Alan PowdrillGetty Images
There are so many car buying and selling websites nowadays that it can seem like a maze. So we’ll walk you through our favorite sites for car shopping.
To See Past Sales of Similar Cars: eBay Motors
I bought my 1998 BMW M3 convertible on eBay. Lesson learned: Make sure it’s such a good deal that you’re okay with any foibles undisclosed by the seller. So how do you know you’re getting a nice price? Do an advanced search and look at the completed listings. You’ll see what sold. Maybe even more important, you’ll see what didn’t.
For Rare Cars and Classics: Bring-A-Trailer
Say you have a rare classic or awesome sports car, but it’s time to sell. This might be the places. Bring-A-Trailer vets all the cars it puts up on its website before listing them, so this site is rife with enthusiast traffic. Cars tend to sell for high dollar amounts because of the site’s clientele. It’s auction-based like eBay Motors and the site takes $99 if you sell.
If You Want To Vet Your Buyer or Seller: Facebook Marketplace
The Facebook Marketplace is one of the newest popular places to sell a car. All you need is a Facebook account and you’re ready to start listing for free. Your big advantage here is the ability to vet someone before they even come to look at your car. The potential buyer’s Facebook profile will be visible to you once they send a message, so it’s much more personal than the anonymous world of Craigslist.
If You Want a Lot of Eyeballs To See Your Listing: CarGurus
CarGurus is said to be the most visited online car marketplace in the U.S. Listing on this site is free, but you’ll be on the hook for $99 if you sell a vehicles. CarGurus has been around for a while now and their site looks a lot like the other big players. It’ll let buyers know about where cars stand compared to others on price, though, so be careful about your list price.
To See What Other People Paid: TrueCar
TrueCar is a great tool for removing the mystery of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). Say you want a new 2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500. For that truck, TrueCar has 120 recent transactions on record that help you see what you should pay (probably about $2,000 under MSRP). Some savvy buyers paid much less than that, but somehow eight people managed to pay above sticker price. You can also quickly ascertain that if you found a leftover 2017 model, the average savings is more like $5,000.
(Be forewarned that if you do sign in and search a particular model, dealers will begin calling you within about three minutes.)
If You Want To List for Free: Craigslist
We all know the horror stories that come with Craigslist, where scams and suspicious schemes are all around. Still, the website can help you out big time if you know how to avoid the bad stuff.
The biggest advantage here is the price of entry: $0. You can make the post look however you’d like and include a ton of photos without paying extra. Selling a car locally is always easier, but that can also be a downside with Craigslist, since you’re missing out on most of the national audience unless someone searches outside of their area.
(You could also try AutoTempest, a great aggregator site that pulls together Craigslist car ads from beyond your area. I used it to locate and buy a truck that ended up being 800 miles away.)
The Old Standby: Autotrader
A long-running standby in the online car selling industry, Autotrader is one of the most popular places to list a car. There’s no free option available for sellers, but the number of eyeballs your listing will get here should ease the pain of paying a small fee to sell. Autotrader has an easy-to-use interface that a huge number of buyers rely on, and that’s a reason to put it at the top of your list.
If You Want To Pick Up a Car From a Futuristic Vending Machine: Carvana
360-degree views reveal features and flaws. Most cars are delivered the next day, with a seven-day test drive. If you live in Atlanta, pick up your car at the eerie but fantastic car vending machine.
For Virtual Test Drives: RelayCars
Want to climb inside a Mustang and see what the red leather interior looks like without going to a dealership? Download the RelayCars app and strap on your favorite VR headset and have a look around. You can do virtual test drives, too. But right now, it’s only for Android phones.
The Way It Should Be: Vroom
This is how manufacturers would love to sell new cars, if dealer franchise laws allowed it. Vroom escapes those restrictions by exclusively selling used cars (albeit some with only a few hundred miles on the odometer), conducting the whole transaction online. You buy the car through their site, they handle the paperwork and deliver it anywhere in the lower 48. They’ll even give you a quote on your trade-in and pick up your old car when they drop off the one you bought. But what about the test drive? You’ve got a week, or 250 miles, to make sure that Mitsubishi iMiev is everything you hoped it would be.