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AutoTrader vs Cars.com

Anyone shopping for a car will most likely use both Autotrader and Cars.com. Both sites provide you a wealth of resources for you to buy, sell, or trade in your car. Largely there’s not much of a difference between the two so you can’t go wrong by going with either one. Having said that, let’s look at some differences that may matter to you as a potential car buyer.

Car listings

Ever wonder which site has more car listings? We did a quick comparison and while this is far from scientific, it gave us an indication. Comparing the number of car listings in 3 big cities across the US, it seems like AutoTrader has a slight edge over Cars.com. The numbers won’t motivate me to prefer one over the other. In fact, you probably should check both sites when shopping for cars as the first few cars that appear in your search result will likely differ.

Number of used cars by private sellers

  Los Angeles Dallas New York
Cars.com 2353 1598 2926
AutoTrader 9092 2446 2960

Number of used cars by dealers

  Los Angeles Dallas New York
Cars.com 52,054 44,594 84,300
AutoTrader 76,754 48,335 78,575

Website experience

Cars.com

Pros

Cars.com has an intuitive website that is easy to navigate and find the tools you need quickly. Search and filter feels significantly faster than AutoTrader which is a big plus as you’ll most likely be doing many searches to find your ideal car. I also like how Cars.com automatically filled out the comments in the contact the seller form so you don’t have to waste time typing out the same generic message to every seller. “Hi, I’m interested in your XXX, can we set up a time for me to check out the car?” You get the idea.

Cons

One really annoying thing about Cars.com is the placement of display ads on its site. They are strategically placed to increase your chance of accidentally clicking on one of them. While AutoTrader also has display ads on their site, they are deliberately placed further away from click zones so you won’t notice them as much. Printing and sharing of car listing can also be done better. Try printing a car listing will result in 4 or more pages with a lot of wasted space.

AutoTrader

Pros

AutoTrader has a full feature website that provide powerful tools to help you find the car you want. The search criteria has a few welcoming additions over Cars.com such as style, fuel economy, and car features. The ability to print highlights of a car listing or text it to your phone is really useful. You also get more details about a car along with reviews and news.

Cons

Search is painfully slow on AutoTrader and I was getting annoyed with the modifying search result function. Sometimes my modification gets reverted for no reason at all! I couldn’t figure out why but the point is, it shouldn’t happen at all! In the end, I had to click on “Edit this search” first before modifying my search criteria which seems unnecessary and extraneous.

Selling your car

Cars.com

Cars.com provides packages ranging from free to $49 for you to list your car on their website. The free package is a no brainer with only the minor annoyance of having to renew your listing after 30 days. The premium package at $49 is a good deal too as it includes a carfax report at $40 value. Buyers will definitely appreciate not having to pay extra for a car history report.

AutoTrader

AutoTrader takes a more a la carte approach to car selling compared to Cars.com. Packages range from $25 - $100 but you can buy add on features like ads on kbb.com, premium listing, AutoCheck report, etc. I would recommend going with the standard package at $25 and add on “run till it sells” for another $25. It’s worth running your ad for as long as possible because selling a car takes an average of 2 - 3 months.

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