One way to find a better deal is to widen your search. Instead of looking in a 25-mile radius, try 100 or 200 miles -- or even nationwide. This is especially helpful if you want a vehicle that is atypical for your area -- say, a convertible in Massachusetts or a four-wheel-drive SUV in Florida. You may pay less in an area where they’re plentiful (such as Los Angeles for a convertible or Colorado for a four-wheel drive).
Make sure the savings won’t be completely eaten up by getting the car to your driveway. A road trip or plane ticket is the price you’ll pay to pick it up yourself, or you can have it shipped. A cross-country transport will likely cost $900 to $1,300, but most shipping companies are willing to negotiate. Keith Griffin, who writes the guide to used cars at About.com, suggests asking the shipper what the difference would be to ship immediately versus when it has a full load. You may save some money shipping terminal to terminal -- the seller brings the car to a warehouse near him and you pick it up from a warehouse near you.
If you want to shop the whole country, try eBay Motors. Select from dealer listings or private sellers and choose the buying format -- such as “auction,” “buy it now,” “accepts best offer” and so on. You can search by model year, color, transmission and other features. Click on a vehicle to see the full listing and a free AutoCheck report. The “Shipping” tab links to a custom-quote center, and the “Payment” tab lets you check financing rates in your area. Most vehicles sold on eBay Motors are eligible for $50,000 in Vehicle Purchase Protection when the transaction is completed through eBay.