Autotrader

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Autotrader

Autotrader.com seeks to be the ultimate solution in buying and selling certified, new and used cars. Serving customers for over 18 years, Autotrader.com provides a large selection of automobiles from both nationwide and local dealers and private sellers. The company also provides friendly customer service and tons of valuable research and comparison tools, reviews, and help with financing, warranties, and car insurance. Autotrader.com provides car search and membership services completely free of charge. 

The Good

  • Great features
  • Car profiles
  • Great search function

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.

Car Shopping:

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:

Basic Specifications:

  • Location
  • Condition
  • Price
  • Style
  • Year
  • Make
  • Model
  • Trim

Bonus Specifications:

  • 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.

 

The Bad

  • Search can become convoluted
  • Restrictions and stipulations
  • No information on car loans

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.

Here's why:

  • 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.

The main issue that has popped up repeatedly in 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.

The Bottom Line

One word describes AutoTrader.com: comprehensive. To date, the site has the biggest new and used car listing online. The plus is that there is so much to choose from and the minus is that it can be too much to choose from. The site answers this, however, with its "Find Your Car Your Way" page with a serious list of specifications to hone your search down to even minor details. AutoTrader.com's list of research tools and information resources provide consumers with a full, qualified shopping experience. Could the site use an upgrade to improve its apps and uploading time? Sure. Has it proved that it fulfills its promise to its 14 million qualified buyers each month? Absolutely.

Overall, Autotrader.com appears to be an excellent comprehensive and trusted way to shop online.

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