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Selling your car online is easier — and safer — than ever. There are numerous online dealerships that offer legitimate ways to sell your car quickly. Most allow you to submit some basic information and pictures before quoting you a set amount.
The simplicity comes at a price. In most cases, you can’t negotiate. But there are also marketplaces that allow you to list your vehicle for private sale. With either option, you can move forward knowing that selling your car online is generally just as safe as going to a dealership.
Ways to sell your car online
There are two main ways to sell your car online: through an online dealership or by listing it on a marketplace. The first option is similar to going to a dealership in person. You will submit information about your vehicle and get a quote — though with an online dealer, this quote is generally not negotiable.
If you choose to list your vehicle on a marketplace, you will be opening yourself up to private sales. These may get you more money, but it involves more work and handling all the paperwork yourself.
Online dealers typically sell used cars to buyers. To expand their inventories, they will buy your car directly from you. It involves minimal haggling, so you may not get the best deal, but it is quick.
While each dealer is unique, they all have common features that make them a convenient option to sell your car.
- Quick quote based on VIN and other vehicle details
- Trade-in options like in-person dealerships
- Process can be done entirely online
- Free pickup of your car
- Offer good for up to seven days
- Receive electronic payment or check during pickup
There are a variety of online dealers, but the more common ones are either dedicated used car dealerships or are nationally recognized resources attached to a dealership.
|Retailer||Type of Dealer|
|AutoNation||New and used car dealer|
|CarMax||Used car dealer|
|Carvana||Used car dealer|
|Driveway||New and used car dealer|
|Edmunds||Car information specialty site and used car dealer|
|Kelley Blue Book||Car information specialty site and used car dealer|
|TrueCar||New and used car dealer|
|Vroom||Used car dealer|
Some online dealers — like Cars.com and Kelley Blue Book — allow you to sell your car directly to them or create an ad to list it for private sellers. But most offer direct sales or trade-ins like an in-person dealership.
Private sale marketplaces
Unlike online dealerships, private sale marketplaces are like the newspaper. You place an ad with a description and photos of your car. Then prospective buyers shop. If someone wants to buy your car, you will be able to schedule a meeting through the website.
There are a variety of online marketplaces, and most allow you to list your vehicle for free.
- Autotrader — $49 to list
- Cars.com — free to list
- Craigslist — $5 to list
- eBay Motors — free to list
- Facebook Marketplace — free to list
A private sale like this may net you more money, but you will need to be cautious of scams. Some buyers will set up fake escrow accounts or give you a bad check. And a scam can happen whether you place an ad in a paper or use an online service to find a buyer. Always double-check your buyer, and never transfer your title until you have money for the sale.
How to get an estimate of your car’s worth
Most online dealers will offer you a quote based on your VIN, a brief description of your vehicle and photos. There are also resources online to find sale prices of similar vehicles. With these, you should be able to determine how much your car is worth — and how much you can expect to sell it for.
- Check listings for similar cars. You can browse by make, model and year on websites like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book to see what your car is selling for nationally and in your area. Browsing marketplaces will also help you see what others are currently listing vehicles at.
- Submit your car’s details to an online dealer. This is a pretty quick process. You should be able to enter the VIN, year, make and model of your vehicle before providing pictures and information on any damage. From here, online dealerships should give you a quote for how much you’ll make by selling it.
- Get multiple quotes. Rather than one-and-done, prepare to submit the same information to multiple online dealers. This way, you’ll receive a variety of quotes and be able to pick the option that offers the most value.
- Reach out to local dealers, too. Some of your local dealerships may allow you to get a trade-in quote without having to visit the lot. Email the dealer directly to see if you can get a quote through email or an online form. This way, you’ll have even more options to choose from when you’re ready to sell.
Is it better to sell online or in person?
There is no better or worse option for selling your car. Both offer convenience alongside big challenges. Ultimately, it is worth considering both options when you’re ready to sell.
Selling your car online is the quickest way to get an idea of its value. You will still need to set up an inspection if you go through an online dealership or a meeting time if you find a private seller. Both of these will be just as involved as selling your car in person. With online dealers, offers are usually good for up to seven days, which gives you plenty of time to check out local dealers as well.
Visiting one or more dealerships to trade in your car is about the same as selling through an online dealer — with more driving. You should always shop your car around to find the best sale price, which likely means entering information online alongside going to dealers in your area. It can be time consuming, but it should be worth it if you want to squeeze the most money out of your old car.
The bottom line
There are legitimate options to sell your car online — and many ways to do it. From online dealerships that offer to buy your vehicle outright to websites that offer space to place ads and sell privately, you should be able to find an option that works for you.
Still, it pays to be cautious. Be on the lookout for scam buyers and don’t send your title until you confirm the person you are selling to has actually paid.