If you’re looking to buy a used car, you’ve probably noticed that online dealerships and car-listing services are more plentiful than ever. But which used car website is right for you? Team Clark has explored the process of buying used cars online through several popular websites and compared them to find out.
In this article, I’ll take a close look at seven of the most popular websites where you can find used cars for sale.
Where To Buy a Used Car Online
If you’re shopping for a new or used car online, you’ll find that there are two types of used car websites: online dealerships and car-listing sites. Online dealerships hold their own inventories, which means you’ll be buying a car directly from the company. Car-listing websites can help you browse the inventory at car lots near your location.
Here, you’ll find a few of the best used car websites, what each one is best for, the service’s app ratings and more:
|Resource||Type of Website||Best For...||App Ratings||Key Points|
|Autotrader||Car-listing service||User experience and research||The App Store: 4.7|
Google Play: 3.5
|- List your car for sale for $49
- Instant cash offers are available
- In-house financing isn't available
|CarGurus||Car-listing service||Listing a car online for sale||The App Store: 4.8|
Google Play: 4.6
|- Offers pre-qualifying online
- List your car for $4.95 monthly until it sells
- Prices labeled from "great deal" to "overpriced"
|CarMax||Dealership||“No-haggle” pricing||The App Store: 4.8|
Google Play: 4.3
|- Easy-to-use interface
- 24-hour test drives; 30-day returns up to 1500 miles
- Shipping may cost extra
|Cars.com||Car-listing service||Mobile shopping||The App Store: 4.8|
Google Play: 4.3
|- Schedule in-person appraisals at up to four dealerships if you're selling your car
- In-house financing isn't available
- Most popular mobile apps
|Carvana||Dealership||Return policy and limited warranty||The App Store: 4.5|
Google Play: 4.3
|- Seven-day return policy; 100-day or 4,189-mile limited warranty on purchases
- No opportunity to test drive before purchase
- Everything can be done online
|TrueCar||Car-listing service||Car-buying programs||The App Store: 4.7|
Google Play: 3.4
|- Powers more than 250 car-buying programs
- Dealerships may not have the exact match of the car you're looking at online
- Expect emails, phone calls and text messages about inquiries
|Driveway||Dealership||Car delivery||N/A||- Customer-friendly ways of buying new and used cars
- Cars are delivered directly to your door, but fees can range from $0 to $3190
- You can also service your car from the website for things like oil changes and repairs
You’ll find more detailed information below on each used car website including a description of each site’s car-buying process and how you can start searching for cars available in your area.
Best user experience and research tools on a car-listing service
Autotrader aims to be a comprehensive online solution for buying and selling new, certified and used cars. The website features a great selection of vehicles from dealers and private sellers as well as the most complete research and comparison tools. You can list your own car for sale on Autotrader for $49 with free ad renewals.
If you’re looking to buy a car, you can start from the homepage by entering a make, model and your ZIP code. You can also browse the available selection by make or style. As you browse, you’ll see labels like “Good Price” and “Great Price” from the Kelley Blue Book Price Advisor, Autotrader’s partner website.
In addition to buying used cars or listing your own car for sale, you can use Autotrader as a research tool to estimate a monthly payment, determine a trade-in value or find the best car for you. Scroll over the “Car Research & Tools” tab at the top of the page to get started.
After checking out Autotrader myself and comparing it to a few of the other best used car websites, here are a few of the major pros and cons I found:
|Autotrader is a reliable resource for finding vehicle values and additional unbiased research.||Autotrader doesn’t have a physical inventory, which means you’ll just be put in contact with nearby dealerships.|
|You can compare prices, deals and inventory at nearby dealerships online.||Autotrader doesn’t purchase used vehicles directly, which means you’ll have to wait for a buyer if your car isn’t eligible for an instant cash offer.|
|You can list your own car for sale for $49, and you can continue refreshing the ad and leaving it posted for as long as necessary at no extra cost.||Autotrader doesn’t offer financing. If you want to get pre-qualified before shopping, you’ll have to take care of that on your own.|
For a more detailed overview of Autotrader, check out our full review here.
Best for listing a car online for sale
According to CarGuru’s website, it features more car listings than any other major online marketplace.
You can use CarGurus to shop for new and used cars at several different car lots in your area. You can pre-qualify for a car loan directly on the website and get a price quote through CarGurus. Then you can contact one of the site’s partner dealerships with your quote and set up a time to test drive and/or purchase the vehicle you’ve found.
Whether you decide to finance through CarGurus or on your own at a credit union (as Clark suggests), you can start shopping from the homepage. Click on “Used Cars” or “New Cars” at the top of the page to begin. From there, you can enter the make, model and year of the car you’re looking for as well as your ZIP code. You can also filter, sort and narrow your search results by car, body style, price, distance, mileage and more.
You’ll see deal ratings ranging from “Great Deal” to “Overpriced.” You’ll also find research tools on the website to help you determine the value of a car before you buy or sell. If you are looking to sell a used car online, you can list your vehicle on CarGurus for $4.95 for 30 days.
Here are a few of the major pros and cons I found with CarGurus after checking out the website myself:
|CarGurus is a reliable resource for finding vehicle values and additional unbiased research.||CarGurus doesn’t have a physical inventory, which means you’ll just be put in contact with nearby dealerships.|
|You can get pre-qualified for financing online before visiting a dealership.||CarGurus doesn’t purchase used vehicles directly, which means when you list your car you’ll have to wait for a buyer to purchase it.|
|You can compare prices, deals and inventory at nearby dealerships online.||If you’re selling a car, it isn’t free to create a listing. It costs $4.95 to post your listing for 30 days.|
For more information on CarGurus including how to buy or sell your car online, check out our full review.
Best for “no-haggle” pricing
CarMax promises to make buying and selling a used car an easy and stress-free process through its “no-haggle” policy. CarMax is an online car dealership that owns its own inventory of used cars. That means if you buy or sell a car through CarMax, you’ll be dealing directly with the company as opposed to seeing listings from nearby dealerships.
CarMax has more than 200 physical locations across the U.S., but most of the buying and selling process takes place online. According to the website, CarMax has around 50,000 used cars to choose from at any given time. You can start searching by make, model or keyword from the homepage. Then you can filter your results. When you find a car you’d like to buy, you can schedule a test drive at the vehicle’s location, purchase it and pick it up at the lot.
If you’re looking to sell, you can take your car to a CarMax location to have it inspected, or you can get a quote online if your vehicle is eligible. If it is, you’ll get an instant cash offer that’s good for seven days. To get started, visit this page and enter some details about the car you’re selling.
Overall, Team Clark found that you can’t really go wrong with trying out CarMax for selling or buying a used car. Here are a few of the pros and cons our team has found with the website:
|Easy-to-use interface for shopping used car inventory||Potentially higher prices than private purchase because of the middle man and overhead factors|
|No-haggle, no-pressure environment||May have to pay extra to have a car shipped to your location.|
|Wide variety of makes, models and model years||When selling, offer may be less than you can get in a private sale.|
|24-hour test drives; 30-day returns up to 1500 miles||Must visit store to sell car if it isn’t eligible for an online quote.|
|In-house financing available|
For more information on CarMax, read our full review.
Best for mobile shopping via the app
Cars.com has been in business since 1998. The car-listing website connects car shoppers with nearby sellers who offer new, used and certified pre-owned cars. If you’re interested in selling your own car, you can schedule in-person appraisals with up to four dealers through Cars.com.
If you’re more comfortable using an app than a website, Cars.com may be the best car-listing resource for you. At the time of writing, the Cars.com app had a 4.8 out of 5 stars from 425.2K ratings on The App Store and 4.3 out of 5 stars from 47.6K ratings on Google Play. That made it the most popular app I’ve seen in this category.
If you’re looking to buy a car, you can start searching by make or body style from the homepage. You’ll be able to enter your ZIP code, the type of car you’re looking for, a maximum price range and distance. As you browse available cars, you’ll see labels ranging from “Fair Price” to “Great Deal” on some vehicles. You’ll also be able to see any vehicle’s free CARFAX report.
After checking out Cars.com myself, here are a few of the major pros and cons I found with the website:
|Cars.com is a reliable resource for finding vehicle values and additional unbiased research.||Cars.com doesn’t have a physical inventory, which means you’ll just be put in contact with nearby dealerships.|
|You can directly compare prices and features on up to four cars at nearby dealerships with the website’s “Compare” feature.||Cars.com doesn’t purchase vehicles directly, and the private listing feature was under construction at the time of writing. But you will be able to schedule in-person appraisals.|
|You can schedule in-person appraisals at up to four dealerships of your choice if you’re selling your car.||Cars.com doesn’t offer financing. If you want to get pre-qualified before shopping, you’ll have to take care of that on your own.|
Best return policy and limited warranty
Similar to CarMax, Carvana offers a no-pressure, no-haggle way to buy and sell cars almost entirely online. The company aims to offer lower prices on well-maintained used vehicles by cutting dealerships out of the car-buying process. This eliminates the overhead cost of most traditional dealerships or even of competitor CarMax.
To check out the cars that Carvana has available, you can click “Search All Vehicles” from the website’s homepage. From there, you can search for vehicles by make, model or keyword. Then, you can filter and narrow your results further by price, body type, year, mileage, features and more.
To sell a used car to Carvana, visit this page. Here, you can enter your vehicle’s license plate or VIN and click “Get My Offer.” Then you can enter details about your car including its specific mileage, your ZIP code, the vehicle’s color, features, accident history and more. If the company offers to buy your car, you’ll get an instant cash offer that’s good for seven days.
If you’re looking to buy or sell a used car, you can’t go wrong taking a look at what Carvana has to offer. Of course, it’s always good to consider the pluses and minuses. Here are the biggest pros and cons that our team found when checking out Carvana ourselves:
|Easy-to-use interface for shopping used car inventory||Prices may be slightly higher than a private sale.|
|No overhead that comes with owning physical car lots||No opportunity to test drive before purchase|
|No-haggle, no-pressure environment||When selling, the offer may be less than you can get in a private sale.|
|Everything can be done online.|
|Seven-day return policy + 100-day or 4,189-mile limited warranty on purchases|
To learn more about how Carvana works, read our full review here.
Best for those looking to use a car-buying program
TrueCar is a new and used car website that lets you see prices at local dealerships and quickly compare vehicles. The company powers more than 250 car-buying programs including those offered by Sam’s Club and American Express. If a business that you’re affiliated with offers free car-buying services, there’s a good chance it’s powered by TrueCar.
If you’re looking to buy a used car, you can start from the homepage by clicking “Shop Used.” From there, you’ll be able to narrow your search results by brand, type or price. You’ll see ratings on available cars ranging from “High Price” to “Excellent Price.” Once you find a car that interests you, I recommend looking for the dealership’s contact information in the Seller’s Notes section to avoid having to enter your personal information on TrueCar’s website. Checking a car’s availability through TrueCar opens the door to spam emails, phone calls and text messages.
TrueCar also offers True Cash Offers from local dealerships if you’re looking to sell a used car online. You can click “Sell or Trade” to enter information about your vehicle and get a cash estimate. Then you can connect with nearby dealerships about selling or trading your car.
After checking out TrueCar myself, here are a few of the major pros and cons I found with the website:
|TrueCar features listings from other websites including Carvana and Vroom, which means you’ll see a wide selection of available vehicles.||Expect emails, phone calls and text messages about inquiries you make through TrueCar.|
|Price ratings make it easy to see how a car’s price compares to the average list price of similar vehicles.||Dealerships may not have the exact match for the car you’re looking for, which means you can get baited into checking out other cars at their lots.|
|Even if you don’t sell to or buy from TrueCar, the website can be a great research tool to figure out how much your car is worth or how much similar cars are being listed for in your area.||TrueCar doesn’t directly purchase used cars, and “True Cash Offers” may not be available in your area.|
You can read our full review of TrueCar to learn more about the car-listing website including how it works and how to utilize its free research tools.
Best for car delivery and pickup
Although it’s a much smaller company, Driveway is an online car dealership that works a lot like Carvana and CarMax. Driveway keeps a physical inventory of new and used cars that you can browse online and have delivered directly to your door. The company also buys used cars and picks them up at a time and place that works for you.
Driveway’s goal is to provide a customer-friendly experience for buying new and used cars online. Instead of having to visit dealerships in person and haggle over a price, you can see the MSRP and what Driveway will sell it to you for directly on the website. If you do decide to purchase a car from Driveway, you can explore financing options, put down a deposit and have your car delivered. Once the vehicle arrives, you’ll have seven days or 400 miles to return it with no questions asked.
If instead you’re looking to sell a car, you can get a quote from Driveway by clicking on the “Sell/Trade” tab on the website. You’ll need to provide your license plate number, VIN or make and model to get started. After entering some additional information about your car, Driveway will give you an instant price that’s valid for seven days. If you do sell your car to Driveway, you can schedule a pickup time and location that works for you.
After checking out Driveway myself, here are a few of the major pros and cons that I found:
|With Drieway, you’re buying and selling directly to the company and not a third-party dealership.||If you’re buying a car, the delivery fee can range up to $3190 depending on where you live and where the car is located. Cars delivered from Hawaii or Alaska have a set delivery fee of $1895.|
|If you buy or sell a car with Driveway, someone will deliver it or pick it up at a time and location that works for you.||You can’t test drive a car before you purchase it.|
|In addition to buying and selling cars, you can have your car serviced with Driveway.||When selling, Driveway’s offer may be less than what you could get in a private sale.|
For more information on Driveway including how to buy or sell a used car online, be sure to read our full review.
If you’re looking to purchase or sell a used car online, any of these websites are great for getting a quote. Even if you decide not to buy or sell to a certain company, researching availability and prices is a great way to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
When it comes to car-listing services, Autotrader is a great place to start. The website offers a great user experience and the research tools are unparalleled. To list your own car for sale, CarGurus may offer one of the cheapest routes. If you plan on browsing local inventory from your phone, the Cars.com app will most likely be the best to download. But if you’re interested in using a car-buying program, you’ll likely find one that’s powered by TrueCar.
As far as online car dealerships go, CarMax is a great option for “no-haggle” pricing. While its warranty and return policy are also great, Carvana’s are slightly better. Finally, Driveway is a great online dealership to check out if you want your car delivered to your home.
Have you ever bought or sold a used car online? Let us know what website you used and tell us about your experience in the comments below!