How to Sell Your Car Online: 10 Best Sites, Tips for Success

You'll be able to find a buyer faster when you sell your car online than if you were to put out a listing on the local paper.Selling your vehicles online can reduce the amount of time it takes to get cash in your pocket. However, there are specific actions you should take to avoid costly mistakes. This article provides a map to help guide you through the seemingly labyrinthine process of selling your car online. Be prepared to close the deal at the DMV, especially if your state requires a notary to be present at the title transfer. Always check your state listing to find your state’s vehicle transfer requirements before filling out the title. Do this whether you’re selling through an online service provider, a classified ad or a private buyer.

Selling Your Car Online vs. Private Party

Selling to a private party will require you to create classified ads, communicate with buyers, negotiate prices, avoid scams, get the vehicle detailed and schedule a test drive with each possible buyer. However, the most important skill you need for selling to a private party is patience; it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to close the deal.

Hot Tips for Preparing Your Car, Vendor Selection

The alternative to selling your car to a private party is to sell it online. However, finding a reliable service provider is critical to your success, so research each one carefully. Every online service will offer different levels of support. Find out if your provider offers live chat support, email communication or phone calls if you have questions about the title transfer process in your state, for example.

Regardless of the service provider you choose, chances are high that you will be asked to provide photographs, so get them ready right away. Take the pictures on a bright, sunny day with a scenic background. Remove all decals and personalized accessories. It’s hard to overstate the impact a great photograph can have on buyers. Take pictures from all angles. This includes the front, interior, sides, engine and undercarriage.

How to Write a Vehicle Description

Taking photographs and creating a compelling description are the essential basics for selling your car online. Write a vehicle description so that you have it conveniently located with your other documentation. Include the make, model, trim level, odometer reading, original sale price, engine size, current warranty and optional features. This includes fuel efficient design, accessories, safety equipment, car alarms and modifications. Examples of modifications include the addition of special tires, a new sound system or a refurbished interior.

How to Find Credible Online Service Providers

Credibility is established when companies treat their customers right. The company’s track record with previous clients will give you a lot of insights about how the service provider conducts business. Customer testimonials are now as valuable for online businesses as a BBB rating was for traditional businesses. Read the customer reviews carefully, then compare the reputation and support services offered by top providers.

Use the following tips to help you navigate the large number of sites where you can sell your car online:

  • Positive customer feedback is the currency of this realm.
  • Make sure the service provider offers helpful links to authoritative sites that help you to solve your problem or resolve an issue.
  • Check to see if the site offers a free vehicle quote without obligation. You should be able to get useful information about your car’s value without signing any agreements or paying fees.

Top Sites for Selling Cars Online

Obtaining a quote on a vehicle is as easy as following the instructions on the website of your servicer. However, this quote should always be evaluated in the context of the car’s market value. The market rate is rarely the asking price, but it can give you a ballpark idea of what the vehicle is worth.

1. SellMyCarOnline.com

This site offers a free service that tells you the value of your car. You get an instant cash offer without any obligation. Get an instant estimate once you enter the VIN, year, make, model and trim. You will receive a free vehicle pick up from a private party towing service once you accept the offer. No car ads are necessary; the site does all the work for you. You get access to live chat, email and phone support when dealing with title transfers issues, vehicle pickup and other questions.

2. Craigslist

This well-known site does require you to do a lot of marketing work. Set up a dedicated email account for safety. Always meet in a secure, public location. Typical prices for used cars on Craigslist are around 20 percent beneath the Kelly Blue Book rates. Set up an applicant screening system.

3. CarGuru

To sell your car on this site, you will need to find your local DMV, and obtain a bill of sale, release of liability, an odometer disclosure statement and a lien release, if applicable. The site offers an email system, so you have to market the car to buyers and communicate with them directly.

4. Vroom.com

This site offers a vehicle appraisal based on a questionnaire and uploaded photographs. Each offer is good for 10 business days.

5. Cars.com

You can upload your vehicle description, photographs and other key selling points to this site, which provides an extensive listing where buyers can find your ad.

6. CarMax

Get an appraisal and a written offer, which is good for one week. You have to go to their store in person to obtain this appraisal. Online appraisals are available only in some states. Unlike trade-in dealership arrangements, CarMax doesn’t inflate your appraisal to pressure you to buy a car from their inventory. They also offer assistance with lien transfers.

7. CarGurus

Sellers can use this listing site, which provides pricing tools. They provide some support to help sellers navigate the transaction.

8. Ebay Motors

This site lets sellers publish a vehicle description with photographs on a listing visited by buyers. You have to contact buyers and set up procedures to close the deal. For the auction, it is best to end your auction on Sunday when buyers are likely to be the most active.

9. Carvana

This site provides an offer based on the VIN, and no photographs are requested. However, the pickup service is only available in some states.

10. Roadster

This is a vehicle auction site that interfaces with wholesalers and dealers. The best way to interact with this site is by using a phone. Upload the vehicle photos and a description, and you will receive a bid from an interested buyer in a few days. Currently, this service is only available in California.

Researching Market Values and Evaluating Offers

If the car is in mint condition, you might ask for more than the market price. If it’s been in an accident, you should expect to receive less than the market rate. Always research the vehicle’s market value before you start evaluating offers from any online service, participating dealer or private buyer.

Use one or all of these resources to review your car’s worth before you accept an offer or decide on the best price:

Kelley Blue Book

Get a Kelley Blue Book appraisal: This site provides industry-standard appraisals for any car transaction. It’s a wise investment of time to see what your car is worth according to the trusted KBB valuation.

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price

Find the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or MSRP, if you have a more valuable car to sell online. This is a useful number to have when calculating your used car’s depreciation. You can use it in tandem with the KBB price to determine your luxury car’s asking price. Remember that the MSRP is rarely the original selling price; however, it gives you an idea of the original value of the vehicle when it was a new car. TrueCar has a useful tool that helps you quickly find the MSRP quickly.

Autotrader

This is a highly trusted listing and appraisal site where you can create an ad that will be seen by many buyers. There is a small sign-up fee to use the service.

Edmunds

Enter the make, model and year in this site’s search fields. You will get a reliable estimate of the car’s worth.

Setting the Asking Price, Factoring in Vehicle History

If you’re selling to a car buying site, a listing service or a classified ad site like Craigslist, you will need to set an asking price. In addition to the market rate, you might have to adjust your price to account for the actual condition of the vehicle. The vehicle history report can help you to determine if there is a reason why you should set your asking price higher or lower than the going market rate. Vehicles like sedans and work-ready trucks tend to be more popular than unusual models with unpopular paint colors. Convertibles are unlikely to be in demand during the winter months. Keep these things in mind when pricing your vehicle.

Vehicle History Report

The vehicle history is valuable because it helps you to determine the most beneficial price for both the seller and the buyer. A single vehicle history report is well-worth the nominal cost, which is around $40 for a report from Carfax. Autocheck also offers vehicle reports for around $25, and both services offer extended or even unlimited reports for a slightly higher subscription rate.

The vehicle history will convey the following information:

  • Number of owners: A single owner increases the value of the car.
  • Accident history and salvage titles: Any accidents will lower the value of the car.
  • Odometer rollbacksRollbacks are severely penalized, and they reduce the value significantly.
  • Maintenance records and service reports let the potential buyer know how well the vehicle has been maintained over its operating life.

Any prospective buyer will want to know this kind of information, so it is best to be prepared. By getting a vehicle history report, you might also find out information about the vehicle that was previously unknown. For example, you might discover if a previous owner had a vehicle recall before you bought the car, and you can adjust the price accordingly.

Complete State Paperwork Accurately

Organize your vehicle’s documentation to avoid delays and hassles. If you have any questions or concerns about the process of car selling online, make sure to visit your local DMV website first. Your online service provider may also help you to prepare a checklist of documentation if you select a service that provides customer support. Listing sites, auction sites and classified ads don’t offer support, so make sure that you’re fully prepared to close the deal if you choose those methods to sell your car online.

1. State DMV Title Transfer List

The title transfer process is determined at the state level. Always check the state rules to ensure that you follow the correct procedures. If you choose an online service like SellMyCarOnline.com, you can get assistance during the title transfer process to make sure no mistakes are made.

2. Vehicle Title

Car owners usually keep the title, but your bank could have possession of the title if you still owe money on the car. Contact the bank directly to find out what terms they must have fulfilled in order to release the title for your sale. If you lost the title, you must contact your local DMV. Follow the instructions that are specific to your state.

3. Current Valid Registration, Insurance and Bill of Sale

The requirements for selling a vehicle vary by state, and the rules for insurance coverage should always be checked before completing the sale. Registration and bill of sale documents are standard items.

4. Valid State Photo Identification

Remember to bring your identification with you to the closing at the DMV. Some states require a notary, and they will require your I.D. card before proceeding.

5. Original Vehicle Keys and Car Key Fobs

It’s a small detail, but if you lost your original key or key fob, make sure to get it replaced before selling your car online.

6. Lienholder Details, if Applicable

The lienholder’s information must be obtained before you can sell a car that is under a lien. Contact your bank to find out the procedures for obtaining a lien release. Get the lienholder’s name, address, phone number, account number and Social Security number. Keep this information with the vehicle’s documentation.

7. Original Sales Receipt

If you bought your vehicle from a dealer, find the original receipt and any service warranty, and keep these documents with your vehicle records.

8. Proof of Emissions Testing, if Applicable

Depending on the state where the car is being sold, you might need to obtain proof of emissions testing, which is called a smog check in California. The Clean Air Act of 1990 regulates the states, and some are required to inspect vehicle emissions to reduce air pollution. In certain states, you will be unable to sell the car unless you have proof that the car has passed an emissions inspection. Find out if your state requires an inspection before conducting a sale or title transfer.

Maintenance Records, Final Steps

Maintenance records will show that the vehicle has received regular oil changes and other services. Collect receipts in one place to show that you took the time to have pre-sale maintenance work performed on the vehicle. This may include items like professional detailing, light bulb replacements, new windshield wipers, spark plugs and any other minor repairs. Buyers are more likely to trust a seller who has these documents available at the time of the sale.

There are a lot of choices available when you decide to sell a vehicle online. Decide what type of service is the most helpful for your situation. Are you only interested in sites that allow you to list your vehicle for sale online? Is a vehicle pickup service a mandatory item? Remember that each online service provider has their own method of conducting business. If you want to sell directly to the site, the listing services won’t help you because they don’t offer this feature, for example. Just make sure that you fully understand what each service is offering before you start on your adventure of selling your car online.