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10 best car-buying apps

Compare models and find listings in your area with only a few swipes.

Editor's choice: Carvana

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The days of visiting a car lot with your fingers crossed for the right model at the right price are far behind you. If you have a smart phone, you have access to apps that can help you find the best deal out there. These are some of the best around when it comes to researching and buying a car.

We judged each car-buying app based on its features and overall design, including some that can help with the research process but don’t list specific cars for sale.

Overall, we looked for apps that have a solid user interface and make the search process easy. Since many share the same features — like the ability to save cars, look at vehicle history reports and contact local dealerships — we listed our top picks in no particular order.

  1. Carvana
  2. CarMax
  3. Edmunds
  4. Kelley Blue Book
  5. Carfax
  6. TrueCar
  7. Consumer Reports
  8. Cars.com
  9. Used Car Search Pro
  10. Autolist

1. Carvana

  • Best for: A 100% online process

Carvana is the go-to place if you don’t want to set your phone down. You can search for used cars, apply for financing and sign all of your documents online. The app allows you to search from over 20,000 cars.

Once you create an account, you can favorite cars for quick comparison and get an estimate for your trade-in. And after you complete your purchase, you can track your delivery, get recall notifications and make monthly payments all through the app.

So while you’re limited to Carvana’s inventory — and can only use Carvana financing on one of its vehicles — it provides one of the few all-online buying experiences out there. There’s no haggling, either, which makes it a good choice if you just want to buy a car without frustrating sales pitches.

2. CarMax

  • Best for: Comparing a nationwide inventory of cars with upfront pricing

CarMax is a national used car buying service with an app to help the process. Through the app, you can compare up to 20 cars at once and save searches to keep track of your favorites. When you think you’ve found the one, you can schedule an appointment with one of the 200 dealerships nationwide.

When you get there, you can browse a car’s information and CarFax report directly on your phone with its Scan and Shop feature. And if you’re on the fence, you can share results with a friend or CarMax associate to get a second opinion.

However, you’ll be limited to the CarMax inventory. It may be extensive, but you won’t find every possible vehicle in your area. You won’t be able to negotiate prices, either — what you see is what you get. But with a quick financing process and an inventory of over 40,000 cars, it may be worth skipping the traditional dealership and avoiding the haggling process.

Get CarMax on the App Store | Get CarMax on Google Play

3. Edmunds

  • Best for: Researching a variety of cars before shopping

Edmunds is one of the top resources available when you’re trying to decide between cars. Its Research section allows you to narrow your selection down by make and model. From there, you can read a comprehensive review based on the model year you’re interested in.

And if you’re stuck between a handful of cars, you can compare the features, cost of ownership, current incentives and specifications of each to help guide your decision.

The Edmunds app allows you to save cars and quickly return to your favorites. It also offers an affordability calculator alongside a loan and lease calculator to ensure you’re choosing a car that fits your budget. You can even use a parking calculator to see if the car you’re interested in will fit in tight spots — a unique feature for drivers living in urban areas with cramped parking conditions.

Get Edmunds on the App Store | Get Edmunds on Google Play

4. Kelley Blue Book

  • Best for: Viewing information about specific models and trims

The Kelley Blue Book (KBB) app won’t help you find your dream car at a dealership, but it can help you see what a fair purchase price would be for any new or used car you’re interested in. Each model has its own dedicated page that covers the car’s value, basic features, consumer reviews and a KBB expert review.

However, the app’s design is quite basic. You can find the same information on KBB’s website, which may be slightly easier to navigate.

Get Kelley Blue Book on the App Store | Get Kelley Blue Book on Google Play

5. CarFax

  • Best for: Looking up the repair and maintenance history of a used car

CarFax is the most well-known source for vehicle history reports — and its app makes it easy to look at the history of a variety of used cars in your area. It allows you to filter cars based on reported accidents or damage, the number of previous owners, how the car was used and its service history.

Each listing offers a free CarFax report along with pictures of the car and dealership contact information. You can even estimate your monthly payment for each car to ensure it fits your budget.

But it lacks calculators and overall reviews for specific models. So if you’re hoping to find the best deal out there, it may be worth downloading an app like Edmunds or KBB to look at comparable listings in your area.

Get CarFax on the App Store | Get CarFax on Google Play

6. TrueCar

  • Best for: Seeing what others paid for similar cars in your area

TrueCar lets you view what other people paid for similar cars — both new and used. You can shop by brand, compare model trims and view TrueCar’s best-rated vehicles. When you select a car, TrueCar will show you a personalized offer from a dealership that includes taxes and fees, which means less guessing on the final price. And when you’re ready to sell your current car, TrueCar allows you to get an estimate and skip the trade-in hassle at the dealership.

It works with over 16,000 dealerships nationwide, so it can give you an accurate idea of what you should be paying for your car. And it also works with several organizations to help you find special deals and discounts you might qualify for. For example, USAA members can receive a special discount off their car’s MSRP. However, your contact details may be shared with these dealerships and organizations, so be prepared for sales calls.

Get TrueCar on the App Store | Get TrueCar on Google Play

7. Consumer Reports

  • Best for: Quickly viewing ratings and test results from Consumer Reports

Through the Consumer Reports app, anyone can view reviews of cars by type, make or model. It also offers helpful articles about buying or leasing. But to unlock ratings, you’ll need to create a Consumer Reports account.

And if you’re looking for a search engine to help you find a car in your area, you’re out of luck. Consumer Reports doesn’t provide listings, but rather easy-to-access information on a multitude of car models. It’s best used when you already have a selection of cars in mind and are trying to narrow down your selection.

Get Consumer Reports on the App Store | Get Consumer Reports on Google Play

8. Cars.com

  • Best for: Searching for cars in your local area

While you’ll have to sign up for a Cars.com account to save searches and receive price-drop notifications, you can browse all of the app’s features as a guest. These include a short quiz to help you select a car based on your lifestyle, three calculators and a selling tool to make it easy to list your car on Cars.com or with a local dealership.

What makes Cars.com’s app stand out is its powerful search engine. You can filter by used, new and certified cars, as well as by make and model, maximum price and location.

Its research section covers the specific features and specifications of each car by year, and you can read expert reviews to compare the good and the bad of each car. When you’re ready to buy, you can view the inventories of nearby dealerships to make shopping that much easier.

Get Cars.com on the App Store | Get Cars.com on Google Play

9. Autolist

  • Best for: Browsing a wide selection of cars across the US

Autolist is a powerhouse of service. It claims to offer the largest selection of new and used cars — with over 24 million listings. You’ll even be able to email or call the dealership directly from the app to start the car-buying process.

The app itself is easy to use. You can search by location, body style or specific make and model. Each listing comes with an estimated monthly payment, breakdown of the car’s features, mileage stats and a CarFax report.

And like with other apps, you can save your favorite cars, get notified when prices drop and calculate your potential monthly payment. If you’re looking for variety, Autolist may be the best place to start your car search.

Get Autolist on the App Store | Get Autolist on Google Play

10. Used Car Search Pro

  • Best for: Narrowing down your search by specific criteria

Also known as iSeeCars, the Used Car Search Pro app is ideal for narrowing down your car search by very specific criteria. Aside from filtering by standard factors like make and model, you can also sort by dealership rating, days on market, legroom, headroom and a variety of other features.

When you’re ready to sell, you can list a car for free with a tool that helps you determine what price you should sell it for.

Get Used Car Search Pro on the App Store | Get Used Car Search Pro on Google Play

6 more car-buying apps to try

These don’t make our best list, but if you want to get the best possible deal out there, it’s good to have a wide selection of apps on your phone.

  • Instamotor. It’s only available in California — but it lets you find and finance used cars similar to Carvana or CarMax.
  • Vroom. Another service that offers financing for its inventory of used cars. You’ll just need to put down a deposit to reserve your vehicle.
  • Fair. Fair lets you lease used cars, which may be a more affordable option if you like to have a new ride every few years.
  • AutoTrader. Like Autolist and Used Car Search Pro, AutoTrader lets you browse dealerships across the country to find new and used cars in your area.
  • Blinker. Blinker specializes in helping you sell your car, but it also works with AutoTrader when you’re ready to buy.
  • CarGurus. CarGurus lets you browse new and used cars at dealerships in your area. You can also apply for financing and sell your car directly on the app.

Looking for private party sales? Amazon Marketplace, Craigslist and eBay all have apps available that let you browse local listings.

Bottom line

Whether you’re trying to decide between two different models or simply find the best price for a car in your area, one of these top apps can likely help. Once you’ve done the research and are ready to buy, you can compare financing offers with our guide to car loans.

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