Thanks to a wide variety of online vehicle sale platforms, you’ll find many ways to get a lot of eyeballs on your car’s ad. Of course, when selling your car online, you can advertise on multiple sites to cast a wide net for buyers. But, because most services charge a fee to list your car, narrowing it down to just one or two sites will save you money and helps you target the right kind of shopper.
The big guys vs. newer players
Craigslist and eBay Motors got into the game early and are the go-to choices for most people when selling their cars online. As well, Autotrader morphed from a weekly newspaper format to a far-reaching online sales platform and is now a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises, which also owns car site Kelley Blue Book.
Craigslist and eBay Motors are go-to choices for most people when selling their cars online.
In addition to these giants, there are many other places to sell your car online. Cars.com is another significant player and offers both basic free ads and paid ad packages that let you include more photos and a vehicle history report. Newcomer OfferUp is an attractive, easy-to-navigate, app-driven online sales platform. It’s free to use, but sellers can list anything, not just cars. You can also list your car on sites like CarGurus.com and Facebook Marketplace.
If you don’t want to spend time meeting and negotiating with buyers, there are also new online services that will buy your car directly. Companies like Vroom, Peddle and Cazab will review information you submit about your car online, then make you an offer and arrange pickup. If you go this route, be sure to check your car’s value on pricing guides such as Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book. It’s likely these companies will pay the trade-in value, which is less than you could get from a private-party sale.
What to expect
The steps to sell your car privately are similar no matter where you list it, but fees, features and buyer demographics differ depending on the site you choose. Here’s a closer look at what to expect from the Big Three:
Fees, features and buyer demographics differ depending on the site you choose.
Often in the headlines for being linked to scams and violent crimes, Craigslist is a free-for-all. But it can’t be ignored for two simple reasons: it’s free and it’s huge. And if you use some simple precautions and screen buyers carefully, it can help you net a speedy sale. It’s best for quickly selling older cars to buyers living nearby. One downside of Craigslist is that it’s difficult to search the site from outside your area, so the pool of buyers may be limited.
EBay boasts of having more than 160 million buyers, so eBay Motors is a good place to list your car if you want to play the numbers game. Here, you have two choices: post a simple listing with a fixed asking price or set up an auction. Listing your car is free, but when it sells you pay a fee based on the sale price. Ads are easy to set up, though extra photos are an additional charge.
- Fixed-price listing. This option is close to a traditional classified ad. You list your asking price but a “Make offer” button allows buyers to throw out a lower price.
- Auctions. With this kind of sale, buyers bid on your car — though you can also set a “Buy It Now” price. At any auction, people tend to get caught up in the excitement and bid more than they intended, which could be good for your bottom line. But for safety’s sake, you’ll likely want to set a “reserve price” — the undisplayed minimum amount you’ll accept. Just note that this requires an additional fee. The auction option may be best for those selling classic cars, where the value is highly subjective, or for those who like to gamble and are willing to take a risk to possibly sell at an above-market price.
When you list your car for sale on Autotrader, the ad also appears on Kelley Blue Book. Advertising on Autotrader costs $25 for a basic ad, with many packages and upgrades available. The site tends to attract more serious buyers. Unlike, Craigslist, buyers can easily filter searches on Autotrader to find exactly what they want — and from any location.
If you have a classic or specialty car, you may want to list it on an enthusiast site. Often, car owners form clubs that feature listings. Bringatrailer.com has become very popular for listing auctions of vintage, performance and sports cars. Sites like Hemmings.com and ClassicCars.com also specialize in rare and classic cars. And Autotrader also has a section for classic cars.
If you have a classic car, consider listing it on an enthusiast site.
In recent years, dealers and private parties have also been posting cars on YouTube and narrating short sales pitches themselves. Often, sellers post listings in classified ads and insert links to their YouTube videos.
Going old school
Of course, you can always place a “For Sale” sign in the window of your car to catch the eye of a buyer. The advantage, besides being free, is that anyone who sees it can immediately inspect your car and contact you if they’re interested.
If you want sell your car with a sign in the window, first check local regulations.
If you want to go this route, check your local ordinances, since many cities prohibit this way of selling a car. If it’s legal, park your car at a high-traffic intersection with a stoplight, so people can check out your car while they’re waiting for the green.
On your “For Sale” sign, make sure to provide all the information about your vehicle: year, make and model of the car, the number of miles it’s been driven, your asking price and contact information.