Our review, courtesy of the A4 Auto Transport Guides team, provides an in-depth look at the top online car buyers.
We’ve evaluated the best car-buying sites, both established and up-and-coming, to help you decide which one is right for you. We’ll explain the pros and cons of each site so you can navigate the digital car-buying experience with more confidence and find the best option for you.
Best Online Car Buying Sites
Our top picks for the best car buying sites are Cars.com, Carvana, and CarMax. Below we’ve broken down our ratings for these online car buyers, along with other great options:
|Websites||Best For||Our Rating|
|Carmax.com||Plenty of service offers||9.0|
|Cars.com||Certified pre-owned cars||8.8|
|Vroom.com||Choice for older vehicles||8.3|
|Autotrader.com||Advanced search functions||8.2|
|eBay.com||Vast selection of vehicles||7.9|
|KBB.com||Negotiated price for existing car.||7.7|
|Consumer Reports||Guidance to local buyers||7.5|
Carvana is a car-buying site that lets you pick the car you want from its selection of used vehicles. You can also apply for prequalification for a car loan through the site and have the vehicle delivered, depending on where you live. In certain markets, you can pick up your purchase from a futuristic-looking car vending machine. Many of Carvana’s customers were happy as evidenced by the more than 8,600 reviews that give it an average of 4.2 out of 5.0 stars on Trustpilot.
- You can apply for auto loan prequalification on the site
- All vehicles include a 150-point inspection
- Seven-day return window
- Limited warranty of 100 days or 4,189 miles, whichever comes first
- Trade-ins may be accepted
- No flexibility on pricing
- May have to pay a shipping fee
- Delivery is not available in all markets
- Co-signers not accepted through Carvana financing (though outside financing is allowed)
For over two decades, Cars.com has been facilitating connections between sellers and buyers of new, used, and certified pre-owned cars via its website. The site functions as a matchmaking service, with vehicle sales occurring offline.
- Offers new, used, and certified pre-owned cars
- Provides options to sell your current car
- Includes a “deal ranking” to assess pricing as great, good, or fair
- Not every vehicle comes with a free vehicle history report
- Doesn’t guarantee vehicles
- Requires you to manage financing and title transfer independently
- Purchases are not conducted on the site; communication with the seller is necessary
CarMax takes pride in the thorough inspections conducted on its vehicles. Much like its competitors, CarMax offers several purchase safeguards, including a seven-day return option, a limited warranty covering all cars, and the choice to purchase an extensive service plan.
- Option for test driving at your location (additional fees may apply)
- Online financing applications available on the website
- Provides complimentary vehicle history reports
- Offers a seven-day return policy
- Includes a 90-day or 4,000-mile (whichever comes first) limited warranty
- Nationwide presence with physical stores for those who prefer an in-person experience
- Non-negotiable prices
- Lack of pricing guidance to assess deal competitiveness
- Potential requirement to pay a shipping fee for viewing a car
Vroom, a direct competitor to Carvana, offers the convenience of having a used vehicle delivered directly to your doorstep. Their website allows you to browse a variety of cars and even apply for financing online.
- Home delivery of vehicles
- Complimentary vehicle history report provided for all cars
- Online applications for financing are available
- Acceptance of trade-ins, including pick-up service
- Includes a 90-day limited warranty
- Offers a seven-day or 250-mile return window
- There is a $499 shipping fee
- Delivery typically takes seven to ten days after purchase
Autotrader is another research-focused website that provides a user-friendly used-vehicle search engine to help you discover a car that aligns with your budget and preferences. You have the flexibility to filter your search by vehicle type and the maximum distance you’re willing to travel to acquire the car you desire. Autotrader accommodates listings from both dealerships and private individuals.
- Offers listings for new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles
- Provides options for cash offers or trade-ins on eligible cars
- Allows for comparisons between dealer and private party listings
- Not all cars come with free history reports
- Direct purchasing through the site is not supported
- Transactions facilitated through the site are not guaranteed
Edmunds stands as one of the leading platforms that provides expert reviews and valuable pricing insights to assist you in your car-buying journey. Its car comparison tool evaluates vehicles based on various factors, including consumer ratings, fuel economy, and ownership costs.
However, Edmunds goes beyond just research. It also operates as a vehicle marketplace where you can discover new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles available in your local area. Edmunds employs a deal-rating score to assess vehicle listings on its site, helping you determine if the price is reasonable.
- Expert reviews available
- Some cars purchased through Edmunds may qualify for a 30-day or 1,000-mile warranty
- Offers 12-month roadside assistance for select vehicles
- Direct purchasing through the site is not possible
- No listings for private-party sellers
CarGurus boasts its status as the largest car-shopping website in the U.S. The site offers an impressive search interface, ranking vehicles using a proprietary deal score and prioritizing the best deals.
- CarGurus assists with paperwork, including title transfers
- Utilizes the Instant Market Value pricing metric to estimate fair vehicle values
- Offers prequalification for loans in select private party sales through AutoPay, CarGurus financing partner
- Provides a 30-day or 1,000-mile warranty for select private-party sales
- Not all vehicles come with a limited warranty
- Communication with sellers is your responsibility
Looking to purchase a vehicle from a private seller? eBay Motors offers a platform where you can bid on vehicles, potentially landing the car you desire. The website provides a vast selection of vehicles from across the nation, and it includes free vehicle purchase protection for eligible car transactions completed on the platform.
This protection means that if your car meets the criteria, you’ll receive reimbursement for costs in case you never receive the purchased vehicle or if there are undisclosed title issues. It also covers eligible damage to the transmission, engine, or vehicle body.
However, it’s essential to note that these protections may not cover every possible issue that could arise during your purchase. Beyond the covered components, you may need to handle any other consequences.
- Nationwide access to vehicles from private sellers
- Certain protections for specific situations
- Option to apply for financing through RoadLoans.com
- A wide range of both new and used vehicles is available
- Winning a bid doesn’t automatically obligate you to buy
- No return policy
- Limited protection against certain undisclosed problems
- No guarantee of winning auctions
Kelley Blue Book (KBB)
Looking to sell or trade in your current vehicle before buying? Kelley Blue Book, which is owned by Autotrader, has been giving people visibility into car prices since 1926. You can use Kelley Blue Book values to understand what may be a fair price for your existing car. Then you can use Kelley Blue Book’s pricing estimates for new and used vehicles to negotiate a price for your next car.
- Vehicle marketplace where you can find new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles
- Option for cash off or trade-in credit on eligible cars
- Not all cars have free history reports
If you’re in search of impartial evaluations for both new and used vehicles, Consumer Reports is a nonprofit entity renowned for its reviews spanning various product categories, including automobiles. The website equips you with guidance and resources for each phase of the car-buying and selling process.
For those interested in new cars, Consumer Reports offers a car-buying service, enabling members to access information about the prices paid by local buyers for comparable new vehicles.
- Nonprofit organization
- Features a used-car marketplace powered by Cars.com
- Provides a car-buying service in collaboration with TrueCar
- Offers a car repair estimator tool
- Membership fee required to access full reviews
Shift assures thorough inspections for all its sold vehicles. For residents within the company’s service regions, test drives are available before purchase. Shift determines vehicle pricing through an algorithm, rendering it non-negotiable. However, Shift’s warranty policy may not be as comprehensive as those offered by some competitors.
- Fixed, non-negotiable pricing
- Accepts trade-ins
- Online financing application is available on the website
- Provides a five-day or 200-mile return option
- Limited service areas, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego
- Firm, non-negotiable pricing
Despite its somewhat outdated user interface, Craigslist remains a popular choice for private-party vehicle sales.
- Easily find private sellers in your vicinity
- Browse listings to discover vehicles within your budget
- Refine your search by criteria like price, make, model year, and mileage
- Sellers aren’t vetted by a third-party
- Financing arrangements must be made independently or paid in cash
- No third-party guarantees for purchases
If you’re looking to purchase a used car from an unfamiliar seller, Facebook Marketplace provides the option for individuals to list their cars for sale, alongside dealerships.
- As a Facebook member, you can view a person’s profile before meeting
- Browse listings to find a vehicle within your budget
- Sellers aren’t vetted by a third-party
- In private-party transactions, financing must be arranged independently or paid in cash
- No third-party guarantees for purchases
AutoTempest simplifies the process of searching for deals by aggregating search results from various peer-to-peer sales websites like Craigslist, eBay, CarSoup.com, Autotrader, and more.
- List your car for sale or receive instant offers from AutoTempest’s partner site, Cars.com
- Access new and used vehicle listings
- Read car reviews before making a purchase
- No pricing analysis is available
Seeking to gauge dealership pricing and inventory in your area? CarsDirect simplifies the process of searching for both new and used cars. When you find a car that captures your interest, you can directly contact the dealer. Additionally, you have the option to apply for financing through the site.
- Offers financing applications through the site
- Provides pricing details for new vehicles
- Allows initial price-based search filters
- Requires direct communication with dealers, with sales finalized offline
- Offers no guidance on used-car pricing
- Not all vehicles include free vehicle history reports
Tips for Online Car Shopping
- Do your research. Before you even start shopping for a car online, it’s important to do your research and know what you’re looking for. This includes knowing your budget, what type of car you want, and what features are important to you. You can use online resources like car review websites and comparison tools to help you narrow down your options.
- Shop around. Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to start shopping around. There are several different websites where you can buy a car online, so it’s important to compare prices and find the best deal. Be sure to read reviews of different dealerships and sellers before you make a purchase.
- Get a pre-approved loan. If you’re planning on financing your car purchase, it’s a good idea to get pre-approved for a loan before you start shopping. This will give you an idea of how much you can afford to spend and will make the buying process go more smoothly.
- Inspect the car carefully. If you’re buying a used car, it’s important to have it inspected by a mechanic before you make a purchase. This will help you identify any potential problems with the car. You can also ask the seller for a vehicle history report, which will provide you with information about the car’s past accidents and repairs.
- Be prepared to negotiate. Even if you’re buying a car online, you may still be able to negotiate the price. Be prepared to walk away from a deal if you’re not happy with the price.
- Read the fine print. Before you sign any paperwork, be sure to read the fine print carefully. This includes the sales contract, warranty information, and financing agreement. Make sure you understand all of the terms and conditions before you agree to anything.
- Be aware of scams. Unfortunately, there are several scams associated with online car buying. Be wary of sellers who ask for upfront payments or who pressure you to make a quick decision. If you’re unsure about a seller, do some research to see if there are any complaints against them.
Best Car Buying Sites: Our Methodology
We evaluated more than a dozen websites for buying used cars. We chose websites that are well-known for selling cars for a long time or those that offer a safe and personalized experience, especially for people looking for unique cars.
Buying a used car can be scary and confusing, so we picked websites that have advanced search tools. These tools help you compare the features you want in a car. We also liked websites that provide helpful guides for buyers and the latest car reviews. These resources make it easier for people to make smart decisions when buying a car.
What are the best car buying websites in 2023?
The top car buying websites can change over time, but some popular options include CarMax, Carvana, AutoTrader, and TrueCar.
Are these car buying websites trustworthy?
Most of the well-known car buying websites are reputable and have a history of reliable service. However, it’s always a good idea to research and read reviews to make an informed choice.
How do I sell my car online through these websites?
Selling your car online typically involves providing information about your vehicle, receiving an offer, and, if you accept, arranging for a vehicle inspection and completing the necessary paperwork.
Do these websites offer fair prices for my vehicle?
These websites use various methods to appraise your car, but the offers can vary. It’s recommended to get multiple quotes and compare them to ensure you’re getting a fair price.
Can I buy a used car online and have it delivered to me?
Yes, many car-buying websites offer the option to purchase a used car online and have it delivered to your location. Some even offer a return policy.
Are there any fees associated with using these car buying websites?
The fees can vary depending on the website and the services you choose. Some may charge listing fees, while others charge a percentage of the sale price.
What documents do I need to sell my car through these websites?
You’ll typically need the title, registration, maintenance records, and a valid ID. The specific requirements can vary by website and location.
What’s the difference between full-service car buying websites and private-sale platforms?
Full-service websites like CarMax handle the entire selling process for you, while private-sale platforms like Facebook Marketplace provide a platform for you to list your car and manage the sale yourself.
Can I buy a new car on these websites, or are they for used cars only?
Many of these websites primarily focus on used cars, but some also offer new cars for sale, often through dealership partnerships.
How do I know which car-buying website is right for me?
To determine the best option for you, consider factors like your location, the type of car you’re buying or selling, the level of service you desire, and your budget. It’s essential to research and compare your options.
a4AutoTransport is a group of auto transport researchers and experts that comes in handy for anyone who wants to move their car/vehicle without putting extra miles on the odometer. At a4AutoTransport, We researched over a hundred car shipping companies, interviewed real customers and industry leaders, and collected nearly 500 quotes to find the nation’s best auto transport companies. With our combined 5 years of industry experience and research, we’ll help you find the right car shipper for your budget.