Buying a Car on Cars.com: Guide, FAQs, Pros & Cons

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Buying a Car on Cars.com: Guide, FAQs, Pros & Cons

When it comes to buying a car, it can be hard to know where to start—and even harder to know if you’re getting a good deal. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources designed to help. Cars.com is one of the most popular websites for buying and selling cars

This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of buying a car on Cars.com and offer you valuable tips to ensure a smooth purchase. Read to the end for answers to frequently asked questions, as well as the pros and cons of buying a car on Car.com.

What is Cars.com?

Established in 1998, Cars.com is a platform built for buying and selling cars online. The site bridges the gap between buyers and sellers, offering a wide range of listings for new, used and certified pre-owned vehicles, along with extensive vehicle research, reviews and pricing tools to help buyers make informed decisions.

The platform’s data-driven approach makes it so users can find vehicles that best match their needs and budget. With its user-friendly interface and wealth of information, Cars.com is a valuable resource for those in the market for a vehicle.

Steps to buying a car on Cars.com

Step 1: Define your needs and budget

Begin by determining what kind of car you need. Consider factors such as size, fuel efficiency and features. Once you’ve identified your needs, establish a budget. Remember to account for costs like insurance and maintenance.

When you visit Cars.com, you’ll see a drop-down menu on the homepage that allows you to select your preferred make and model, along with the option for new, used and certified vehicles. Get started with these options and see what vehicles match your criteria. From there, you’ll be able to narrow down your search with additional filters like price range, location, trims, vehicle history, color and more. Take your time to browse through the listings and save the ones that catch your eye.

Step 3: Dive deeper

Click on a listing to view more details about the car. You’ll find information about the car’s condition, mileage, features and seller. Cars.com also provides a CARFAX Vehicle History Report for most listings, which gives you insights into the car’s previous ownership, accidents, services and recalls.

Step 4: Contact the seller

Found a car you’re interested in? You’ll be able to contact the seller directly through Cars.com on the vehicle’s listing page. Just enter the required information (your name, phone number, email address) and press the Check Availability button, then Cars.com will connect you with the seller. This is your chance to ask any additional questions you have about the car and arrange a time to view or test drive the car if possible.

Step 5: Negotiate and close the deal

If the car meets your expectations, it’s time to close the deal. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate the price with the seller. Oftentimes, as is the case with most online car-buying platforms, the vehicle will be listed at a fixed price and you won’t have the option to negotiate. 

Once you reach an agreement, you’ll need to complete the tax documents, fees and other forms required to finalize the sale. Once that’s done, you can look forward to getting behind the wheel of your new vehicle.

Step 6: Arrange for transportation

If the car is not in your local area, you might need to arrange for transportation. Professional auto transporters have the skills and equipment needed to ship vehicles safely. If you need to ship a car you bought online, consider Montway. With over 90,000 online customer reviews, Montway has earned its reputation as one of the nation’s top-rated auto transporters. 

Learn more about how auto transport works.

Buying a car on Cars.com can be a straightforward and enjoyable process when you know what to expect. Take your time, do your research and soon enough, you’ll be behind the wheel of your dream car.

Pros and cons of buying a car on Cars.com

Pros:

  1. Wide selection: Cars.com provides millions of vehicle listings across the country, giving buyers a wide selection of options for potential cars—both new and used. Buyers can conveniently compare many different makes and models of cars all in one place. 
  2. Trustworthy platform: Cars.com is a legitimate, reliable website with operations all around the world. Buyers can confidently shop on Cars.com knowing they’re working with a reputable company. 
  3. User-friendly app: In addition to its user-friendly website, Cars.com has a mobile app that provides easy access to the platform’s tools and resources. The app is highly rated and free, making it an excellent way to use the Cars.com platform on your mobile device. 

Cons:

  1. Limited negotiation: Like most online car-buying marketplaces, the prices on Cars.com are usually fixed and clearly posted. This could limit your opportunity to negotiate with the seller like you might do at a traditional dealership.
  2. Uncertain vehicle quality: Despite the availability of vehicle history reports, there might be uncertainty about the quality of used cars listed on the site. This is a general risk associated with buying used cars, not specific to Cars.com. It’s highly recommended to get a pre-purchase inspection before buying any used vehicle. 
  3. Additional fees: Cars.com is designed to connect buyers and sellers, and their platform facilitates the transaction. Because of this, they charge sellers to list their vehicles and may add additional service fees to the price of the vehicle.

Frequently asked questions about Cars.com

Is Cars.com a reputable website?

Yes, Cars.com is a reputable website for buying and selling cars. They have earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for their open communication and high-quality customer service.

What is a good deal on Cars.com?

Cars.com has a unique badge system that sorts cars into “Great Deal”, “Good Deal” and “Fair Deal” categories. The badges appear in the vehicle descriptions and make it easy for customers to evaluate a vehicle while browsing search results. 

The badges include:

  • Great Deal – This badge represents a great buying opportunity due to the vehicle’s price, condition and features.
  • Good Deal – This badge is given to cars in good condition that are priced at market value, or slightly below. 
  • Fair Deal – Cars.com’s analysis finds that these vehicles are comparable to other for-sale vehicles of the same make and model.

How can I adjust my search results on Cars.com?

Once you enter your initial search criteria on the Cars.com homepage, you can add or remove additional filters from the search results page. As you adjust the filters, the results will update automatically to display your most recent preferences. 

Does Cars.com finance vehicles?

No, Cars.com does not sell or finance vehicles. All listings on Cars.com are from dealerships or third-party, private sellers. You may contact the dealership selling the vehicle for more information about financing

Can you sell a car on Cars.com?

Yes, Cars.com is a popular platform for selling new and used cars. Learn more about selling cars on Cars.com.

Cars.com reviews

“I like the filters but wish they would add a filter for cars that have a clean title, salvage title, or are totaled. Too many cars being sold on this site that are wrecked or salvaged and you have to investigate. It used to be a much higher quality car website.” ★★★

-Anthony, Philadelphia, PA
November, 2021

“Shopping for a car from this website is very easy, this website is Super User friendly. I use to go to other random websites to see cars, but not all of them were good because there’s always a scam situation. With Cars.com there is no worries. The details of the car is very easy to understand and you can always filter out the things you need or don’t need. Very simple and easy.” ★★★★★

-Samiul, Medford, NY
August, 2020

“It was a lot harder using a site than going to a car lot in person especially if it’s a used car. I would not likely use a car site as my deciding factor to buy a car. I would have to go to the lot to confirm what I’ve seen through the site. The only thing is that Cars.com gives good pictures and the specs are described in great detail. The site is easy to maneuver and find things or information needed. Simple and straightforward. Just not enough to base my decision on…” ★★

-Renuca, Reading, PA
June 2019

Customer reviews sourced from Consumer Affairs.

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