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Buying a used car is often a more involved process than buying a new one. One of the reasons is the lack of MSRP. Prices are set by the owners, and the market can vary wildly depending on the economy, gas prices and even the season. People looking to buy a used car have to do a lot more research to find out what is a fair price.
Car buying tools sites Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds can provide insight, but they also tend to be a lagging rather than leading indicator. That’s where Carsabi arrives to save the day.
Crawling Craigslist All Day
Carsabi is a search aggregator. It hosts no used car adverts of its own. Instead it crawls all of the most popular used cars sites, such as Craiglist and Cars.com, and strips away relevant data like make, model, mileage, price and options.
Search aggregators are always defined by their ability to accurately report relevant data and ignore the rest. That’s where this site shines. When you search for a car you are presented with thumbnails of suitable cars. Each has its year, price and mileage listed. The transmission is also listed if that information is available in the advert.
Click on the thumbnail and even more information is provided including a gallery of all images associated with the vehicle, the car’s specifications and a map showing the location of the dealer or owner selling the car. Everything you need to know is laid out in front of you.
The site’s search aggregation isn’t perfect, but it accurately reports data over 90% of the time. Address and phone number data seems to be the most difficult items for Carsabi to grab, which isn’t a big deal – you can always view the original advert if you’re serious about getting in touch with the seller.
Looking For A Good Deal
The search aggregation features of this site are interesting, but they aren’t what makes Carsabi an invaluable tool. That honor goes to the site’s focus on helping its users find the best deal.
Whenever you search for a car the default setting is to organize them by “Best Value.” Carsabi uses an algorithm to create a baseline market value that’s impacted by all the used car listings it aggregates. The math is based on model year, mileage and price. Cars that are newer and/or less expensive than average will rank as better value than cars that are older and/or more expensive than average.
While the exact algorithm is secret (for obvious reasons), the site does provide a useful graph that shows you the baseline as well as the individual listings that were used to build it. This graph can help you visualize why a car is listed as a good value. A car with low mileage and an average price will appear as a good value – as will a car with average mileage and a low price. Your personal preference may lean towards one rather than the other, and that’s where the graph is helpful.
The algorithm’s only potential flaw is that it doesn’t appear to factor in options. Lower trim levels tend to appear as the best values because they don’t have features that drive up the price. You’ll need to compensate for this in your own mind when browsing the results – unless you just don’t care about options, which may be the case if you want the best value.
Doing Your Research
Carsabi’s main function is as a search aggregator, but it also seeks to help users do research into which cars are the best values over time. You can find this information tucked away in the “Research Cars” section of the site.
Every major model is tracked based on its depreciation and its mileage. This information is useful when buying a used car because it helps you see where the deprecation curve results in the best value. It also shows you what to expect in terms of mileage.
For example, these graphs will show you that you can buy a 5 year old Ford Focus for a few thousand less than a 5 year old Corolla – but the Corolla is also worth several thousand more when its 10 years old. This means that the overall cost of ownership is similar between the two cars, assuming you end up selling them after five years of use.
I’m impressed by this site. Its search aggregation works well and is much quicker than individually searching multiple sites. The market data is better still – it helps you pinpoint the cars that are priced below average. You can do this on your own with a spreadsheet, but it requires a lot of effort – Carsabi saves you hours of time trawling ads.