When it comes to selling a car, there are three options. You can either sell it to a private party, sell it to a dealership, or trade it in for a new vehicle. Both of the latter choices are unlikely to get you much money for your car, especially if it is old, in need of repairs, or has many miles.
Doing the legwork yourself to sell your vehicle to another person is the best way to get your vehicle's true worth. It'll likely be much more than the rock-bottom offer you'd get from a dealership. But selling a car private party might mean more hassle unless you use some of the resources on the internet.
These days there is a range of options for selling your car privately, which can assist in both the listing and the sales process. These sites bring many shoppers to your ad and raise the chances that you'll get your asking price. It will attract buyers from outside your region who would have never seen a local print ad or a For Sale sign in the car's window. Some sites are well-known internationally to auto enthusiasts who may have been searching long and hard for a car just like yours.
As always, it's essential to know what your used car is worth, with sites such as Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book (KBB.com) or companies like CarMax providing estimates. Here are some of the best places to sell a car online that may also lead to the best price for your vehicle.
Free online classifieds
Many online sites may offer greater reach to prospective buyers for a used car, but they require as much as $200 for the listing. One way to get some views on the internet is a free listing on sites such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
Craigslist has been the source of all kinds of classified listings for the better part of three decades now. Its automotive section is enormous to the point where both enthusiasts and those in need of an inexpensive used car likely have it bookmarked. You have plenty of options when you post your ad, including a sizable amount of pictures.
The most significant caveat with Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace is that these platforms can be rife with scams. It's important to be aware of the techniques that scammers use and also to make sure that your ad is full of information about the car, which will be more likely to attract truly interested buyers instead of scammers.
The most common scam of fake buyers is to contact a seller and say that they will pay full price for a car but that the seller needs to ship it to them. They then say that they will send a check to cover both. The main ways to avoid scammers are to always deal in cash, never agree to strange requests, and don't respond to contacts that sound dubious. When you meet someone for a test drive via Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, it's a good idea to look at their driver's license first and also to meet in a safe, neutral area.
But then there are hurdles for any time of online platform for selling a car. Even with the need for increased distancing, there are ways to give and receive necessary information about the sale. Pictures and detail also sell cars, so remember to provide plenty of information on the vehicle's condition and equipment upfront to avoid numerous back-and-forth messages.
Also make sure to do research on the pricing. Car buying is a stressful enough process. Buyers will often skip over cars that are too high-priced compared to similar models. They will also become immediately suspect about the listing if it's priced far below market value. As a private seller, you deserve top dollar for your old car, and it's worth doing some research to make sure you don't look too motivated or too out of touch.
Traditional, paid listings are another way to go through selling a car online without dealing with the unpredictability of auctions. Cars.com and Autotrader are two of the leaders in this area.
Cars.com ranks well as it has one of the quickest ways to get a used car price estimate. Upon entering a few numbers and specs on the main page, you will get an instant price range for selling via private party and also dealer retail. You can then pick from the following three options: dealer appraisal, quick offer, and placing an ad. If you choose dealer appraisal, you can set up in-person meetings for as many as three dealers at one time for no charge.
If you use your own selling ad, you can expect to reach around 13 million car shoppers each month. Suppose you pay $49 for your listing. In that case, you can include a Carfax report for others to view for free, which is an excellent way to lure buyers who aren't using the service. If your hometown paper participates with Cars.com, then you can have an ad placed there in addition to your online listing. They also offer a free trial for 30 days, which is a good deal considering they claim the average car will sell in less than four days.
Autotrader is one of the oldest ways to sell and buy a car. Before online car sales became popular, they sold a newsprint magazine full of car ads. It was generally considered a better way to see many cars for sale versus a newspaper. Similarly, the Autotrader website has now combined the print magazine's best features with everything you need to sell your vehicle. They do charge ad fees that range from $25 for a basic one-month package to a premium package for $100 that keeps your ad on until it sells.
If you don't like the idea of dealing with a buyer, Autotrader can also take over this aspect of the process. The VIP Service will do all the work to sell your car, including giving you an anonymous phone number. If you want to sell your car to a dealer, they will allow you to get a cash offer from any of their participating dealers. Another perk is that your Autotrader ad will also appear on Kelley Blue Book, which brings in more potential buyers. Autotrader's long history does mean that it tends to bring in more serious buyers and fewer scammers.
Hemmings is a storied name for classic car fans. It has a line of print publications and memorabilia from various brands and historic automotive events. With the prominence of online sales, the company has shifted resources to its website. It has an extensive database of listings and auctions with car brands from Acura to Zastava.
Those with car parts or other artifacts to offload can also find an audience on the site. Listings run from $99 for an auction to $190 for a print magazine listing and a spot online. Vehicles are subject to submission and acceptance by the Hemmings team before they go live. Hemmings is ideal for someone trying to sell a rare piece of automotive history, thanks to a devoted following that could land your vehicle with a happy new owner.
Fully online sales have become more common since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in 2020. While new car dealers are coming to terms with the logistics of this new reality, sites such as Carvana, Shift, and Vroom were ahead of the curve, offering at-home delivery from their vast national fleet of used cars and a sales process done entirely online.
But these sites also allow customers to sell their vehicle to the company using a similarly contactless process. Go to their sites to put in the vehicle's information – make, model, color, mileage, VIN, license plate number – and it comes back with an offer. Should you choose to accept it, a representative and a truck will come to pick up the vehicle, and payment will be issued within a matter of days.
The disadvantage is that there is no wiggle room in the offer. But the upside is that it's as hassle-free as selling a car can be right now, especially without having to deal face-to-face with a dealer.
5. eBay Motors
One of the earliest online sales sites, eBay is one of the top places to sell cars as it boasts over 160 million buyers. You have two options when selling a vehicle on eBay. The first is a fixed-price listing, and the second is via auctions. It's free to list your car on eBay initially, but eBay charges a fee based on the sale price when it sells. With a fixed-price listing, you sell your used car similarly to any other classified ad. Post an asking price, and then a button for 'Make Offer' is available to buyers if they want to haggle with a lower price.
If you decide to use the auction feature, then you'll have buyers bidding on your car. It can be an excellent way to sell classic cars or get more than the expected asking price. To reduce the risk that you won't meet your bottom line pricing-wise, make sure to set a 'Buy It Now' price should someone want to make an instant cash offer. Also, set a reserve price, which is the minimum that you'll accept. These features require an additional fee, however. eBay has a slight edge over Craigslist in that it's not anonymous. You can also complete the entire transaction over the website, which is highly desirable in these times.
However, a crucial downside to eBay is that they are known to have few buyer protections outside of PayPal. Should something go wrong with the transaction, the company may not help the wronged party in a meaningful way, so beware.