frequently Asked Questions
Car shopping is a process that’s made far easier with a car-buying app on your smartphone. To learn more about purchasing vehicles, new and used, read our answers to three common questions:
1. What is the MSRP of a car?
While doing your car-buying research on the apps above, you may see the abbreviation “MSRP” listed with a dollar value on some car listings. This is the manufacturer suggested retail price of a car, also known as the sticker value, which helps you estimate the car’s original pricing and see if you’re getting a good deal.
2. Will I have any guarantees when buying a car?
Most dealerships will provide some sort of money-back guarantee or purchasable warranty in case there are any issues with your car. For example, CarMax offers a seven-day money-back guarantee for all purchases. We recommend contacting dealers with cars you’re interested in learning more about their guarantees and terms.
Private sellers, on the other hand, rarely offer legally bound guarantees.
3. Is it safe to buy a car off of Craigslist?
While you can definitely find local car listings on Craigslist without getting cheated, we always recommend buying certified pre-owned cars from dealers instead of buying used cars from private sellers. While used cars may cost more from dealerships, they typically include a thorough inspection to ensure a car is safe for the road. This is especially important for rideshare drivers who always have passengers in the backseat.
Improve Your Car-Buying Experience
These days, car shopping is a process that you can complete with the aid of the internet. Instead of browsing blindly from dealership to dealership, you can get to know everything about a car from the comfort of your home with a car-buying app. Once you’ve narrowed down your search, you can go out for a test drive and confidently make a purchase.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.