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Vehicle Shopping at Home in 4 Easy Steps

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Kelly and I are all about finding the best value when we make purchases, especially a large purchase, such as a vehicle. We take weekly road trips so driving a reliable vehicle is important to us.  We’re currently car shopping and this is the method I use in order to find the best value and practical vehicle based on our needs. Sometimes I like to conduct what I would call a “daydream search”(more about that later). Here is an outline of how I do vehicle shopping in 4 easy steps using cars.com .

I’m looking for two things when I vehicle shop: low miles & best price.

Our cute, little Ford Transit we found using cars.com

 

This is how I conduct my search in 4 easy steps

Tip # 1

The first thing I do is click on Advanced Search on the home page of cars.com so that I can select my criteria.

 

Tip #2

The second thing I do is select a mileage range for my shopping radius. I personally am willing to drive up to 250 miles from my zip code. We’re willing to drive that far because we’ll make a little day trip out of the test drive experience. You could even search your own town if you wanted to purchase close to home. Do whatever fits into your life.

Tip: Choose a mile radius that you’re comfortable driving or that you feel your vehicle would make it to in case you are thinking about trading in an old vehicle.

Tip #3

Select a price range. I select $1K and then up to my budget. The reason I select $1K as my basement price so that the search eliminates listings that say “call for price”.  I want to know the cost without calling so I found that $1K and above eliminates those listings. Then put in your top budget price and stick to it. It may be fun to look at vehicles above your budget, but if you’re like me, you don’t want to “marry” a car payment.

Tip #4

Choose the mileage range. I usually start at 60K and under and then work down from there. This will find me a lot of options and I can start to get a feel for some of the brands/models, mileage and the year the vehicle was built. I will then start selecting less and less mileage in my advanced search to drill down on the vehicle with the least mileage at the best value that falls within or hopefully below our budget.

That’s it, now start the process of elimination

There are additional ways you can drill down your search. Examples: interior/exterior color, engine type, etc. I am looking for the best value so those things don’t matter to me. If they matter to you, select those specifics to help aid in your search.

Doing the search as I suggested is going to bring you a lot of searches- probably several thousand. I keep narrowing this search down until I’m left with 1 or 2 pages of cars that specifically meet my criteria.
Pro Tip: There is also a “save” button that will save your favorite searches so that you can compare them all on screen or a print out later. Use this printout to make notes while you’re checking out the vehicles in person.

I mentioned above that sometimes I also do what I call a “daydream search”. This is where when I feel bored I set my min price well above my budget and the max price at the value of a nice home. I want to see the luxury, sports, and impractical cars that are for sale around the country. For instance, I’ve got my eye on a pretty sweet Tesla right now.  As I always say to Kelly, “Dare to Dream”.

2 Comments

  1. Stacy

    February 23, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    This article is great and has some really good tips!

    1. Kelly & Dusty Ratcliff

      February 23, 2018 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks! Dusty’s way really simplifies the process.

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