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Best Sites for Buying a Car Online

Used car prices in Australia jumped by 21 per cent in 2021 with the low inventories and a continued shortage of new vehicles fuelling the rise.

In its latest report, Moody’s Analytics said prices were set to increase again in 2022 but by a more modest 3.6 per cent before they start to slip back in 2023.

We decided to figuratively take a test drive of the best site for buying a car online and see how they compare.

We wanted to see how many of the same year, make and model are available on each website because that would be comparing apples with apples, right? And what is the median price of that same vehicle on each site? Is there a significant disparity?

We haven’t seen this sort of test done in Australia before and thought it might be not only fun, but illuminating. Additionally, with Moody’s suggesting that prices for used cars might start to pull back in 2023, it would be interesting to seen how the most popular car buying websites fair in terms of listing and prices.

2019 Mazda 3
2019 Mazda 3

Testing Approach

Our rather non-scientific approach was as follows.

We know that most new car leases are three, four or five years in length and we’ve noticed that more dealership used cars are available after three years, rather than four or five.

So we assume that means more people choose a standard three year car lease and then return it at the end. Hence more three year old cars in inventory and available online.

We chose to use a 2019 used Mazda 3 as our test model. According to CarsGuide, it was the 7th best selling new vehicle in Australia in 2019. Furthermore, according to Budget Direct, it was the best selling second hand vehicle in 2022.

The Mazda 3 continues to be in demand because of its durability and styling upgrade. Any of the car shopping sites would likely have a decent inventory of three year old 2019 Mazda 3s from which to choose.

We didn’t restrict location at all and let the car buying websites select from all listings Australia-wide. Our rationale for this was because, buying a used car interstate has become an easy, easy process and shipping the vehicle back home is no longer a challenge.

2019 Mazda 3 – New Pricing

In 2019, Mazda took a bold decision to push its new 3 sedan and hatch upmarket, responding to what it called “customer demand for ritzier choices in the small car space”.

This new-generation model sported a slinkier and cleaner design, made improvements in ride comfort and noise-suppression, and packed a wallop when it comes to standard active safety and high-tech interior features. For instance, every version gets a head-up display and 8.8-inch centre screen, plus a raft of crash-preventing electronics like AEB and blind-spot monitoring.

The new car entry prices (exclusive of on-road costs) came in at $24,990 for the G20 Pure and rising to $37,990 for the G25.

So here’s what it was like to shop for a 2019 Mazda 3 on eight of the biggest online car buying sites in Australia – all on the same day.

Cars24

Cars24 has positioned itself as a next generation ecommerce platform for pre-owned cars – aiming to provide the best experience for car buyers by offering a wide assortment of certified cars.

There were 3 cars matched on Cars24. The median price was $37,990 (for Mazda 3 G20 Astina).

Cars For Sale

There were 4 cars matched on Cars For Sale – Median price was $27,990 (for Mazda 3 G20 Touring).

FindAds

There were 15 cars matched on FindAds. The median price was $30,000 (for Mazda 3 G20 Pure).

Trading Post

There were 19 cars matched on Trading Post. The median price was $29,900 (for Mazda 3 G20 Pure).

Drive

There were 29 cars matched on Drive. The median price was $31,990 (for Mazda 3 G25 Astina).

Autotrader

There were 70 cars matched on Autotrader. The median price was $30,990 (for Mazda 3 G20 Pure).

CarsGuide

There were 76 cars matched on CarsGuide. The median price was $31,460 (for Mazda 3 G25 Evolve).

GumTree

There were 87 cars matched on GumTree. The median price was $30,999 (for Mazda 3 G20 Evolve).

Carsales

There were 145 cars matched on Carsales. The median price was $28,990 (for Mazda 3 G20 Evolve).

Best Car Buying WebSites Recommendations

Out of our list of nine used car buying websites, we found six that were worth using. They are in order of our largest volume of matches: Carsales, GumTree, CarsGuide, AutoTrader, Drive and Trading Post. Cars24, Cars For Sale and FindAds didn’t seem to offer any new vehicles that weren’t listed on the six.

Regardless of where you find your car, if you need to ship it, there is no better website than Aussie Car Transport to get and compare quotes from competitive and professional carriers.

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