Key takeaways

  • Today, you can sell your car to an online dealership or list it on a virtual marketplace for private sale.
  • Online dealerships offer more safety but less room for negotiation.
  • Online marketplaces let you set your own price, but beware of fake buyers seeking to scam you.

Selling your car online is easier — and safer — than ever. Numerous online dealerships offer legitimate ways to sell your car quickly. Most allow you to submit basic information and pictures before quoting you a set amount.

The simplicity comes at a price, however. In most cases, you can’t negotiate. But online marketplaces allow you to list your vehicle for private sale. Without a private buyer, you can haggle to your heart’s content.

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 a 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. With an online dealer, this quote is not generally negotiable.

If you list your vehicle on a marketplace, you will open yourself up to private sales. These may get you more money, but it involves more work and handling all the paperwork yourself.

Online dealers

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 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

The best-known online dealers are either dedicated used car dealerships or nationally recognized resources attached to a dealership.

Most will allow you to sell or trade in your current car even if you are still paying off the loan. Some will even work with you if you owe more on your loan than your car is worth, known as negative equity.

Retailer Type of Dealer Current loan OK? Negative equity OK?
AutoNation New and used car dealer Not stated Not stated
CarMax Used car dealer Yes Varies Online marketplace Yes Yes
Carvana Used car dealer Yes Not stated
Driveway New and used car dealer Yes Yes
Kelley Blue Book Car information specialty site and used car dealer Yes Not stated
TrueCar New and used car dealer Yes Not stated

Some online dealers — like 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 offer trade-ins like a traditional dealership.

You aren’t required to buy from the online dealer you sell to. If you do, be sure to compare auto loan rates just like you would with any other dealership. This way, you can sell your current car and buy your next one with the confidence that you’ve gotten the best offers for both.

Private sale marketplaces

Private sale marketplaces allow you to place an ad with a description and photos of your car. If someone wants to buy your car, you can schedule a meeting through the website.

There are a variety of online marketplaces, and most allow you to list your vehicle for a small fee.

Retailer Listing fee
Autotrader $49 None
Craigslist $5
eBay Motors Starts at $19
Facebook Marketplace None

Because these are marketplaces, you can list a car with a lien on it — even if it has negative equity. However, you must pay off your lender yourself once you sell the car.

A private sale like this may net you more money, but be cautious of scams. Some buyers will set up fake escrow accounts or give you a bad check.

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 estimate 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.

  1. 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 how others price vehicles.
  2. Submit your car’s details to an online dealer. This is a 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.
  3. Get multiple quotes. Rather than one-and-done, prepare to submit the same information to multiple online dealers. This way, you’ll receive several quotes and can pick the option that offers the most value.
  4. Reach out to local dealers, too. Some local dealerships may allow you to get a trade-in quote without visiting 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 when you’re ready to sell.

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 paid.