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- Selling a car online can be done through online dealers, auctions, and website marketplaces.
- Online dealerships are often the fastest and easiest way to sell your car online.
- You can list a vehicle for private sale on local online marketplaces and in car buying classifieds.
- Listing a car in a private party auto sale usually gets the highest price but can take significantly more time and effort.
Selling your car online can be a fast and easy process that provides the best price for your vehicle. You’ve got plenty of options to consider if you’re hoping to answer the question, “How do I sell my car online?” Between local online marketplaces, auto auction sites, and internet-based car dealerships, there’s no shortage of places to sell a used vehicle.
In this article, we’ll go over how to sell your vehicle online to get you the best deal. To make it easier to discover which option is right for you, our research team conducted an in-depth study of the best places to sell your car online.
How To Sell Your Car Online: 6 Steps
Selling your car online is a significant financial transaction. How you choose to list your vehicle online and the choices made around the sale could make a difference of thousands of dollars. For that reason, it’s smart to understand some basic details about how to sell your car online.
Dealers work to make the process of selling a car online as simple as possible. But no matter how easy the platforms make the transaction, being prepared still works to your benefit.
Below, we’ll outline basic steps to take when you’re hoping to offload your old car. On top of these steps, remember to speak with your lender if you’re still making payments on the car you’re hoping to sell.
1. Gather Information About Your Car
To list your vehicle online or to even get an offer, you’ll need to provide details about the car. Make sure to have the following vehicle information handy as you begin the process:
- Mileage: Provide the exact mileage on your car’s odometer. Write this number down immediately after checking it.
- License plate number: Some sites may require you to provide your current license plate number to get a quote. You may also be able to use this in place of your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) in certain instances.
- Vehicle identification number: While you can get an offer for your car based on its make, model, year, and other information, the VIN number will help to ensure an accurate quote and could greatly speed up the process.
- Vehicle details: In addition to basics about the make, model, and year of the car, you’ll need more specific information. This includes factors like the trim level, optional equipment, and aftermarket additions to the vehicle.
- Vehicle history: Any car dealer will pull your vehicle history report, so you’ll want to know that history before you get started. Reports from companies like CARFAX will tell you whether the car has been in an accident, suffered flood damage, or gone through other events that could affect its value.
2. Find Out Your Vehicle’s Value
You can get an estimate of your car’s value before you list it online. This could help you figure out where to set your price for private party sales and may give you a point of reference for offers from dealerships.
Sites like the Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and Edmunds.com allow car owners to get estimates of their vehicle’s value, taking into account current market conditions and their location. Prices vary across the U.S., with rates tending to be higher in places with high costs of living like California and New York. Many sites will give you both a private party sale valuation and a trade-in value toward a new vehicle.
How Much Can I Get for My Used Car?
The amount you can get for a used vehicle from either dealerships or a private sale depends on a few factors.
3. Prepare Your Car To Sell It Online
The better the vehicle condition, the more you’ll likely get for it when selling online. There are a few simple, inexpensive steps you can take to improve the value of your vehicle. To make your car more attractive to potential new owners, consider doing the following:
- Deodorizing the car’s interior
- Cleaning the interior thoroughly
- Washing and waxing the exterior
- Cleaning the wheels and removing brake dust
Whether you’re hoping to sell a basic Toyota, Chevrolet, or Nissan or an older luxury vehicle, a quick cleanup will help you to improve the condition of your car.
4. Choose Where You Want To Sell Your Car Online
The companies that let you sell your car online have varying advantages and disadvantages. Consider what’s important to you as you prepare to list or sell the vehicle online.
Are you simply looking to get the most money when selling your car online? Do you want to trade in your current ride for a new car? Are you just looking for the simplest transaction? Interested in car recycling because your vehicle isn’t worth being resold?
The answers to these questions can help you narrow down your options to the ones best suited for your situation. Keep in mind, however, that you can list your car with as many online sites as you’d like. While it’s extra work to consider additional offers, this is also the best way to make sure that you’re getting a great deal.
How Can I Sell My Car Online?
Below, we’ll detail your options for selling a car online:
- Local online marketplaces: Websites like Autotrader, Facebook, and Craigslist allow users to post their cars for private sale in their local markets. Sellers and buyers must handle all aspects of the transaction by themselves.
- Online auction sites: Websites like eBay Motors allow sellers to list their vehicle and wait for potential buyers to bid on the selling price. In many cases, sellers can also set a reserve, or “buy now,” price to allow shoppers to make a more immediate purchase.
- Online car dealers: In recent years, online car dealers have emerged as some of the best sites for people looking to sell used vehicles. These companies either buy cars directly or work with a network of dealerships to purchase vehicles through a primarily online process.
5. Compare Offers
Whether you pick up an instant cash offer from an online car dealership or have a private-sale listing, wait for several offers to come in. Most instant offers from online dealers are good for up to seven days and somewhere between 250 and 500 miles.
Once you have a few offers in hand, carefully compare them. Make sure to consider whether the offers cover taxes and fees or if you’ll have to pay for those on your own. While the sale price is the primary consideration, you’ll also want to factor in time and convenience as part of the equation.
6. Complete the Sale
Once you’ve decided on an offer, it’s time to complete the sale. With most online dealerships, this can be as simple as handing over your keys while the other party takes care of the vehicle title, paperwork, and other details. When it comes to private party sales, you’ll have to go to your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) to deal with the car title, registration, and other issues yourself.
How To Avoid Scams When Selling a Car Online
While selling a car online is usually safe, there’s always the risk of scams with private party sales. These scams can lose sellers huge sums of money that may be difficult to get back.
Here are a few steps you can take to safeguard against scams when selling your car online:
- Fill out a bill of sale: While a bill of sale isn’t legally necessary, it’s a good idea to require one. A bill of sale serves as a contract between you and the car buyer and stands as a legal record of the transaction.
- Meet people safely: If you decide to sell your car online through a local marketplace, you’ll eventually need to meet someone in person to complete the sale. To keep yourself safe, meet in brightly lit public spaces, notify friends or family of your plans, and consider bringing another person along with you for the test drive.
- Don’t accept wire transfers: Promises of money transfers through wire services such as Western Union are a popular way to scam people. Scammers can fake evidence of a wire transfer to make it appear as though you’ll receive money for your car, while no such transfer actually exists. Require a certified check from a bank as payment.
- Verify the buyer’s identity: Make sure that the person who’s offering to buy your vehicle is exactly who they say they are. Ask for identification before moving forward with a sale and avoid selling to anyone who seems hesitant or refuses to provide it. A simple phone number or email address isn’t enough verification to move forward.
Where To Sell a Car Online: The Bottom Line
There’s no simple answer to the question, “where should I sell my car online?” The answer depends on several factors about your selling needs and the type of vehicle you’re listing. Those hoping to offload a scrap car won’t be able to sell to an online dealer, for instance.
If you’re simply trying to get the highest asking price for your car, selling it online to a private party may be your best option. However, this method involves plenty of work and may not be worth the extra money you make on the car sale.
Those looking for a hassle-free transaction may want to turn to an online car dealership instead. While you won’t usually get quite as much money for your car, you’ll save lots of time and energy over the course of the transaction. Carvana was our Best Overall pick among online car dealerships in our recent study, but all of the dealers below are worth getting quotes from.
Selling a Car Online: FAQ
Here are some frequently asked questions if you’re looking to sell your car online:
What is the best place to sell a car online?
Based on our industrywide study, Carvana is the best place to sell a car online. The company offers a smooth and efficient process that allows sellers to complete the entire transaction from home and get paid quickly.
Where can I sell a car for free online?
The best place to sell a car for free is on a local online marketplace like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. While you can sell an old car on these sites, you’ll have to determine the market value of the vehicle on your own and must deal with haggling.
How can I sell my car online fast?
The fastest way to sell your car online is to offer it to an online dealership. Companies like Carvana, Cars.com, CarMax, CarGurus, and Vroom provide instant offers for cars and can purchase your vehicle almost immediately.
What is the most profitable way to sell a car?
The most profitable way to sell a car is usually to sell it locally in a private party sale. You can do so by listing your car on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or a local classified advertisement.
Who pays the most for used cars 2022?
CarMax tends to pay the most for used cars among dealerships, based on our research. The company offered about 14% more than the industry average in our secret shopper study.
In order to help people make informed decisions about where and how to sell their cars, our expert review team is committed to providing precise, accurate, and objective information. For our research, we evaluated each company on the same criteria across the following categories:
- Cost: Our team conducted a secret shopper study to assess the offering prices of each provider. We also considered any fees or additional costs charged by companies during transactions.
- Platform: We evaluated each provider’s online platform, rating them based on ease of use, speed, and available options.
- Transaction Support: Because there are many other steps involved in selling a car online beyond simply listing it and accepting an offer, our team evaluated companies based on their support for transactions, such as whether they require a seller to travel for an in-person evaluation, if they manage loan payoffs, and more.
- Customer Experience: We scoured online reviews on websites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot in order to gauge the opinions and experiences of real customers. Our team used proprietary metrics to normalize ratings across the industry in order to assess customer sentiment in context.
- Industry Reputation: To assess their standing within the auto sales industry, we considered each company’s rating with the BBB along with its years of service. We evaluated these factors using proprietary metrics to get a more accurate representation of specific company reputations compared to industry norms.
*Data accurate at time of publication.