Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, AutoTrader.com got its start in 1997 as an online marketplace for car shoppers and sellers. Although AutoTrader’s founder(s) is not clearly specified, its first employee was Chip Perry, who later on as CEO guided the company through a series of acquisitions in 2010 and 2011 during the addition of several software companies to help dealers run their businesses. Perry stepped down in 2013, leaving the position to Sanford (Sandy) Schwartz. To date, AutoTrader.com is owned by the Auto Trader Group under the parent company Cox Enterprises, with over 3000 employees and reported 1 billion plus in total revenue—attracting more than 14 million qualified buyers each month.
First, before diving into the pros and cons of the website, here is an outline of AutoTrader’s purpose and function:
AutoTrader.com offers customers the following benefits:
- The largest selection of vehicle inventory from dealers and private sellers
- The most comprehensive selection of buying and selling tips
- The most complete research and compare tools, including reviews, photos, videos and more
- Vehicle pricing, including seller specials and dealer discounts
- Safety information and vehicle history reports
- Help with finance, insurance and warranty programs
Autotrader.com features a comprehensive menu of features to help you select the right new or used car for your unique needs and style. There are hundreds of informative and up-to-date articles and reviews on a wide array of vehicles to choose from.
Autotrader.com offers a diverse collection of features and benefits including:
- Over 3 million vehicles in inventory from local and nationwide dealers and sellers
- Buying and selling tips
- Research and comparison tools with photos, videos, and reviews
- Discounts and specials
- Financing tools such as a Monthly Payment Calculator and Affordability Calculator
- Warranty programs
- Free car insurance quotes through Geico.com
- Safety and vehicle history reports.
Trade-in offers are available by filling out a short questionnaire. Instant cash offer is generated immediately and sent to the requester’s email and is valid for up to 72 hours. After a local dealer does an inspection on the vehicle, the instant cash offer can then be redeemed by cash or check or towards the purchase of another vehicle.
Placing an ad to sell a vehicle ranges from $25-$100. If you would like to receive expert help, VIP services are available from $159 to $289. These VIP packages include benefits such as pricing advice, privacy shields, solicitor blocking and call screening, title transfer document services, and much more.
When car shoppers visit the AutoTrader.com website, the first option they get on the Home page is a “ Find Cars for Sale” tool to research and compare new, certified and used cars by selecting their desired body type, mileage, price and numerous other criteria. (Be sure to select a price (and a price that is more than 4 figures) to get search results. Otherwise, no results will pull up).
Once on the results page, the site allows visitors to narrow down their search with more specific car specifications like mileage, minimum to maximum price range and minimum to maximum year range. Each car or vehicle has a range of clear professional-quality pictures showcasing the car’s front, rear, side, interior and exterior.
Each car profile allows visitors to get a vehicle history by clicking the CARFAX icon positioned below the car photo. Just as useful are the car details provided upon clicking on the car profile. Some of the details include:
- Exterior color/ interior color
- Gasoline Mileage for City and Highway
- Cylinder Type
- Transmission type
- Drive type (i.e. two wheel drive)
- Current mileage (i.e. 40,000 miles) for used cars
If the car is being sold by a car dealership, this page also provides the dealer’s address and has an email sheet to email them directly.
The “Find Your Car Your Way” page is really thorough, with additional specifications to choose from, including:
- Convenience/Comfort (3rd row seats, backup camera, power locks, etc)
- Entertainment/Technology (CD Player, Hands-free Blue Tooth, DVD player, Navigation, etc)
- Luxury (Heated Seats, sunroof, leather seats, etc)
- Miscellaneous (Disability-equipped, Trailer Hitch, etc)
- Type of Seller (Dealers only, Private Sellers only, Trade-in Marketplace Dealers)
These specifications narrow the car search down significantly, filtering out what could become an overwhelming list of car listings to comb through. This means that the more the buyer knows about what they want, the better the search tool will work for them. It also prepares buyers before engaging dealers. They have all the information they need—from car history to CD player—to increase the chances they will get what they want for the price they want.
While we’re on the subject of being prepared, AutoTrader has a toolbox of tools and resources to better equip consumers to purchase a new, used or trade in their car. Many of these tools are pretty standard in the auto website niche, but it always counts as a plus when they have several on the same site because it makes the car research and buying process so much more convenient.
Consumers on AutoTrader.com can find how much they would have to pay on an auto loan with the auto loan calculator. (AutoTrader also offers car loans, so the two go conveniently hand in hand). If you are trading in a car, the calculator shows you how much the traded car’s value will impact loan payments. The calculator tool also allows consumers to find out what their car is worth to get an instant cash offer from AutoTrader’s Trade-In Marketplace.
AutoTrader’s Trade-In Marketplace allows car owners to trade their car in with what seems like 3 easy steps:
- Step One: Tell AutoTrader about the car to be traded in and get a cash offer backed by AutoTrader.
- Step Two: Visit a participating Trade-In Dealer and get a final offer.(Cash offer is based on the dealer’s own car inspection report)
- Step Three: Trade in Car or redeem final offer for cash.
This is compatible for the average car owner who has little working knowledge of cars or how to trade one in. Another likable aspect is that you’re not locked into a deal or a price until the very end (i.e. Step three). There are other things to consider, but that will be discussed in the next section.
One thing about the 3 million plus car listings is that you can easily get lost when searching for a car. Visitors should avoid searching for a car on the “Find Cars for Sale” tool on the Homepage, as it will pull up both new and used cars together, making your search convoluted. Instead, as previously suggested, select the Cars for Sale tab which will give you a thorough specification list.
Another thing: new traders need to understand about the Trade-in tool/feature is that it really isn’t as simple as 1-2-3.
- Trade-In Marketplace is not available in all areas and not all vehicles are eligible for offers.
- Instant Cash Offer is valid for 72 hours at participating dealerships.
- Autotrader will not redeem Instant Cash Offers nor purchase customer’s vehicle.
- The offer is generated using an appraisal tool and it may not reflect the highest sale price or trade-in value for the vehicle.
- Vehicle must pass a mandatory vehicle inspection by a participating dealer. If the inspection report differs from customer’s description or online assessment of their vehicle’s condition, the participating dealer may adjust the offer amount, which may mean decreasing the offer amount.
- Participating dealers are not owned or operated by, nor are they affiliated with or acting on behalf of, Autotrader.
- Autotrader holds no liability resulting from an adjustment of the offer or refusal to accept the vehicle by participating dealer(s).
There are even more details and restrictions, but the gist is that a better option would probably be a site that specializes in direct used car trade-ins with less small print stipulations, such as AuctionDirectUSA.com.
Although Autotrader.com has an A+ rating and is fully accredited with the Better Business Bureau, the company has had 76 customer complaints over the last 3 years. All cases were successfully resolved with the company. According to the Better Business Bureau, the main issue that has popped up repeatedly in these complaints is in regards to confusion concerning the 100 percent money back refund guarantee policy on advertisement fees if a vehicle does not sell within 90 days after placing an advertisement. As a result of these misunderstandings, Autotrader.com has discontinued the money back guarantees of this month. There are no official replacement offers at this time.
One other downside is that there appears to be no information on car loans on the site. When you click on loan on the navigation bar, you are lead to the website roadloans.com to apply for a car loan. Being able to get information on the various types of loans available and interest rates would be extremely valuable.
One last recommendation is to upgrade user-friendliness. The iphone app appears to have poor usability with only a 1.5 rating. The website also could run a speed diagnostic test. Modifying your search on the used car listings proves to be quite a chore. Very slow to upload.
Time in Business
Autotrader has been in business for 18 years. Business started 01/01/1997.
A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau
Autotrader allows consumers to search for new, used, or certified cars by:
- Location: Any Distance
- Condition: New, Used, Certified
- Price: Any Price
- Style: AWD/4WD, Commercial, Convertible, Coupe, Hatchback, Hybrid/Electric, Luxury, Sedan, SUV/Crossover, Truck, Van/Minivan, Wagon
- Year: 1981-2016. Find classic and pre-1981 cars with AutoTrader Classics.
- Make/Model/Trim: Any
- Fuel Economy: 40+ MPG (Best) 31 – 40 MPG (High) 21 – 30 MPG (Average) 10 – 20 MPG (Low)
- Specifications: Mileage, Interior and Exterior Color, Engine, Automatic/ Manual Transmission, Drive, Number of Doors, Fuel Type
- Features: Convenience/Comfort: 3rd Row Seats, Backup Camera, Cruise Control, Keyless Entry, Multi-zone Climate Control, Power Locks, Power Windows, Steering Wheel Controls Luxury: Heated Seats, Leather Seats, Premium Wheels, Sunroof Entertainment / Technology: Bluetooth, Hands-Free, CD Player, DVD Player Navigation: Portable Audio Connection, Premium Audio, Security System Miscellaneous: Disability Equipped, Lift Kit, Trailer Hitch
- Exclusive Features: Mazda’s Skyactiv Technology: an engineering philosophy that reimagines every vehicle component to work together in unprecedented harmony. The result is breakthrough efficiency without compromising driving performance. ToyotaCare: a no cost maintenance plan with 24-hour roadside assistance. The ToyotaCare plan covers normal factory scheduled service for 2 years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. 24-hour roadside assistance is also included for 2 years, regardless of mileage. Valid only in the continental U.S. and Alaska. Lexus Enform connected services offer 24/7 agent assistance, online destination and route planning, integration of popular mobile apps and emergency services. The new Remote App lets users remotely locate their vehicle, lock doors and more.
- Sellers: Dealers Only, Private Sellers Only, Trade-In Marketplace Dealers
- Listing Features: Price, Photos, Videos
- Sell a Car Yourself or With Expert Help: Place an ad. The VIP team provides expert assistance, including pricing and ad creation. How does VIP expert help work? After signing up, a VIP consultant will call you within 1 business day to create your ad, help you price your car, set up your Privacy Shield information and get your Run ’til It Sells Spotlight listing online. If you’ve scheduled any additional services, like a mobile vehicle inspection, we’ll also get your appointment scheduled. The VIP team is available to provide assistance and answer any questions until your car is sold
- Research and Compare Car Models online. Browse articles, news and reviews
- Get an online instant trade-in offer redeemable for cash or toward purchase of another vehicle
- Financing Help: Monthly Payment Calculator, Affordability Calculator, Compare Certified Programs, Get Car Values or Trade-In Offer. Apply for loans through Roadloans.com or get a free quote on car insurance through Geico.com
- Find local Dealers
Used Car Liquidation
Trade-Ins: An Instant Cash Offer is generated once you’ve entered your car’s details in our online questionnaire. Following a free dealer inspection to verify your car’s condition, you decide whether you want to sell your car, and get a check for the amount of your final offer, or trade in for another vehicle at your inspection location. No fees for trade-ins, car searching or membership, only for car selling. You can find out the value of your car by filling out a simple online form. An Instant Cash Offer is generated once a car’s details are entered in an online questionnaire. Following a free dealer inspection to verify the car’s condition, you decide whether you want to sell, and get a check for the amount of your final offer, or trade in for another vehicle at the local inspection location.
Autotrader.com is a mobile-friendly site as tested on Google Developers’ Mobile Friendly Test: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.autotrader.com%2F
Yes. Autotrader is the only website with more than 3 million vehicle listings from 40,000 dealers and 250,000 private owners. We provide the largest selection of vehicles and attract more than 14 million qualified buyers each month. You may not sell more than 5 cars at one time on their website.
Car Loan Education
There does not appear to be any education on car loans. While there is a loan tab on the site, visitors who click on it are led to roadloans.com where they can apply for a loan.
How Pricing works:
To sell a car, there are a few advertising choices, DIY or with expert help. DIY ranges are as follows:
Standard: 4 weeks + 3 online photos $25
Enhanced: 8 weeks + 9 online photos
Deluxe: Run ‘til it sells + 18 photos $75
Premier: Run ‘til it sells + 18 photos= Featured Spotlight $100
Fees: no fees for trade-ins, memberships, or car searching
Fees only apply to car selling
VIP Expert Help:
Standard VIP: VIP Consultant, Privacy Shield (anonymous phone number & email address), 4 week Spotlight Ad, Ad creation help & expert pricing advice, 30 photos, Solicitor Blocking, Run ’til It Sells Premium listing, Weekly ad activity report : $159
Enhanced VIP: Call Screening, Privacy Shield, Run ‘til it sells, Solicitor Blocking, Shopper Call Screening, Graphic tile, Title & Transfer Document Services, Ad creation help & expert pricing advice, Weekly ad activity, Run ’til It Sells Spotlight Ad, Run ’til It Sells Premium listing, 30 photos, Get an anonymous phone number & email address: $259
Deluxe VIP: Shopper Call Screening, Ad creation help & expert pricing advice, Weekly ad activity report, Run ’til It Sells Spotlight Ad, Run ’til It Sells Premium listing, 30 photos, Distribution to KBB.com & other partner sites, Privacy Shield, Get an anonymous phone number & email address, Solicitor Blocking, AutoCheck Vehicle History Report,Title & Transfer Document Services: $289