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how to sell a car online

How To Sell A Car Online

Selling a car online can seem complicated, and to a certain extent, it is, but it doesn’t have to be!

As a former used car dealer, I probably spent more time online creating ads than doing anything else on the lot.

In this guide, I’ll walk you step-by-step through the process from my experience doing it to earn a living.

Follow these tips and you’ll maximize your sale price while saving time and effort.

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Why Sell Your Car Online?

The used car market is booming right now. Kelley Blue Book reports prices are at all-time highs, making this the perfect time to sell your current vehicle.

Going the online route connects you with far more buyers than just sticking a “For Sale” sign on your car.

Plus, online sales platforms offer conveniences like at-home vehicle pickups and secured payments.

I’ve sold over 500 used cars in my career at dealerships and online marketplaces.

While you likely won’t get quite as much money as selling privately, online sales save you tons of time and headaches. If convenience is key for you, read on for how to sell smoothly online.

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Key Steps to Selling Cars Online Successfully

Key Steps to Selling Cars Online Successfully

Follow these essential steps when selling your car online to maximize your sale price and ensure everything goes smoothly:

1. Determine Your Car’s Accurate Value

You need an accurate valuation before listing your car online or it will linger unsold. Check Kelley Blue Book (KBB) for current private party and trade-in values based on your car’s make, model, year, mileage, equipment, and condition.

Online buyers use this same data, so price competitively based on the higher private party value, not lower trade-in quotes. Listing above KBB private party values turns buyers away.

Tip: Some specialty sites like Hemmings also provide pricing guidance for collectible and vintage cars.

2. Gather Necessary Paperwork

Collect key paperwork ahead of time to prove ownership and provide vehicle history:

  • Title with no outstanding liens
  • Registration
  • Service records
  • List of equipment/upgrades
  • Accident history
  • Recall repairs done

Tip: Order a free vehicle history report from AutoCheck to share with buyers. A clean history brings higher offers.

3. Take High-Quality Photos

Great photos attract interested buyers much faster. Thoroughly hand wash and vacuum the exterior and interior. Then take 20-25 photos including all sides, undercarriage, interior front and back, engine bay, odometer, and trunk.

Stage photos in bright, even light with no background distractions. Hire a detailer if needed to make your car shine!

4. Write an Effective Online Listing

Your ad copy makes a vital first impression, so craft listings carefully. Research listing lengths – aim for 350-500 words. Always note mileage, condition, equipment, maintenance records, motivating factors for sale and openness to inspections.

Use clear formatting with short paragraphs and bullet points. Check for typos that undermine trust.

5. Choose an Online Sales Platform

Shop options to pick the best fit for your situation and priorities – maximizing price, minimizing hassle, etc.

I recommend and Facebook Marketplace for private sales or CarMax and Carvana for guaranteed offers with at-home pickups.

See the full guide below for an overview of all the popular platforms.

Detailed Guide to Safely Selling Your Car Online

Now let’s dive deeper into key steps for safely and profitably selling your car through online platforms.

1. Screen Buyers Thoroughly

Whether selling privately or to a dealer, carefully vet each buyer for legitimacy to avoid scams or safety issues.

For private sales, check Facebook profiles before meeting and insist on local buyers only. Require phone calls to hear voices and be wary of brand new FB accounts. Ask buyers lots of questions about employment, car needs, financing, etc. Trust your gut if something seems “off.”

With dealers, only provide sensitive info like your Social Security Number to longstanding sites with excellent BBB ratings like CarMax and Carvana.

2. Meet Safely for Test Drives

I’ve shown hundreds of test drives from my dealerships. For private sales, pick public spots like bank parking lots near busy roads with plenty of visibility.

Bring a friend, limit drives to 10 mins, and don’t leave valuables visible in your car. Take a photo of the buyer’s license beforehand too. It’s wise to be cautious, but most car buyers simply want to carefully assess vehicles.

3. Receive Secure Payment & Transfer Ownership Correctly

Never accept wire transfers, Venmo or PayPal for cars – too easy to reverse later! Require cashier’s checks upfront or cash upon vehicle delivery after validating funds with the issuing bank.

Sign over the title only once payment clears or the buyer pays cash in hand. Report all sales to your DMV. Reputable sites like Carvana handle this paperwork for you!

Choosing the Best Place to Sell Your Car Online

Best Place to Sell Your Car Online

Now let’s explore popular online sales platforms so you can decide what fits your needs and priorities best:

SitePriceOffer DurationPickupOffer FlexibilityPaperwork Help
Facebook MarketplaceHighest possibleNone, private salesNoTotal flexibility to negotiateNo, all yourself
CarvanaSolid offers7 daysYes, includedNo negotiationYes, handled for you
CarMaxGreat value quotes7 daysAt store locationsLittle flexibilityYes, handled for you
VroomLower offers typically7 days, 250 milesYes, includedNo negotiationYes, handled for you
CraigslistYou set asking priceUntil soldNoTotal flexibility to negotiateNo, all yourself

As you can see, marketplace sites like Facebook and Craigslist offer the highest potential sale prices but require more work.

Online dealers like Carvana, CarMax, and Vroom simplify the process tremendously while giving fair-value quotes.

But Remember: These businesses must make a profit, so by selling to them you will ALWAYS be leaving money on the table in exchange for convenience.

Weigh your priorities – money vs convenience – and match with the best platform for your needs.

Marketplace Sites

Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist host for-sale listings to connect local buyers and sellers directly.

With over 200 million active monthly users on Facebook alone, they provide immense exposure, especially for sports cars, classics or niche vehicles.

You handle quoting prices, meeting buyers, test drives, paperwork and payment arrangements. But you also keep all sale proceeds instead of paying the website a cut.

I recommend starting here if your goal is maximizing your profit when selling.

Just be prepared to invest significant time screening buyers, coordinating sales and finishing paperwork. Still, with the right buyer, you can often net thousands more than dealer offers.

Online Dealer Networks

Major online dealers like Carvana, CarMax and Vroom simplify selling cars tremendously by handling paperwork, payments, pickups/drop-offs and more on your behalf. However, for that convenience, their quotes tend to be 10-15% lower than private parties may offer.

These sites instantly determine vehicle values using outside sources like KBB and make binding offers good for set periods, typically 7 days. You can’t negotiate, but there’s no risk of buyers flaking out down the road either.

With reputable dealers like CarMax and Carvana, the process is 100% online and extremely fast.

Just enter your VIN, answer questions on features/conditions, and then schedule a free pickup once you accept their offer.

For those who value speed and simplicity when getting rid of a car, I highly recommend exploring dealer networks.

Key Takeaways for Successfully Selling Your Car Online

Selling Your Car Online

Selling online simplifies connecting with more buyers but requires the following key steps:

  • Accurately price your car using sites like KBB before listing
  • Take 20-25 high-quality photos showing every angle
  • Screen buyers thoroughly and meet safely in public
  • Require secured payment like cash or cashier’s checks
  • Weigh selling on marketplaces vs dealerships based on your priorities

My Final Thoughts On Selling Cars Online

I hope this guide gave you confidence in how to sell your car online smoothly and successfully! Let me know if any other questions come up during your sale process using the comment section below.

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Picture of Steve Momot - Author

Steve Momot - Author

Steve, a seasoned expert in the automotive industry, formerly held a car dealer license in Florida. With extensive experience spanning across car trading and mechanical work, he founded Autohitch. His mission? To guide both buyers and sellers through the intricate maze of car purchasing, ensuring a seamless and informed experience. Outside of the automotive world, Steve has a passion for fishing and capturing the beauty of nature through photography.


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