A black 2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback is shown from the rear.

Looking For a New Car? Explore the Online Used Car Market

The car industry has been in a state of flux, to put it lightly, over the past couple years. As manufacturers and buyers alike have put up with supply chain shortages, we’ve seen car prices (not to mention gas prices) jump all over the place. As someone who recently had to navigate the car sales market, I can attest to how overwhelming it might seem. You’re at once trying to find the cheapest deal while also trying to find a dealership that has options. So, if you’re on the lookout for a car, it might behoove you to take a look at used models so you can avoid some of the headaches I had. The used market has been on a hot streak recently, and many dealerships and organizations are taking advantage of it, offering more used vehicles than ever before.

Navigating that used market might be a bit confusing, though. It’s changed so much in the past couple of years that it’s worth walking through how the used market has adjusted to shifting times. You can now, for instance, buy a used car online and have it delivered right to your driveway. You can sell one like that, too. Sound fishy? If you go to the right source, it isn’t. It’s just a sign of how much technology has affected the way we do business.

A white 2018 Toyota Camry is shown driving on a highway.

A Broad View of the Used Market

The pandemic slammed down production, resulting in massive delays that linger to this day. New cars are more expensive than they were pre-COVID thanks to this supply chain crisis, leaving customers feeling out of luck if their lease is up or their car is on its last legs. What choice do they have other than to brace for sticker shock at the dealership and empty their savings account?

There is another choice: the used car market. Used cars have also seen price growth, no doubt about that, but it still stands as a more affordable option than purchasing a vehicle brand new. With cars built better than ever, it’s likely that whatever car you purchase will still be in good shape if it’s a few years old. You may even be able to sell it yourself in a couple years, which might be advantageous for your bank account as the used market will likely remain robust.

The used market has recently seen some price reductions, albeit not to pre-COVID levels, so now is probably a good time to make your move. Automobile analysts expect prices to tick back up in the near future, so if you’re looking for a good deal, then time is of the essence.

Benefits of the Used Market

People tend to assume the worst when they hear a car is used, but there are some significant benefits, especially in a time where subcompact and compact SUVs rule the roost. Too many sedan models, especially sports car ones, have been discontinued in the past decade. If you’re like me and partial to sedans, then you’ve probably looked at new models with some despair, and not just due to price. Manufacturers have reduced their sedan offerings, with some eliminating them completely. Searching for a used sedan model will probably give you more options than if you stick to only new models.

A red 2018 Mazda 3 sedan is shown parked after visiting a used car sales dealership.

Who Can I Trust?

There’s no question in my mind that the biggest downside to the used market isn’t price or the quality of vehicles. It’s that not enough people know the right way to access the higher end of the used market. Too many consumers think they have to turn to anonymous people on Craigslist, peruse the local newspapers for ads placed by total strangers, or just hope a friend of a friend doesn’t need their car anymore.

There are far better ways to buy a used vehicle. In almost all circumstances, I tell people to avoid the aforementioned methods. There are too many risks associated with buying from an individual. You don’t know if you can trust them, or if they’re giving you a fair deal. You can’t be sure if they know what they’re talking about. Even if they have every intention of being honest, the individual you’re buying from could be wildly misinformed about the state of their car. We’ve all met someone who claims their car can handle terrain that it obviously cannot. You don’t want that person being the one handing you a set of keys.

There are too many unknowns when you buy from an individual. You’re far better off going with an organization.

What About a Dealership?

Dealerships are a great place to find used cars. A vehicle sold at a dealership will usually have gone through a detailed inspection, although you’ll want to do your due diligence on that. Not every dealership offers warranties or other promises of that nature, but most do. Another benefit of a dealership is that they are a known organization, and they hope you come back for more business in the future, so they’re less likely to offer you a car that’s in bad shape or mislead you.

Dealerships do have a downside. They tend to only offer one or two brands of sedans. That’s why there’s another market you should consider: the online one.

A gray 2022 Subaru Impreza Sport is shown parked on a street.

An Online Market?

Easy to think that buying a used car online is a bad move. In the past, that may have been true. But there’s been a move even at dealerships to make the process virtual. You can often become pre-approved by visiting a dealership’s website. This began in earnest during COVID, and it turned out that buyers loved being able to tackle part of the purchasing process from home.

Organizations like Online.cars, among others, have just moved the entire buying process online, while still offering warranties and protections. You’ll be able to view the vehicle, review its specs, and look over its history. Plus, in most cases, the car will be delivered right to your house once you make your decision.

The biggest advantage isn’t just the ease, however. It’s the larger selection. Online vendors will usually have a slew of sedans, SUVs, and trucks available for you to choose from. Now, instead of going from dealership to dealership to look at the one or two sedans each happens to have on the lot, you can view a selection from the comfort of your couch, regardless of where the cars are actually located. This lets you compare not just different models, but different brands all at once. This is a far more relaxing experience. Plus, reviews of online organizations abound, so you’ll be able to check out customers’ experiences beforehand, which will let you feel confident in the place where you eventually buy your car. There’s less bartering with online sources, too, unlike at physical deliverships. If that part of the process causes you agitation, then an online vendor will be a real gift.

So much of the world went digital during COVID, and it looks like a lot of the world will stay that way. I don’t doubt that online purchases of used cars will become more popular. I’d go so far as to say a decent percentage of the market will operate in such a fashion within the next decade. Don’t believe me? Take a look around your home and consider just how much of it you buy from online sellers now. There’s no reason your car can’t be next.