Autotrader.com (our partner here at KBB) is a comprehensive site for consumers seeking to buy and sell cars, SUVs, and other motor vehicles. In the past years, it seems that every day a new competitor pops up, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to see what each has to offer. Here we take a look at Autotrader.com vs. U.S. News.
Autotrader History and Background
Auto Trader first launched in 1992 in print, showing ads for cars. This print version lasted ceased publishing in 2017. Autotrader.com, with much more comprehensive tools, reviews, and vehicle history reports, started in 1997.
With the stated goal of being “your ultimate solution for buying and selling new, certified, and used cars,” Autotrader.com offers a number of benefits. It boasts the largest selection of vehicle inventory from dealers and private sellers; a comprehensive selection of buying and selling tips; research and comparison tools, including reviews, photos, and videos; vehicle pricing, including seller specials and dealer discounts; safety information and vehicle history reports; and even help with finance, insurance, and warranty programs. We at KBB.com provide pricing information in our partnership with Autotrader.
Autotrader.com lets shoppers research and compare cars by body type, mileage, price, and other criteria. In terms of numbers, Autotrader has more than 3 million vehicle listings from 40,000 dealers and 250,000 private owners, with more than 14 million buyers per month.
One unique feature on Autotrader.com is “Dealer Home Services” which allows shoppers to search for only those new or used cars where the dealership offers a video walkaround, at-home test drive, and vehicle delivery. This is particularly useful for people who are not keen on visiting dealer showrooms.
U.S. News History and Background
Unlike many of the other sites, we have looked at here, which are exclusively about buying and selling cars, U.S. News and World Report is a news service, but similar to a daily newspaper, it has a car-buying section.
U.S. News started way back in 1933 as a news magazine, the company founder David Lawrence later starting World Report in 1946. The two magazines eventually merged into one in 1948, and then switched over to Web-based content in 2010. U.S. News also publishes things such as its college ranking lists.
Autotrader listings for Car Buyers
Autotrader.com allows buyers to search for new cars by everything from make to style, price, location, and even more.
Each new car listing includes information provided by the seller, including the vehicle’s VIN (vehicle identification number) and often the dealer stock number.
What you will see on Autotrader.com
At the top of the page, you are allowed to search by make, model, or style. An “Advanced search” button allows you to broaden your search terms, with such things as location, condition, and style.
Next, you come to a page that shows an example of a car and a dealership, with the MSRP. It also includes information on the dealership and KBB’s dealer rating. Boxes appear with Dealer Home Services options, such as whether a video walkaround or at-home test drive is available. You also have the option to expand the search radius from your home.
Once you click on a particular car, the mileage, engine, transmission, mpg, exterior, and interior colors, and the VIN are included, including seller comments. Lower down the page is listed warranty information.
Below that is pricing information provided by us here at KBB.com. This includes the MSRP and how it relates to what we believe the fair market range is for the vehicle. We update this information frequently as it changes depending on things like season (convertibles are more popular in the summer) and desirability or popularity of a particular new car.
If you need to finance the vehicle, below this is the “Calculate Payment” tool where you can plug in the number of months and down payment and (if relevant) the trade-in value of your current vehicle. It will then tell you your monthly payment and what the APR is.
Contacting a seller through Autotrader
At the top of the is an e-mail click that says “confirm availability” if you like the car.
Then there are a number of ways to contact the dealership, including a private message with your name, e-mail, and (optionally) phone number. Or you can send an e-mail and ask questions about the car.
U.S. News listings for Car Buyers
The Web site appears like most online news sites, with a number of tabs at the top, including Cars. The cars page is then divided into New Cars, Used Cars, Car Rankings, Cars for Sale, Advice, Best Car Deals, and Sell Your Car. Below is a tab for either Reviews of Cars for Sale where pull-down menus allow you to input make, model, and year. Below that are a number of different rankings and U.S. News Award Winners.
One somewhat unusual feature about the U.S. News site is that there are tabs at the top of the Cars page for New Cars, Used Cars, and redundantly, Cars for Sale. Each has its own slightly different pull-down, with the options under New Cars including Research Cars, Best Price Program, and Car Deals This Month.
The Used Cars tab is similar, with Used Cars for Sale, Used Car Deals This Month, and also a tab for Certified Pre-Owned. The Cars for Sale tab is more basic, with the only options being New, Used, and Certified Pre-Owned.
New Cars for Sale on U.S. News
Once you click on the New Cars for Sale tab, it brings you to a nationwide page where you can search by your zip code. But the page is already populated with all the cars for sale all over the country, with such things as where the car is, what kind of offers, photos, and a Check Availability tab.
A bar along the left side of the page allows you to narrow your search by a number of filters, including distance from your zip code, make and model, condition (new or used), year, color, features offered, and price. A basic search of simply make and model yields several cars with photos, general location of the dealer, and mpg of the car. Once you click through, the page includes the car’s VIN, an estimated monthly payment, and basic vehicle specs.
Listings also include whether a dealer offers Buy From Home, whereby a dealership provides home delivery, including paperwork. This appeals to people not wanting to set foot in a dealership.
Contacting a seller through U.S. News
One way where U.S. News differs from other sites is it doesn’t offer direct contact information for the dealer, although it does show the dealership name. Buyers are encouraged to provide their name, phone number, and e-mail and then there is a button to click for Check Availability. The MSRP of the car is listed but with a line through it, and something called Best Price Program Price. Once you contact a dealer, they will provide you with their best offer on the car.
Used Cars on Autotrader.com
Autotrader features used car listings from both dealers and private parties. The search options are similar to those for new cars and include such parameters as year, make, price, style, location, color, etc.
One key difference is that you can filter used cars by vehicle history (number of owners, any accidents) and mileage. Many listings also include a link to a free Carfax report.
Each listing includes information from the seller, features, and general model information such as reviews, where applicable. Information about the original warranty is also available, as well as KBB’s Fair Market value.
Similar to the new car listings, the used listings also offer a variety of ways to contact the seller, such as e-mail, chat, and of course, a phone number.
Some of the used cars are known as CPO (certified pre-owned) cars. CPO programs are run by the manufacturers and available at dealerships. A CPO car is one with low mileage that has been thoroughly inspected and includes a warranty from the manufacturer.
More Search Choices
Even beyond the conventional new and used car listings, Autotrader provides different classes of search on other pages. At the bottom of the home page, there are options to find classic and exotic cars, motorcycles, or even RVs. One category that may be handy for certain buyers is a special search for those with bad credit. After all, everyone deserves a chance.
Used Cars on U.S. News
The Used Cars page on U.S. News is not terribly different from the New Cars page. Basic listings include where the dealership is, the price, and the mileage of the car. Prices are listed, with a colored tab below them indicating whether U.S. News deems it a High Price, Good Deal, Great Deal, or Excellent Deal.
Once you click through to a car, the listing is similar to those for a new car, with a couple of exceptions being a listed price, the mileage, and an option to request a Carfax report.
Certified Pre-Owned on U.S. News
Certified Pre-Owned cars on U.S. News are just like other used car listings. This information notes the car’s mileage, if a free Carfax report is available, price and estimate of the monthly payment, and whether the dealership offers Buy from Home.
Autotrader.com Listings for Sellers
Since Autotrader.com exists to help not only buyers but also sellers, Autotrader offers a few different choices for private-party sellers. Listings are on a pricing scale, with a basic ad going for $25, a featured ad costing $50, and a premium ad going for $90. Due to Autotrader’s partnership with us at KBB.com, any Autotrader posting also appears here.
Each listing includes the ability to display photos as well. Basic comes with three photos, featured gets 20, and a Premium ad includes 30. There is also the option to add 10 more photos to any package for an additional $20.
Sellers also get a counter to see how successful their ad has been and how many people have clicked on it.
Sellers can include a vehicle history report, which costs $15 with a basic or featured listing but comes with a Premium ad. Another $15 option is Spotlight Ad status, which bumps the ad up on the search results page from time to time. This is free with Premium.
Premium ads also get a Supercharger listing, which makes the ad stand out in search results. This costs $10 with a Basic or Featured ad.
KBB Instant Cash Offer
Yet another advantage to Autotrader’s partnership with us at KBB.com is that a seller has the option of participating in the Kelley Blue Book instant cash offer, which gives the seller to get a cash or trade-in offer fro KBB at participating dealers. This eliminates a lot of the hassle of selling a car, which includes scams or even damage to one’s property.
U.S. News Information for Sellers
At the top on the far right side of the Cars page on U.S. News is a tab for Sell Your Car. That page is a point-by-point advice article about how to sell your car, including calculating a price, preparing it for sale, and advertising it, with information on how to arrange a dealer trade-in. U.S. News does not provide any method for selling a car through the site or contacting a dealership unless you’re trading in your car as part of a purchase.