Top 5 Best Car Research Websites

August 4, 2020

Updated 12/16/21

Google search “car research websites” and you’ll be greeted with about a half dozen advertisements and nearly 1 trillion search results. If you thought it would be easy to find a website to help you research your next ride, you’re in store for some analysis paralysis!

If you’re serious about finding the right car, truck, or SUV, then you need to know which tools you should be using. When it comes to car research websites, there are too many to choose from. Some are well known household names, while many others are not as familiar.

Today our team at YAA decided to list out our top five car research websites that we recommend. Please keep in mind that none of these websites sponsor us or have paid us for placement on this list. Each of the websites listed below has a specific niche that they cater to, and we think it’s worth highlighting them here.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into it.

YAA – Best car research website for getting a fair deal

YAA doesn’t have sponsored listings, lead generation forms for dealers, or fake advertised prices.

If there is one question we get asked most frequently at YAA, it’s some variant of “Well, how much should I offer for this vehicle?” Answering that question is far from easy to do, and in today’s chip shortage market nine out of ten times we reply, “MSRP + dealer doc fee,” or, “Advertised price + dealer doc fee”.

That being said, many car shoppers out there are getting lured into dealership showrooms with unattainably low advertised prices. What did we do about that? We built a car search engine that shows you the TotalPrice, not the BS advertised price!

By simply taking into account your tax rate and the typical fees in your area, YAA gives you a clear view into how much it will really cost to purchase a vehicle.

YAA TotalPrice breaks down all taxes and fees

Having the confidence to offer a fair value for a vehicle is not easy, and as we all know, if we lowball the salesperson, there’s a good chance we won’t hear back from them anytime soon.

That’s why we like that YAA added negotiation insights to their vehicle results. You can see how many days a car has been on the dealer’s lot, what the local supply of that vehicle is, and how many similar cars have sold in the past 45 days.

YAA negotiation insights

Plus, there are no ads or lead generation form for dealers. Instead, YAA has a 4 step buying guide that you can download (which includes handy email templates) to contact the dealer and get a fair price.

Pros

  • Free and no account required
  • No advertisements or sponsored listings
  • No lead generation forms and no spam calls from dealers
  • No fake prices, the TotalPrice shows you what the car will really cost

Cons

  • Inventory updates nightly, not in real-time
  • Supercars are not included

AutoTempest – Best for researching hard to find used vehicles

AutoTempest search result

Finding the right vehicle can be tough. If you’re buying new it can be a bit easier (you can always customer order one directly from the factory), but when you try and find the exact right used car, it can take days, weeks, and sometimes even months, before you’re able to stumble across the car, truck, or SUV you’ve been searching for.

AutoTempest is one of the most helpful and useful car research websites available, especially if you’re looking for a hard to find used car. Their search functionality aggregates used car listings from across a variety of sources, and their standardization of data allows you to filter search results for highly specific criteria, such as fuel type, drive type, and more.

Rather than spend an hour on eBay, an hour on Craigslist, and an hour on Cars.com, one search on AutoTempest will pull in results from all of those websites (and more) at once. Save time, reduce the number of browser tabs you have open at once, and rejoice when you find your new to you used car quicker than before!

Pros

  • Save a ton of time
  • Filters work well considering all the different types of data
  • You don’t have to create an account to get started

Cons

  • Data is not always accurate
  • No way to “save” vehicles for later
  • No “good deal” or “bad deal” indicator

CapitalOne Auto Navigator – Best for bundling finance and research

Capital One Auto Navigator screenshot

If you’re trying to stay organized, having all of your information in one place can be very helpful. Rather than trying to remember a bunch of logins and passwords, using one tool can help you keep things organized. CapitalOne’s Auto Navigator is attempting to provide you with exactly that experience.

After ending their mortgage business, Capital One has invested heavily into being a dominant auto lender. To that end, they built a very robust online car research website that anyone (not just Capital One clients) can use.

Auto Navigator offers the same type of search functionality as other traditional car research websites, but what makes them special is that they offer a simple and seamless pre-qualification to their process. If you go ahead and pre-qualify on their website you’ll be able to see potential offers for monthly payments on the vehicle listings. This can be helpful to reference during the vehicle research process.

Pros

  • The best online experience to get pre-qualified for a loan
  • Robust filter and search capabilities

Cons

  • Rates are not guaranteed, you still have to qualify for financing at the dealership
  • You are limited to searching dealers that are in Capital One’s network

CarsDirect – Best for searching by monthly payment

Although it isn’t our recommendation to negotiate your car deal based off of the monthly payment, it is entirely advisable to research which vehicles may meet your monthly payment goal. CarsDirect offers one of the best user experiences for doing this.

We hope to see it improve in the future, but for now, your best bet is to “shop by payment” on the CarsDirect “find deals by payment” page.

CarsDirect research by monthly payment

CarDirect lists out dozens of options at a variety of price points, and even has a separate page for lease deals by payment as well. Unfortunately this is only for new cars, trucks, and SUVs, and not used, but maybe someday in the not too distant future we’ll have a similar breakdown for used vehicles. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a car research website that helps you identify options within your monthly payment goal, this is your best bet.

Pros

  • Quickly get a sense for which vehicles may meet your payment goal

Cons

  • No search by payment option for used cars
  • A lot of prompts to “create an account” and share your contact information

CarGurus – Best market trends

Bear with me for a moment here, but CarGurus is like the Zillow of the automotive industry. They seemingly have ALL the data. And with all the data, they have an opportunity to create a lot of really interesting and compelling insights.

CarGurus has a simple and intuitive search engine, but candidly it feels exactly the same as all the other “brand name” car research websites out there. Where CarGurus stands out, is with its lesser known Price Trends feature.

The Price Trends feature allows you to view price trends over a set period of time for any particular make, model, and year of vehicle. You can also view trends based on body style. This is super helpful during the research process, as you may be able to identify a specific vehicle, or type of vehicle that has decreased in price in the past few weeks and is now in your budget. Identifying trends across a vehicle, or vehicle type, can be incredibly helpful at the beginning of the car research process.

For example, you can see that minivan prices have been increasing at a much slower rate than convertible prices.

CarGurus price index screenshot

With this information you may be more interested in researching minivans instead of convertibles — yes, I am aware this is a poor comparison, who cross shops a Honda Odyssey with a Mazda Miata — but the thought is still true! In terms of research, CarGurus has you covered in ways that other websites don’t.

Pros

  • Very robust Price Trends tool
  • Free to use, no account required
  • Intuitive search functionality

Cons

  • Too many sponsored listings
  • Occasional inaccurate filtering of data

So there you have it, those are the top five car research websites we recommend. If you’d prefer to search through the 1 trillion search results to find a different website, more power to you. Our recommendation is that you focus on one of these five websites, and you’ll have a better car buying experience.

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