Autotrader Review: What to Know Before You Buy or Sell
I am a serial entrepreneur and a consumer advocate. When I’m not helping car buyers, I love working on ventures that have a positive impact.
Autotrader claims they are the ultimate online solution for buying and selling cars.
Our expert editors are here to put Autotrader to the test. Do they really give you greater control during the car-buying process? Some customers would absolutely agree, but others are left unsatisfied.
Here’s our honest review of Autotrader, where we dive into how the platform works and if they deliver on their claim.
Table of Contents
- What Is Autotrader?
- How Does Autotrader Work?
- How to Buy a Car Through Autotrader?
- How to Sell a Car Through Autotrader?
- Does Autotrader Provide Financing?
- Can You Negotiate with Autotrader?
- Can I Refinance an Existing Loan Through Autotrader?
- Autotrader Fees – What’s the Catch?
- Does Autotrader Offer Protection Plans & Warranties?
- Autotrader Review – The Good & Bad
- Autotrader Customer Reviews & Complaints
- What Are Autotrader Alternatives?
- Best Car Deals by Category
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Autotrader?
Autotrader is an online platform for buying and selling used, new, and certified vehicles. The company was started in 1997 and is based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Their platform contains a wide variety of vehicles from both private sellers and local dealers. It also provides helpful tools for customers to research vehicles and insurance.
Can I Trust Autotrader?
Many people have successfully bought and sold cars from Autotrader. However, others have described negative experiences.
Overall, Autotrader is a trustworthy site. Still, you must do your due diligence to thoroughly research vehicles and understand liabilities before purchasing or selling your vehicle through their platform.
How Does Autotrader Work?
Autotrader seeks to improve the car market by providing tools for retailers, manufacturers, and consumers.
Their platform was designed to improve the car buying experience while also improving the entire vehicle value chain. They make it easier for consumers to buy vehicles and for those selling cars to advertise them.
How to Buy a Car Through Autotrader?
Buying a vehicle through Autotrader is fairly simple. Here are the basic steps:
- Start Your Search. Browse through the adverts on Autotrader. You can narrow down your search based on location, vehicles features, make, model, etc.
- Compare Options. Use their comparison tools to directly compare vehicles you are interested in. This makes it easier for you to find the right option.
- Assess Financing. Most dealers offer financing, but it’s often best to compare financing quotes from several sources. Check for financing with your local bank and credit union as well.
- Make the Offer. Many adverts on the site allow you to make an offer. However, this is not available for every vehicle. For those with the option, you can submit an offer with the down payment amount, your credit score, financing information, etc.
- Finalize the Purchase. Then, you finalize the purchase with the seller.
How to Sell a Car Through Autotrader?
Private sellers and dealers can sell vehicles through Autotrader. There are two ways to do this:
Option 1: The first option is with a Kelley Blue Book instant offer. For this choice, you simply head to the website and click “get my offer.” You will enter the vehicle details and receive an instant offer. The offer is valid for seven days. If you accept, then Autotrader collects the vehicle from your home.
Option 2: The other option is to post an advert to Autotrader to advertise your vehicle to millions of users. To do this, you follow the prompts on their site to create an advert. This includes entering vehicle details, including quality photos, setting your price, and more. Buyers can then view your advert and make offers.
To sell your vehicle, you will need the bill of sale, odometer mileage disclosure, vehicle title, service book and receipts, and as-is documentation.
Can You Trade-in a Car Through Autotrader?
Yes, you can also trade in your vehicle through Autotrader. To determine the value of your trade-in, Autotrader leverages Kelley Blue Book data from dealer websites, adverts, car auctions, and more. They assess the current market with their free car valuation tool.
To trade in the vehicle, you must enter the vehicle details. Then, you’ll receive the instant cash offer good for seven days. Select a participating dealer, then complete the trade-in. The offer is the same whether you choose to trade in the vehicle or sell it outright.
Does Autotrader Provide Financing?
Autotrader operates as a “credit broker.” This means that they do not provide financing.
However, they make it easier for you to apply for financing with the retailer. The platform includes a calculator to help you estimate monthly payments for vehicles you are browsing.
While Autotrader has helpful tools and information for financing, they do not provide it.
Can You Negotiate with Autotrader?
If you opt for an instant offer to sell your vehicle on Autotrader, then you cannot negotiate. They provide haggle-free offers, which means you can take it or leave it, but no negotiation.
However, if you buy or sell on the platform via adverts, then you can negotiate. Most often, you can submit an offer as a buyer, which means the seller can accept or negotiate it.
Can I Refinance an Existing Loan Through Autotrader?
No, since Autotrader does not provide the financing you cannot refinance your loan through them. They have some helpful information on refinancing a loan, but they will not be able to help you do so. Instead, you must contact lenders to refinance the loan.
Autotrader Fees – What’s the Catch?
What about Autotrader fees? Here’s what you need to know.
How Does Autotrader Make Money?
As one of the largest auto marketplace, Autotrader makes money in a myriad of ways. They make the majority of their money (84%) from trade customers or professional retailers.
Autotrader charges them a stock advertising fee for each vehicle, with a discount for a large number of listings. They also sell value-added services that these sellers can use to engage more buyers. Private sellers who advertise their vehicles on Autotrader must also pay a fee.
Currently, it costs $49 per listing. With each listing, you can also enjoy free ad renewals.
In addition to advertising fees, they also make money from service providers that pay them a flat rate for exposure, like GEICO and Capital One.
Does Autotrader Deliver and Pickup Vehicles?
Autotrader picks up the vehicle if you sell it to them with an instant offer. Otherwise, it is up to the buyer and seller to arrange vehicle pickup/delivery.
What is Autotrader’s Return Policy?
Autotrader does not guarantee free returns or exchanges. They put the responsibility on the buyer to understand the Consumer Rights Act. They also provide tips for safely buying and selling a vehicle. Still, they do not offer a return policy.
Does Autotrader Offer Protection Plans & Warranties?
No, Autotrader does not provide any warranties or protection plans. You must shop elsewhere for protection plans.
However, if you purchase from a dealer on Autotrader, their dealership may offer warranties or protection plans for free and/or for an added fee.
Autotrader Review – The Good & Bad
Pros: Here’s What I Like About Autotrader
- Affordable listings.
- Huge customer base to post adverts to.
- Comprehensive features
- Helpful tools
- Ability to sell or trade-in your call
- Good searchability
- Detail-packed car profile
Cons: Here’s What I Don’t Like About Autotrader
- An excessive number of options can be hard to narrow down
- There are several restrictions, for example, the trade-in marketplace is only available in some areas and for some vehicles.
- No help with car loans, it redirects you to another site.
- No guarantees or returns.
Autotrader Customer Reviews & Complaints
Overall, Autotrader has okay customer reviews. On Trustpilot, they have a startling 1.8 out of 5 stars out of only 183 reviews. Interestingly, the rating is significantly higher on Consumer Affairs, with 4.0 stars, and on Site Jabber with 3.5 stars
Here are some key takeaways from positive reviews:
- Easy process
- Sellers are able to sell quickly
- Customer service has improved
- Great inventory available
However, not all customers had a good experience. Here are some common complaints:
- The site seems geared more towards helping dealers than private sellers
- Many “bait and switch” ads
- Lots of “scammers” contact those trying to sell their cars
- Customer experience issues with the site
What Are Autotrader Alternatives?
Autotrader is certainly a helpful resource for buying, selling, or trading vehicles online. Here are some of the top Autotrader alternatives to consider:
- Carvana: Carvana is a well-known online platform for buying and selling used cars. It features haggle-free pricing and financing options. Read our full Carvana review.
- CarMax. With both physical locations and a robust online platform, CarMax is one of the top options available. Learn more in our CarMax review.
- Vroom. Vroom is an online used-car dealership that also provides financing options. Read our Vroom review and the comparison of Vroom vs Carvana to learn more.
- Shift. Another solid option for haggle-free used car buying and selling is Shift. Read our full review of Shift.
- Peddle: Peddle gives sellers an instant offer for their vehicles. They claim to provide a simple, modern way to sell your car online. Read our full review of Peddle.
- WeBuyAnyCar. They provide a fast, convenient process for selling a car from the comfort of your home. Read our full review of WeBuyAnyCar here.
- Rental Car Companies. If you are looking for well-maintained used vehicles, then consider buying from a rental car company. Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis sell used rental cars for great deals. Read our review here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Autotrader free?
Some parts of Autotrader are free, like many of their research tools. If you post an advert to sell your vehicle, you must pay.
Is Autotrader legit?
Autotrader is a legitimate business and trusted website. However, they do not own the inventory in the adverts. Therefore, you must approach car selling and buying with caution even on their platform. Additionally, they have quite a few negative reviews citing “scammers” on the site.
Is Autotrader worth it?
If you are looking to buy, sell, or trade-in a vehicle, then Autotrader is a solid option. It’s free for buyers, so it’s definitely worth using during the car shopping process. For sellers, it’s not super expensive and is often worth it. You can also opt for an instant offer and avoid the advert fee, but you may be able to get more for your vehicle when selling directly to consumers.
Does Autotrader lease cars?
No, as of right now Autotrader does not lease cars.
Where is Autotrader available?
Autotrader is available throughout the U.S. and has 3 million vehicle listings from 40,000 dealers and 250,000 private owners. As of 2018, they also operate in Australia.
Does Autotrader check credit scores?
It’s unclear if Autotrader checks credit scores. They do not provide financing directly. Instead, you can get financing through their finance partners. The finance partners will check your credit score.