5 best car-buying apps of 2021

Couple on train using smartphone, looking up the best car buying appsImage: Couple on train using smartphone, looking up the best car buying apps

In a Nutshell

When you buy a car, you have to figure out what you want, the best price for it and how to pay for it. The best car-buying apps can simplify your experience. We’ve analyzed some of the most useful apps to help you pick one that meets your needs. 
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If you’re about to buy a car, it may seem as if there are a million different things to research before signing on the dotted line. 

A car-buying app may provide the information you need to make the right vehicle purchase for you. We’ve rounded up some of the most useful apps for your iPhone or Android device to assist you on your car-buying journey.

Best for one-stop resource: Edmunds

Why the Edmunds car-buying app stands out: Whether you’re new to the car-buying process or a seasoned pro, you’ll likely have lots of questions as you navigate your purchase. With everything from pricing to vehicle reviews, the Edmunds car app can help you sift through the details on new and used vehicles. 

  • Vehicle reviews — The Edmunds app is a top choice if you’re looking for an app with a large selection of content. It has a wide range of vehicle reviews written by automotive journalists. Each review lists the pros and cons associated with each model. The app also has consumer reviews written by vehicle owners. 
  • Buying and leasing calculators Not sure whether you want to buy or lease? You can see how much you’ll likely spend with each option using the Edmunds app’s payment calculator. 
  • Market pricing — Edmunds Suggested Price is a pricing system that helps you figure out the average transaction price for different new and used vehicles in your area. By evaluating local listings, this system can help you see if you’re paying a fair price for your vehicle.
  • Photos and videos — It’s helpful to get a closer look at a vehicle’s cabin and exterior when weighing a purchase. On the Edmunds app you can look at photos and in-depth videos to get a clear picture of every vehicle on your short list, all without visiting the dealership car lot. 

Best for buying a used car from a dealer: Carvana

Why the Carvana car-buying app stands out: Purchasing your car online without going to a dealership is convenient, and Carvana’s app makes that possible. It includes a guarantee that allows you to return the used car you’ve purchased within seven days if you decide it isn’t the one for you. Plus, all cars come with free delivery if you’re in one of its local markets. 

  • Money-back guarantee — If you’re buying a used car without seeing it in person first and taking it for a test drive, there’s a chance you’ll end up with a purchase you’re not happy with. That’s why it’s nice that Carvana has a seven-day money-back guarantee for all purchases, subject to certain conditions, allowing you to replace the vehicle you bought or get a full refund. 
  • Track delivery —  You can schedule your delivery using the Carvana app and track the delivery as it makes its way to your door. 
  • Get financing — If you’re financing your car, finding lenders can be time-consuming. The Carvana app simplifies this process by acting as a one-stop shop where you can find a car and apply for financing through the app in one place. 
  • Recall information — The Carvana app gives you a heads-up if a recall has been issued on the vehicle you’ve purchased. 
  • Trade-in valuation If you have a vehicle that you’re trading in for your purchase, you’ll want to know how much your trade-in is worth. The Carvana app includes a feature that can estimate the value of your trade-in in just a few minutes. 

Best for buying a used car from a private seller: Tred

Why the Tred car-buying app stands out: If you’re buying a used car from a private seller, arranging things like a test drive or payment takes extra legwork. The Tred app separates itself from the pack by providing features that streamline the most tedious aspects of a private-party used-car purchase.  

  • Test-drive scheduling — Once you find a car you like, the Tred app makes it easy to schedule a test drive. You can use the app to help coordinate a time for your meeting. 
  • Chat — You may want to ask the seller questions about a listed vehicle. Tred has a feature that allows you to chat directly with the seller within the app. 
  • Offer — If you’ve decided that a particular car is right for you, the Tred app includes a feature that allows you to reach out to the seller with an offer. 
  • Online payment — When you’re ready to pay for your purchase, you can use the Tred app to easily pay online with financing from your bank. You can also make online payments via wire transfer, ACH, credit card or debit card. And Tred offers financing that can assist you with your purchase.
  • Vehicle history report — Tred provides free Carfax reports that let you know if a used car you’re considering has been in any accidents.

Best for used-car shoppers with specific requirements: ISeeCars

Why the ISeeCars car-buying app stands out: If you’re looking for a used car and have specific requirements, you can save time by filtering your online search. The ISeeCars app (also known as Used Car Search Pro) gives you access to 59 search filters that can help you quickly identify the used car that’s a match for your needs. 

  • Diverse search filters — The ISeeCars app gives you a big selection of search filters. For example, you can search for vehicles by transmission, mileage, tow rating or cargo capacity. You can even search for vehicles that are a comfortable fit for drivers of your height.
  • Market pricing — Wondering whether the price on the used car you’re interested in is fair? The ISeeCars app can tell you if a vehicle is priced higher or lower relative to others in the market. 
  • Price alert — This app will alert you if a car you’re interested in has a price drop. 
  • Dealer ratings — It’s not always easy to determine whether a used car dealership is trustworthy. This app provides dealer ratings for the 40,000 dealers in its database. Dealers are rated in areas such as transparency and responsiveness to customer inquiries. 

Best for on-the-lot comparison shopping: Cars.com

Why the Cars.com car-buying app stands out: If you spot a new or used car you like while on the dealer lot, you’ll be able to negotiate more confidently if you know how that model is priced at nearby dealerships. The Cars.com app lets you scan window stickers to get quick and easy access to this information.

  • On-lot price comparison — This app makes price comparisons while you’re on the dealer lot simple. It allows you to access a vehicle’s price simply by scanning window-sticker bar codes linked to a car’s VIN number. Once a price has been calculated, the Cars.com app will compare it with prices offered on similar models at nearby dealerships. 
  • Price alerts — To get the best deals on a car purchase, you sometimes need to act quickly. The app has a price alert feature that sends you a push notification if a model you’ve expressed interest in drops in price.
  • Vehicle reviews — The Cars.com app connects you with 5 million driver reviews to give you an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of a model before making a purchase.
  • Loan payment calculator — Want to know how much you’ll spend each month if you finance your purchase? The app includes a loan payment calculator.

How we picked these apps

We selected apps for this roundup based on features that are useful for different types of car buyers. We looked at factors such as whether an app offers free vehicle history reports or a money-back guarantee.

All apps on our list are available on both Android and iOS. They can be downloaded at Google Play or the Apple App Store. 

What to consider with car-buying apps

Before you begin car shopping with a car-buying app, it’s important to decide on a budget. Take a look at your finances and figure out how much car you can afford. This can help you avoid a purchase that could become a financial hardship.

Choosing a car-buying app that meets your particular needs may help you save money on your car purchase and simplify the process of finding the vehicle you want. 

About the author: Warren Clarke is a writer whose work has been published by Edmunds.com and the New York Daily News. He enjoys providing readers with information that can make their lives happier and more expansive. Warren holds a Bac… Read more.