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How to sell a car online

The Ultimate Guide: How to Sell a Car Online

You can reach more potential buyers and get a good price for your car when you sell it online, as long as you follow the best practices. You’re more likely to get the attention and offers you want by having the right listing price, making an ad that converts, and using one of the best platforms for selling cars online. Find out how to sell a car on the internet so you’ll be successful.  

How to sell a car on the internet successfully 

Setting the right listing price and creating your ad are two of the most important aspects of selling your car online. These steps are the key to attracting motivated buyers and getting a fair price for your vehicle. 

Know your car’s condition and value

You’ll have trouble finding buyers if you list your car for too much and lose money if you set the price too low. Avoid these problems by determining your car’s condition to get an accurate private-party resale value. 

Start by getting a car history report from carVertical or another online service. Then, bring your car and the report to an ASE-certified mechanic for an inspection.

Your mechanic will review the report, inspect the car, and determine its condition. If the mechanic finds minor problems, you can choose to fix them to increase the car’s value. Otherwise, be sure to adjust the price accordingly.

Once you know the condition, check the car valuation online using the tool provided by Kelley Blue Book. Enter your VIN and some additional information, including the car’s condition. Finally, select the private party value so you can price the car when listing it on a vehicle marketplace.   

Create an effective advertisement for your car 

Your ad should include high-quality photos and compelling copy. Both are equally important, so go over some tips to create a car listing online.

Take photos of your car

Auto selling websites are largely visual, and buyers notice the photos first. Don’t just run outside and start snapping pics, though. You need to prepare your car and make sure you get the right types of photos. 

Clean the car

First, get your car ready for the photo op by cleaning it inside and out. Don’t forget to clean the tires and wheels, too, since potential buyers look over everything. 

Choose a location for the photoshoot

The right backdrop will make your car photos pop and draw interest from motivated buyers. Choose a spot with a clean yet inspiring background that complements the car. For instance, if you’re selling a Jeep, the mountains or off-road trails would be ideal backdrops. 

Time the photoshoot

Timing is critical when taking photos to sell a car online. You’ll want to snap your pics during the golden hour when the earth is bathed in warm light. 

While it’s called the golden hour, there are actually two hours you can select from. Snap photos an hour after the sun comes up or an hour before it goes down. 

Photograph all features and angles 

Potential buyers will want to check out the car thoroughly before seeing it in person, so take at least 12 photos of the interior and exterior before posting the listing. Get the car from all angles, and include photos of any special features you’ll list in the ad. 

Write compelling written copy

The most effective advertisements are detailed, honest, and compelling. You want to provide all the necessary information while giving people a reason to schedule a test drive. Include the following components when creating an ad to post on a vehicle marketplace:

  • General Description
    • Referred to as the “category,” every used car ad should list the year, make, model, trim, and mileage. Put this information at the top of the advertisement so people can quickly decide to take a closer look. 
  • Asking Price
    • When people find a car they like, they want to know how much it’ll set them back. Put the price right after the general description. Include “firm” if you’re not willing to negotiate, or “best offer” or “negotiable” if you’re open to taking less than the asking price. 
  • Payment Methods 
    • List all the payment methods you’ll accept, such as cash, cashier’s checks, and Venmo. Adding any methods you won’t take from buyers is also helpful. For instance, you should avoid personal checks since they might not clear the bank. 
  • Condition 
    • Be honest about your car’s condition, even if it’s less than stellar. Otherwise, you’ll have trouble closing the deal. Back up your statement about the car’s condition by including a vehicle history report and maintenance records. 
  • Gas Mileage
    • With high fuel prices, people want to know the gas mileage before buying a car. Poor gas mileage doesn’t mean you won’t make the sale, but you need to be upfront in your used car listing. 
  • Modifications  
    • Modifications can help your listing stand out among the competition. You don’t need to go back and modify your car before listing it. However, if you have added any features or upgrades, list them in the ad. 
  • Unique Selling Point
    • What makes your car the right choice for buyers? Maybe it gets excellent gas mileage or has fewer miles than other cars the same age. Brainstorm a unique selling point and include it in the ad. 
  • Warranties
    • A lot of used cars don’t have warranties, but some do. If your car is still under warranty, provide the details in the listing. 
  • Reason You’re Selling the Car
    • Buyers are wary of buying problem vehicles, so most want to know why cars are for sale. You can put their mind at ease by stating the reason in the listing. Keep it simple, honest, and direct. 

How to choose an online platform for selling a car

You’re more likely to succeed when you post a listing on one of the best platforms for selling cars online. There’s a catch, though. What’s best for you might not be best for someone else. 

If you want the easiest process, you’ll need an auto selling website that vets buyers and handles the documentation of car sales. On the other hand, you might prefer a listing site that features instant cash offers if you want a quick sale. 

Check out the top choices to see which fits your goals.   

eBay Motors – packages for all needs  

You can create an ad on eBay Motors to attract local and national buyers. eBay offers three packages for listing vehicles, ranging in price from $19 to $70. 

Depending on your chosen package, you can include 20-40 photos in your ad. If you want to stand out, go with the premium package. Along with adding 40 pictures, you can bold the title and subtitle. 

Each package lets you list the car in an auction or fixed price format and comes with a free AutoCheck report. This helps you build trust with the buyers. Also, buyers have confidence in eBay due to the anti-fraud protection. 

Autotrader – exposure, tools, and protection for hassle-free car sales 

Autotrader is one of the best platforms for selling cars online due to its popularity and features. This auto selling website attracts over 29 million unique visitors a month and provides buyer and seller verification, fraud prevention, free vehicle history reports, and other useful tools. 

Autotrader even makes it easy to finalize deals. It connects buyers to lenders who offer private-party auto loans and has a secure payment system. Plus, it takes care of most of the car sale documentation for both buyer and seller. 

With so many features, it’s no surprise that Autotrader charges $49 to list a car for sale. What is a surprise is that you can renew the ad for free until you close a deal. 

CarGurus – fast and convenient 

CarGurus lets users sell cars to dealerships or private buyers. You’ll set the price, create an ad, and pay the $4.95 listing fee if you want to find a private party to buy your car. According to CarGurus, private sales typically close within 20 days. 

The process is faster and easier if you sell to a dealership. Instead of creating a regular listing, you’ll enter the VIN and some additional details. Then, CarGurus will search its dealership network and send an instant cash offer your way in a matter of minutes. 

CarGurus will pick up the car for you if you sell it to a dealership. You’ll finalize the paperwork during the pickup, and CarGurus will deposit your money or give you a check. On average, sellers and buyers finalize these deals within seven days. 

Keep in mind that the payment will likely be less than you would get from a private seller, but it should be more than you’d receive if you took the car to a dealership yourself. 

Hemmings – motivated buyers searching for classic cars  

The classic car market is full of motivated buyers who are willing to pay top dollar, but you have to reach them. Hemmings is one of the most trusted vehicle marketplaces for classic cars, and you can reach buyers around the country. 

Hemmings lets sellers put their cars up for auction, create listings to accept offers, and run traditional classified ads. The listing price ranges from $99.95 to $149.95, depending on your chosen method. 

Hemmings provides secure payment for car sales and takes care of titling. You can even have Hemmings arrange transportation for an additional fee if the buyer isn’t nearby. 

Facebook Marketplace – targeted ads for DIY sales  

You can reach targeted local buyers when selling a car on Facebook Marketplace. Facebook allows sellers to post their ads in the marketplace and in up to 20 groups. The key is to choose groups that are interested in the type of vehicle you’re selling. 

It’s free to post ads on Facebook Marketplace. Still, you’ll be responsible for vetting buyers, collecting the payment, and finalizing the car sale documentation. 

Vetting buyers is important when using this vehicle marketplace. Since the listings are free, scammers create profiles and make fraudulent offers. 

Sometimes, they want to steal the seller’s identity. Other times, they run schemes to steal money from sellers. 

Check out peoples’ Facebook profiles to make sure they’re legit, and do a gut check before selling your car on Facebook. Facebook doesn’t offer seller protection and won’t step in if you’re scammed, so you need to be careful. 

How to get offers online to sell your car

Creating a great ad is vital to getting offers for your car, but don’t stop there. You need to lure those buyers in, so follow these tips to close the deal. 

Keep your car in good shape

Selling a car is a lot like selling your home. You always have to be ready for someone to stop by and see it. 

Keep the interior and exterior spotless the entire time the car is listed. If possible, park the car in a garage or keep it covered to prevent debris from landing on it. Also, bring out personal items when you exit the car so it looks new each time someone checks it out.

Know the buyer’s motivation 

Knowing the buyer’s motivation will make it easier for you to close the deal. For instance, if the buyer is interested because your car has excellent gas mileage, talk about that when the buyer reaches out online or goes for a test drive. If possible, include proof to back up your claim. 

Determine your price negotiation range

A willingness to negotiate can help you finalize a deal when you sell a car online. It’s a good idea to know how low you’re willing to go before negotiating so you don’t end up taking an offer you regret.  

Kelley Blue Book provides a fair market price range when valuing used cars. This gives you some wiggle room for negotiating. You can set the asking price at the high end but accept a lower amount that’s still within the range.  

How to meet with potential buyers

Most buyers won’t purchase a car sight unseen. Instead, they’ll reach out to meet with you to see the car in person. Find out how to safely meet with prospective buyers so you can protect yourself and close the deal. 

Vet buyers before meeting in person 

Even if you use a vehicle marketplace that verifies identities, you should take a few moments to vet the buyer. Scammers usually rely on texts and emails to lure in victims, so ask for a short phone call. If the buyer refuses, you might have encountered a scammer.

When you get buyers on the phone, let them know you need to see their driver’s license and insurance card before a test drive. Legitimate buyers shouldn’t have an issue with that, so stay away from people who refuse.  

Meet potential buyers in a safe place

Never invite someone to your home or workplace to check out your car. Instead, set up a meeting at a public location. A police station is the safest option, but you can also meet in the parking lot of a busy department or grocery store. 

Protect yourself by bringing a friend or family member with you during the meeting. If you have to go alone, give someone you trust the details so they can check in with you during the meeting. 

Take precautions for the test drive 

Serious buyers will want to do a test drive before buying your car. Take a photo or get a copy of the person’s driver’s license and insurance card first. For added protection, give the copy to the person who came with you or a trusted friend or family member.

Then, discuss the test drive route the person wants to take, keeping it to 15 minutes or less. After finalizing the details, go on the drive with the potential buyer.


What is the best way to sell a car on the internet?

Using a vehicle marketplace, such as eBay Motors or Autotrader, is the best way to sell your car on the internet. 

What app can I use to sell my car?

Use the app associated with the online marketplace you use to list your car. For instance, if you use eBay Motors, install the eBay Motors app.

What to do before selling a car online?

Get an inspection, review the vehicle history report, and use Kelley Blue Book to determine the price. Then, clean your car, take photos, and post a listing on an online marketplace.

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