Financing a Car: Why It Can Be So Difficult

After multiple years in the industry, customers continue to tell us that one of the biggest hurdles to buying their next set of wheels is getting a loan for it. So why exactly is financing a car so difficult?

For starters, it’s not an easy pill for financial institutions to swallow. To banks, used cars are pretty risky. The bank doesn’t have the knowhow or the time to verify that the condition of a car is worth the loan its underwriting. So, if they needed to seize a car they made a $10k loan for, only to find out it’s one breakdown away from the scrapyard, they don’t want to be left holding the bag.

Whereas banks can be relatively certain that a new car will retain a large amount of its value, there’s no such certainty with a used car.

To make a used car purchase easier, we knew we had to provide some solution to this problem. Our answer? Inspect the cars we sell to make sure they’re in great shape, and use that to forge our own relationships with banks. Then, bake a seamless financing experience right into our product.

If you’re in the market for a used car and need a loan, you’re no longer out of luck. Check out our inventory and click “Start financing” to get the process started. Happy driving!

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Best cars for Uber or Lyft

If you’re considering throwing some spare time into the ridesharing space, then you’re likely asking yourself: What are the best cars for Uber or Lyft?

Most drivers primarily consider mileage. While that’s definitely an important factor, you also need a reliable, affordable car that can hold passengers and meet Lyft/Uber’s vehicle requirement guidelines.

That still leaves you with enough options to make you dizzy and give up on the whole initiative. Fear not. Our list takes all of your needs into consideration. We’ve rounded up some of the best cars for Uber and Lyft driving.

1. Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius 2012 uber lyft

So you’re probably thinking, “Duh.” Fair enough. The Prius is definitely not a shocker on this list, but there are some important things to consider when buying one. Because the Prius has been around longer than any other hybrid, older models can now be had for less, which isn’t true of most hybrids.

However, the Prius still commands a price premium over its non-hybrid rivals, which increases your up-front cost. Also, if the hybrid battery needs to be replaced, you can expect to pay around $4,000, so you’ll want to look for a car with fewer miles, or a new hybrid battery. The Prius offers little in terms of joie de drive, but it delivers fuel economy that can’t be touched by the competition, particularly in city driving. This is what makes it the hands-down best car for Uber or Lyft.

In short, the Prius is an ideal option for those putting many hours in behind the wheel. If Lyft/Uber is more of a part-time gig, another car might be a better option.

How to Pay for Your Car

2. Ford Focus

2015 Ford Focus uber lyft

The Focus is holding down the fort as the little American car that could. It combines good interior space, solid fuel efficiency (24/35mpg on 2011 models, for example), and a competent chassis that is sporty, while still soaking up the bumps. The steering is sharper than most economy cars, making the Focus very maneuverable in city traffic. It offers a spacious 36.1 inches of rear legroom, and many newer models are available with Bluetooth for audio — some of the key reasons the Ford Focus is one of the best cars for Uber or Lyft driving.

3. Toyota Corolla

Toyota corolla 2014 uber lyft

The ninth-generation Toyota Corolla is as ubiquitous as Beyonce. Look out your window right now, you see a Corolla, don’t you? Toyota sold about a billion and a half of these cars, and there’s a reason why: they are reliable, cheap, and fuel efficient. 35.4 inches of rear legroom means your passengers will be comfortable, and the 26/35mpg fuel efficiency means you’ll save at the pump.

While the Corolla isn’t exactly known for pizzazz, if you’re looking for more enthusiasm, pick up an XRS model, which offers 170 horsepower. Just be aware that the XRS doesn’t offer the same stellar fuel economy. The Corolla has best in class cost of ownership according to KBB, which is another reason we regard it as a great car for Uber and Lyft.

Car-Buying Mistakes To Avoid

4. Honda Fit

2015 Honda Fit uber lyft

The Honda Fit is a fantastic choice for your ride-share workhorse. This little Honda combines great mileage with surprising interior capacity and a splash of fun. The Fit delivers better fuel economy than the larger Honda Civic, and actually has more rear legroom than its big brother (34.5” in 2011 models). The Fit is touted for superior cost of ownership in its class, so you can be sure your earnings are going into your bank account, not your mechanic’s. Toss the Fit into a turn, and it feels nimble and willing to have a little fun. If you don’t mind rowing your own gears, Honda also makes one of the best manual transmissions in the game.

5. Mazda3

2014 mazda3 uber lyft

If you are looking for a little enthusiasm, perhaps even a little zoom-zoom, check out the Mazda 3. You and your passengers will be greeted by a wonderfully designed interior with high quality materials. The Mazda 3 also offers fantastic chassis dynamics, sublime steering, and spirited acceleration that will make you believe you’re driving a sports car, not a ho-hum econobox. It’s as if Mazda managed to splice some Miata DNA into their compact car’s double-helix. The Mazda 3 just begs to be driven, and that matters when you’ll be driving so much.

It’s worth noting that the 2012 and newer models with SKYACTIV engines achieve a fantastic 40 mpg on the highway. Combine this amazing fuel efficiency with a low cost of ownership, and you have what might be the perfect car, ride-sharing or otherwise.

Happy ride-sharing!

What Does Carfax Tell You?

The last time we wrote about Carfax, we covered what it includes and why it’s a crucial part of making an informed purchase. Although Carfax reports are a great insight into vehicle history, they don’t tell us everything. So what does Carfax tell you, and what is it leaving out?

Does Carfax tell you about every accident?

Not necessarily. Let’s say two drivers get in a crash and there’s damage to the cars. Call the insurance company, right? Not always. For various reasons, some crashes are settled between the drivers themselves with DIY fixes or at smaller garages that may have fewer scruples about officially reporting the repair. When this happens, there’s a chance that Carfax is none the wiser about the incident at all.

Sometimes, people will try to sell a car right after an accident has occurred. That way, they get rid of it before it’s appeared on Carfax and the buyer might never know. This is more common when the damage isn’t obvious, such as undercarriage damage. At Shift, we perform a thorough 200-point inspection so that you’ll always be informed about hard-to-spot damage.

On that note, Carfax is only as accurate as its data sources, and not all DMVs and insurance companies contribute their data. Carfax has 92,000 or so sources of vehicle information, but it’s not omniscient.

For example, a history report may list a car as accident-free, but if a collision was fixed by an insurance company that doesn’t contribute data to Carfax, it won’t show up in the report. The same is true if the owner of the car never reported it to the insurance company. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. The good news is, the vast majority of what’s out there is indeed captured, so the chances of missing something aren’t very high.

nice old car for sale

Does Carfax tell you about “lemons” and buybacks?

Well… not always. Cars are complex pieces of machinery. Sometimes, something in the car’s mechanics just ain’t right and it’s constantly plagued with problems as a result. That’s a lemon. To protect car buyers from purchasing lemons, states have a set of laws called Lemon laws.

These laws make it possible for a buyer to return a non-performing car to the manufacturer. When this happens, that car is considered to be a “lemon law buyback”. In most states, this is required to be put on the title. In some states, however, there is a loophole to this rule. Instead of labeling a car a lemon law buyback, cars in those states are labeled “manufacturer vehicle, sold at auction.”

It’s a trade secret that’s well understood among sophisticated car buyers and dealerships know that you now also know: when a Carfax report labels a car “manufacturer vehicle, sold at auction,” it very well may be a lemon. The good news is, we’ll never list these cars, so you can browse Shift with confidence.

Be a diligent buyer

As Carfax themselves put it: Carfax should be seen as one tool in the buyer’s fact-finding toolkit, not the only one. Make sure you take a comprehensive test-drive and have the car checked out by a mechanic. If you’re looking for high-quality cars where the degree of mystery is minimized, browse our selection of Shift Certified cars near you.

Shift’s Giveaway Picks: Isabel’s Surfin’ 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R

In case you haven’t heard, Shift is giving away a car. Even though Shift employees can’t win, we can still dream, right?


Meet Isabel. She works on our Business Intelligence team. If she won the giveaway, what car would she pick? Continue reading “Shift’s Giveaway Picks: Isabel’s Surfin’ 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R”

How Does Carfax Work?

When it comes to a car’s condition, people often mention the Carfax report. So just how does Carfax work?  A Carfax report is your window into a car’s past. Like a private eye, it gleans data from insurance companies, DMVs, and even the police to tell you about a car’s background.

In the most extreme cases, it can save you from buying a lemon. That’s why we include a full free Carfax report for every car we list on Shift so customers know exactly what they’re getting (and what they’re not).

How does Carfax actually work?

A Carfax report is essentially a data snapshot of a number of different available data records. It gathers information from police departments, insurance companies, DMVs, and auction houses to piece together a history on nearly every car out there. Their data-gathering team in Virginia adds about 3.5 million records a day, with a compiled total of about 15 billion records.

How does Carfax help in buying a used car?

Big Lebowski car impoundThe records included in a Carfax report tell you things you wouldn’t know by just going for a test drive or having a mechanic inspect the car. A Carfax report is a little like a crystal ball that can give you a picture of a car’s past, such as:

  • Odometer readings and repair history
  • Number of past owners
  • Any accidents reported by DMVs, insurance companies, or police departments
  • Whether the car’s a lemon or been salvaged or junked
  • Whether a car was ever used as a fleet vehicle, autos used by businesses and often subject to lots of abuse
  • Lien and repossession history
  • Emission inspection statuses
  • Manufacturer recalls and buybacks

All of this info lets you avoid getting scammed and helps you make a more informed decision about the car you’re about to buy.  At Shift, every car we list has gone through a rigorous 150-point inspection by ASE-certified mechanics, is reconditioned and comes with a complete vehicle history report.

Where does all that data come from?

Carfax must have an army of data crawlers trolling the internet because the company culls data from about 92,000 sources—everything from motor vehicle agencies, to many police and fire departments, collision repair facilities, and auto auctions.

Here’s their list of all of the sources:

  • Fire departments
  • Manufacturers
  • Law enforcement agencies U.S. motor vehicle agencies
  • Canadian provincial motor vehicle agencies
  • Auto auctions and salvage auctions
  • Collision repair facilities
  • Service/maintenance facilities
  • Insurance companies
  • Automotive recyclers
  • Rental/fleet vehicle companies
  • State inspection stations
  • Extended warranty companies
  • Car dealerships Import/export companies

How much does Carfax cost?

Carfax's Carfox
Carfox: easily our favorite mascot in the car space

Carfax has a three-tiered pricing model. If you’re going to test drive more than one car, and you probably will, you might want to get the second option, which provides five reports.

  • MyCarfax: A free app that provides info on maintenance and recalls for vehicles, as well as estimate repair costs and help finding local repair services. Doesn’t include Vehicle History Reports.
  • 1 Carfax Report: $39.99
  • 5 Reports:  $59.99 (valid for 60 days)
  • Unlimited Reports for 60 days: $69.99 gets you unlimited by searching by license plate
  • Shift: Free. Zip. Zilch.

At the end of the day, the Carfax report is one of the most important pieces of documentation you can get on a used car, so be sure to get one when you go shopping.

Tips for Buying a Used Car on Craigslist

When it works like it should, buying a used car on Craigslist can be great. But since there’s no way to ensure what you’re getting, quality on Craigslist can be hit or miss and it can feel a bit like the Barbary Coast, with mischief and gold in equal measure. Here are 9 essential tips to get you through it.

Tip # 1: Use Craigslist filters

This is our top tip for buying a used car: narrow your search. We suggest taking advantage of Craigslist’s built-in filters, which include options such as price, year, color, transmission type, type of seller (owner or dealer), and more. This will help you narrow your search to what you’re looking for and avoid wading through listings of salvaged title, three-wheeled PT Cruisers.

  • Search by dealer. For those who would prefer the peace of mind of a dealer warranty, this filter’s for you.
  • Search by price or year. If you have a budget but don’t want anything too old, easily define your price and model year limits.
  • Search by feature. Buying a car for someone with very specific tastes but only drives automatic? You can specify for color and transmission, too.
  • Search by car. If you know exactly the car you want, say a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am with the screaming chicken on the hood and Burt Reynold’s scent on the seats, Craigslist is perfect. You can plug in the exact model specification, right down to the color, transmission, and condition.

Tip #2. Research a fair price range

Before you start test driving, it’s important to how have an idea how much a car in your area should cost. There are many pricing guides out there, and while one-sized-fits-all pricing guides like KBB won’t perfectly capture the fair price for your market, it’s a good starting point.

If it’s listed way over your fair price range, you may want to skip that car. Sometimes if you wait, the seller will come to their senses and lower the price to something more reasonable.

Tip #3: Heed warning signs

This is one of the most basic tips for buying a used car on Craigslist: The listing itself can tell you a lot about the seller, as well as the car. So pay attention to these red flags:

  • Low-quality listings. Suspiciously short listings with numerous misspellings, all caps, and a general lack of details about the car smack of “keep looking.”
  • Minimal photos. A listing with one blurry, sideways photo isn’t worth your time. A huge red flag is people who post pictures that are not even of their car. Not exactly trust-building stuff is it?
  • Sloppy presentation. When we wrote our guide to selling a car on Craigslist, there’s a reason we focused so much on presentation and cleanliness. Instilling buyer confidence is step #1, and junk strewn about the interior doesn’t do that. If the seller hasn’t bothered to present the car nicely for sale, they probably haven’t been any more thoughtful owning it, either.
  • Multiple listings of the same car. If you see a car posted multiple times over a few days, it’s not a good sign.

Some good signs are clear writing, lots of pictures of a relatively clean car (including the engine), a list of recent maintenance, and just a general sense that the seller knows their stuff. We vet every car listed on Shift to make sure you have all of these things, including detailed photos, a comprehensive inspection, and a seamless interaction (not to mention an amazing car).

How to Sell a Car on Craigslist

Tip #4: Make contact

It’s a good idea to call the seller before seeing the car. Communicating via email just isn’t going to tell you as much. Don’t be afraid to ask a few questions like: why are you selling the car, how long have you owned it, what maintenance is needed and what’s been done lately? Pay attention to how the seller responds. Do they seem trustworthy, or do they give you the creeps? Are they over-eager, or do they sound like they’ve been asleep for six days?

It’s important to consider the overall vibe that they are giving you. Your time is valuable, and nothing is worse than carving out a few hours of your Saturday to go see a car, then getting a text saying the seller flaked when you’re two blocks from where you planned to meet. You can learn a lot from a quick chat on the phone. It’s worth it.

Tip #5: Be Safe

This is, we think, one of the most important tips for buying a used car on Craigslist: do it safely. That means meeting in a safe, mutually agreed upon location in an area where you can really drive the car, ideally in a well-traveled area and during a safe hour of the day. (If you meet the seller downtown, it’ll be tough to get a full sense for how the car drives, so try for something like a mall parking lot.)

As a buyer, you may be asked to go to the seller’s house. Be sure that you feel comfortable doing so, and if you do, it’s not a bad idea to bring a friend. Continue to assess the seller and make sure they are someone you trust. Ask a lot of questions and insist that you drive the car. If the seller balks, don’t be afraid to walk away.

Carfax's Carfox
Easily our favorite mascot in the car space

Tip #6: Do an inspection

We’ve covered this in another article, but a post-purchase inspection (often called the PPI) is worth paying for. Buying a car without inspecting it is like buying a house without an appraisal. A seller with nothing to hide should agree to it, so negotiate an appropriate deposit to leave with the seller while you take it to the mechanic. Bonus: What you learn can be used to help negotiate the price, which brings us to our next tip.

Tip #7: Run a Carfax report

A Carfax vehicle history report is a must-have for buying any used car. It’s easy, it can tell you a lot about the car’s history, and it can help you make sure you’re not driving off in a car with a bent frame, flood damage, and 17 owners in three years.

It’s a known Craigslist scam for a seller to kindly provide a Carfax report—from three years ago, prior to extensive post-accident bodywork. If the seller is providing their own Carfax, check the date.

If you care at all about full transparency (and with a purchase as big as a car, you should), buying with Shift not only gets you a full Carfax report for free, but also high-res wear-and-tear photos and a complete 200-point inspection report for every car we sell.

Tip #8: Don’t be afraid to negotiate

Craigslist is one of the few places where Americans can still (sometimes) haggle. Sellers often list their cars at a slightly inflated price expecting to negotiate down. That said, this isn’t a rug shop in Marrakesh, so be realistic. When negotiating, try not to be too emotional (or rude) and be able to explain your reasoning with facts.

For example, you can use information gleaned from the inspection to help support your case for a lower price. If the car needs a $300 brake job, you can see if the seller will accommodate for that in the price. Or, if the seller has the car priced well above book value (which you should research beforehand), you can see if they are willing to reflect that discrepancy with a lower price.

That said, don’t let it ruffle your feathers if they don’t want to come down on their price. It’s their car and they are not obliged to do so.

Tip #9: Take your time and trust your gut

Rushing to buy a car is the easiest way to get a healthy dose of buyer’s remorse. Throughout it all, listen to your gut. Don’t force a deal if something feels off. Buying a used car should be a methodical process, not a quick fix. When you find the right car, you’ll probably know it, and it will probably not be the first car you see.

Buying a used car on the private market can be intimidating, which is part of the reason we founded Shift in the first place. If you’re looking for a safer, more straight-forward alternative (that’s a heck of a lot of more convenient), check us out.