More Americans are buying their cars online. This means that selling a car online — either through an online retailer like Carvana, or through a platform like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist — can be a good option for drivers interested in selling their car outright or valuing it as a trade-in.
Selling your car online can be more convenient and flexible: You can complete the entire car-selling process, or part of it, from the comfort of your home and at your own pace. Many online car-buying sites will even come to your home to pick up the car and hand you a check on the spot.
» MORE: How much is your car worth?
1. Find out how much your car is worth. To do this, most online car-buying platforms require you to enter the car’s 17-digit vehicle identification number — or its license plate number — and confirm the make, model, mileage, color and operating condition.
You’ll also typically have to answer detailed questions about the car’s condition and history like the following: Has it been in an accident or flooded? Does it have aftermarket modifications? Does it have scratches or dents? Bear in mind that offers from online retailers may not always reflect what your car is worth; it's what these particular buyers are willing to pay at that particular moment. For example, you might get a lower offer for an older car, a high-mileage car, a car with mechanical issues or a salvage title car because such vehicles are typically not easily resold or financed.
2. Decide whether you are trading or simply selling. Most online car buyers also sell cars directly to consumers and say their trade-in price does not differ from their purchase price, meaning they won’t buy trade-in from you for a certain amount, then sell it for twice that amount.
3. Disclose current loans or leases. Many, but not all, online car-buying companies will buy a vehicle that you are still making payments on, and some will buy out a lease if the manufacturer allows it. Use an auto lease buyout calculator to see if the offer is fair. But if you owe more than the offer you receive, you must provide funds to make up the difference.
4. Provide photos of the vehicle. Alternatively, some companies may arrange to view the vehicle in person to inspect its condition. Or a company representative might wait to inspect the vehicle at the pickup or drop-off time. If the vehicle’s condition is worse than you described, the company could change its offer. Note that some buyers may not ask for this step until you have accepted an initial offer.
» MORE: How to sell your car yourself
Kelley Blue Book arranges instant cash offers through its network of partner dealers. Information is sent to nearby dealers for bids. Unlike Kelley Blue Book's widely known estimates of values, Instant Cash Offers provides an offer to purchase. Dealers are free to adjust value if vehicles do not meet descriptions. Offers are good for 7 days, and you must take the vehicle to the purchasing dealer.
AutoNation buys cars through its extensive chain of new-car franchises but will make an offer online. You must deliver your vehicle to the store. Offers are good for seven days and 500 miles.
Shift buys (and sells) cars online, including cars with loans, and may make offers on leased vehicles. Offers are good for seven days, and it offers free returns for seven days on purchased vehicles. Shift also arranges financing, and picks up as well as delivers vehicles. But note that the company charges a service fee that is added to the purchase price. Other platforms, like Carvana, don’t charge such service fees.
After you’ve accepted an offer, a representative will email or call to arrange a time to either pick up the vehicle at your home or have you drop it off at a pickup point. In most cases, fees are minimal. Some companies may charge an administrative fee, deducted from the offer price. The seller may also be charged if they back out of the signed sale agreement.
While each company handles title and registration paperwork in its own way, expect to upload copies of your registration, title and driver’s license to get the ball rolling. Sales contracts, odometer statements and power of attorney may arrive for electronic signature or through overnight mail.
Note that most companies will hand you a payment when they take the vehicle, typically via a check or a bank draft, which can take several days to clear. Some offer payment via direct deposit or even cash. Before handing off your car, be sure to remove the license plates and clear the car of any personal items and leave only the items that came with the car when you bought it, such as the car manual, keys and car mats. If your online offers don't meet your needs consider selling your used vehicle to other consumers via Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
You can sell your car online through retailers like Carvana or CarMax. Such online car-selling platforms require you to enter information about the car you’re selling like its license plate number, make, model, mileage, color, operating condition and history. Some online car-buying sites also come to your home to pick up the car and hand you a check on the spot.
Both CarMax and Carvana offer a convenient and flexible way to sell your car online and get a competitive offer. Both sites accept cars with negative equity and offers from both platforms are good for seven days. However, CarMax requires that sellers bring their cars to a physical location to be inspected while Carvana offers the option to finalize sales remotely and the option to pick up a car after sale.
The best way to sell your car online is through a car-selling platform like Carvana, CarMax, Peddle and others. The best online retailer will depend on the condition of your car, if you’re trading in a vehicle, what kind of car you’re selling as well as other factors. For example, Carvana may be a good option for trade-ins and selling cars outright, while the site Peddle might be better for selling older used or damaged cars.