Researching and buying a car has never been easier. All the information required to make an informed purchase of a new or used car is available online. And, increasingly, information from fuel economy, emission levels, insurance groups and monthly costs to reviews of the car and the dealer selling it, can all be found in one place.
The days of buyers rocking up at a dealership to kick a few tyres and be sold a car by a suited salesperson are pretty much over. On average, car buyers visit just 1.2 dealerships before buying a car. That means most customers pretty much know what they’re buying before setting foot on a dealer’s forecourt.
If it is a used car, the buyer will visit the showroom knowing what the dealer has in stock, how vehicles are priced compared with the rest of the market, what they can get for their part-exchange and how much the purchase is going to cost if they opt for a finance deal.
New car customers are similarly empowered. Simple online research will show what new cars the dealer has in stock, how much a personal contract purchase (PCP) or personal contract hire (PCH) deal will cost them each month, and how much they can get for their trade-in.
The power of knowledge is now in customers’ hands
Buying a car now is all about consumer empowerment. Indeed, car sales staff are more used to dealing with customers who are fully genned up on the minutiae of the model they are buying and often know more about specific models than they do.
This empowerment has come from the internet. Here at The Car Expert, for example, we have welcomed more than five million visitors who are looking for advice and expertise on buying a car. Customers are no longer prepared to simply go along with whatever a salesperson tells them, and they have become very savvy at checking facts and shopping around.
Car dealers and car manufacturers have responded to this demand for information with greater levels of transparency in order to entice and win customers. And that’s got to be good news for buyers.
The downside of having all this readily available information is knowing where to start because buyers are spoilt for choice.
If you’re in the market for a new or used car, and tend to shop locally with the same brand, then simply go on to that dealer’s website. Chances are most of the answers you require are there because dealer websites have changed beyond recognition in recent years in terms of content and functionality. Expect 360º images of cars, maybe even a video, a choice of funding options, independent reviews of the dealership and the ability to talk to someone out of working hours through Live Chat.
However, if you’re casting a wider net and haven’t decided on brand or model then the world really is your oyster. To make the process as easy as possible, The Car Expert has gathered together five websites that are all worth looking at.
The benefit of all these websites are that they are not aimed at petrolheads (although there’s still plenty on offer to engage them!), but serious buyers who want to choose the most appropriate models for their needs and budgets. Each website has their own strengths and USPs, but all of them offer the time-saving option of being a one-stop shop for your next car.
Stock level *as at 9 January 2018
Used cars: 390,136
Nearly-new cars: 74,350
New cars: 7,316
Auto Trader has dominated the used car market for decades. Although the print publication was discontinued in 2013, the online version has evolved into the most visited car website in the UK thanks to its use of cutting edge online technology and its ability to attract the country’s biggest listing of cars because along with its used and nearly-new cars it also lists new cars.
The website prides itself in its delivery of easily digestible information, allowing buyers to continually fine tune their search by vehicle size, fuel type, economy, emission levels and much more. New for 2018 is the ability to search by monthly finance cost, an essential function as car buying has moved increasingly to the PCP monthly payment model.
The vast majority of cars are sourced from franchised and independent dealers across the UK, although it remains the preferred location for private sellers to advertise their cars.
USP: The biggest selection of new and used cars for sale in one place
We like: Lists nearly-new cars separately
Stock level *as at 9 January 2018
Used cars: 385,170
New cars: 8,977
Although number two in terms of overall stock listings, Motors has made great strides in recent years with high-profile TV advertising campaigns that have successfully attracted visitors and stock to its site.
Motors was first to market with the ability to view by monthly payments and is supremely user-friendly, with the clever use of eye-catching graphics enabling buyers to select their criteria according to practicality, budget, road tax and creature comforts.
Stock is sourced from a wide range of franchised and independent dealers from across the UK.
The site also has a feature for buyers to price and advertise their cars free of charge for up to four weeks to millions of potential buyers.
USP: Clever use of graphics to help select buying criteria
We like: Able to search for new and used cars
Launched in the UK in 2016, by the co-founder of TripAdvisor, after becoming the biggest online marketplace for used cars in the US, CarGurus is in a position to use online technology and tools which have been road tested in the US and Canada to give UK car buyers a new online shopping experience.
All cars are sourced from franchised and independent dealers with the site offering price transparency as buyers are advised whether the price is in line with market values. It also shows any price drops and will tell you if the price reflects a “Great” or “Fair” deal.
What’s clever about the search facility is that cars are listed according to the accuracy of their market pricing as well as the reputation of the dealer, as car retailers cannot pay extra to be listed first.
Definitely one to watch.
USP: High level of price transparency
We like: Email alerts if the price of a car has been dropped
Stock level *as at 9 January 2018
Used cars: N/A
New cars: 480
Launched in 2013, carwow is aimed specifically at buyers in the market for a new car with all stock provided by franchised dealers.
The search facility is easy to navigate with budgets ranging from £8,000 to over £80,000 and there’s plenty of consumer friendly advice on what to choose, complete with video reviews.
What differentiates carwow is that once the buyer has chosen the model they are interested in, it’s then up to dealers to come up with the best price. This process is done by email and removes the need for haggling.
The site has proved to be popular with over a million users visiting it so far. Expect nearly-new and used cars to be added to the site.
USP: Site currently specialises in new cars
We like: No haggling over prices
Another newcomer set on shaking up the way used cars are presented and sold online.
The site describes itself as the “UK’s largest search engine for used cars” and with a stock of over 761,000 cars, it’s claim is valid.
Think of Carsnip as the used car version of Google. You search for a car according to brand or vehicle type and you land on a page showing what’s on offer. By clicking on the model you’re interested in you are sent directly to a dealer’s website to start the negotiation process.
USP: Search engine for used cars
We like: Scale and ease of use
The newest player in the online classified market, launched in January, is findandfundmycar.com. The site offers an interesting proposition as it links funding to every used car advertised on the site: hence the name.
The website was launched by MotoNovo Finance, an established player in the car funding sector, who has used its standing to attract dealers from across the UK to advertise their used stock with buyers able to tailor their payments by selecting a deposit to determine the monthly PCP or hire purchase budget.
If you’re wondering why you’ve been humming the Madness song Driving in My Car then that will be down to the power of the website’s high profile advertising campaign across TV, radio and social media.
USP: One-stop shop for buying and funding used cars
We like: Ease of use