Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

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The Power of Research: The Best Used Car Review Sites

Whether you’re new to the car-buying process or a seasoned veteran, there’s a lot to be said for doing your homework to better understand your options when you’re shopping for a used model at your local used car dealer. Let’s say you want an SUV, but you’re not sure whether the Chevy Tahoe or the Ford Explorer better suits your needs. A test drive is a great way to see how the SUVs perform, but you can start your search long before you get behind the wheel. Used car review sites like Car and Driver, MotorTrend, Consumer Reports, and J.D. Power are great at publishing informative and reliable reviews.

Car and Driver

The most influential automotive media platform in the world, Car and Driver originally got its start as Sports Car Illustrated magazine in the mid-1950s. Amid rebranding itself, Car and Driver launched its digital platform and set its sights on a new mission to “inform, advocate, and influence what the world drives and why.” To do this, Car and Driver gives 14.4 million car lovers and buyers the information they need to make sound, confident buying decisions.

When you’re searching for your specific used model, be sure to search for the model and include “Car and Driver” in your search. For example, “2018 Chevy Tahoe Car and Driver.” The site features a Car and Driver score, specs, photos, and a snapshot of the vehicle’s highs, lows, and the final verdict. This gives you a quick overview of the vehicle and leads into the article itself, which features sections on everything from new features and pricing to engine, fuel economy, infotainment, and safety.

A lot full of used cars are shown from above at at used car dealer.


Like Car and Driver, MotorTrend is another reputable resource in the automotive segment and one that you can confidently turn to for car reviews whether you’re looking for new or used models. MotorTrend got its start in 1949 and continues to operate by its purpose “to embrace, entertain, and empower the motoring world.” To do this, MotorTrend publishes comprehensive reviews and offers a unique Buyer’s Guide section, which is an excellent tool that helps you find the perfect car and MotorTrend’s reviews on the model all in one convenient location.

MotorTrend is a great site to use as a jumping point if your search is still wide. For example, you know you need a capable workhorse, but you’re not sure which truck is the best for your needs. MotorTrend makes it easy by ranking the best trucks on the market. From there, you can narrow your search based on MotorTrend’s reviews, all of which you can cross-reference with other used car review sites on our list.

Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports is a unique addition to our list because it’s not solely focused on the automotive industry. Consumer Reports is all about you, the consumer, and giving you the information you need to have confidence in your purchase, whether you’re buying a vehicle, computer, or something else. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit member organization that works with and for consumers. Because of this, Consumer Reports holds a lot of influence over buying decisions, and that’s certainly the case in the automotive segment.

Using the Consumer Reports site is intuitive and user-friendly. You can find ratings by type, brand, or browse the entire list from A to Z. You can also use the site to browse topics like car buying and pricing, car maintenance and repair, the best used cars and SUVs, and automotive brands with the most reliable cars. That’s only a fraction of what you’ll find on the site, which makes Consumer Reports a valuable resource in your search for the best used car for your needs.

J.D. Power

How many times have you seen a new car commercial touting a J.D. Power Award? The name “J.D. Power” carries a lot of weight in the automotive industry after J.D. Power III established the company at his kitchen table in 1968. Determined to positively impact car buyers and the entire automotive landscape, J.D. Power works with automakers to improve products and services by collecting data from the consumers themselves. In turn, J.D. Power takes the information to automakers like Chevrolet and Toyota, which fosters constant innovation and healthy competition in the industry to deliver the safest and most technologically advanced models possible.

When you’re searching for a new model, automakers aren’t shy about listing their J.D. Power Awards. The prestige that comes with this honor is undeniably widespread, but how do you find these honors on used vehicles? J.D. Power makes the process easy by allowing you to search its reviews, awards, and ratings. You can even use the site to compare cars, learn more about the best-rated cars and trucks of a specific year, or navigate a variety of shopping guides.

A blurry image shows a lot of used cars.

Other Shopping Tips

Car review sites like Car and Driver, MotorTrend, Consumer Reports, and J.D. Power are exceptional at providing automotive reviews that can help you narrow your search and make an informed decision. However, there’s another important aspect to consider in your search, and that’s safety. What safety features is the vehicle equipped with? Where does it rank among other models in the segment?

Answering these questions may seem overwhelming at first, but that’s hardly the case when you know about sites like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The NHTSA operates under the U.S Department of Transportation and is responsible for reducing motor vehicle crashes by setting and enforcing safety standards across the industry, investigating safety defects and other issues, and conducting research on driver behavior. The NHTSA rates every vehicle for safety, which means you can use the organization’s site to find your model and see how it performed.

Founded in 1959, the IIHS is an independent organization that’s also committed to reducing automotive-related deaths and injuries through ongoing research and evaluation. This research and evaluation are beneficial to consumers since IIHS ranks vehicles based on their crash protection and safety features. Once you know what model you’re looking for, you can search the site for the vehicle’s score, learn more about its safety features, and see how it performed overall.

The Confidence You Need

Shopping for a used car can be overwhelming, especially when you’re not sure where to start your search. Are you looking for a capable workhorse like a Chevy Silverado, or do you need a spacious SUV like the Nissan Pathfinder to comfortably haul your kids and their friends to soccer practice? Do you need a fuel-efficient commuter vehicle like the Honda Civic, or are you hoping to satisfy your need for speed by getting behind the wheel of a used Chevy Corvette?

Car review sites like Car and Driver and MotorTrend are outstanding tools that can help you narrow your search by providing informed reviews that aren’t bogged down by automotive jargon. You can use these sites to get a better picture of the models before turning to sites like Consumer Reports and J.D. Power to see how the models rank among consumers and if they’ve been honored with one of the industry’s most prestigious awards. From there, it’s important to look at safety features, and that’s where the National Institute for Highway Safety and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety go the extra mile to give you the data you need.

With all this information at your fingertips, shopping for a used car has never been easier. Once you choose the best model for your needs, be sure to take a test drive to see how it truly performs. Ask for the vehicle history report and do your homework on its fair market value so that you know you’re getting the best deal for your dollar. Then, there’s nothing left but to sign on the dotted line and start enjoying your new-to-you car!