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Best Online Car Buying Sites

Profile picture of Tom Rains
by Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Online car buying sites let consumers virtually browse for vehicles. Intelligent search engines narrow down options to the most relevant cars and trucks. Vehicle delivery is also an option, sometimes for a fee. Some sites allow negotiation between buyers and sellers, while others have fixed prices.

Compare Online Car Buying Sites

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Carmax
Read 785 Reviews

CarMax’s no-haggling online car buying site also has 200 physical locations nationwide. Strict selection means only a small collection of high-quality cars make it onto the site. Extended service plans and financing are available.

Carfax
Read 671 Reviews

Carfax is famous for its exhaustive vehicle history reports on used cars. Consumers can shop used cars and know the history behind every one. The company works with 28,000 dealers and has millions of cars available.

Autotrader.com
Read 169 Reviews

Once famous just as a magazine, Autotrader now boasts an extensive online car buying site. A smart search engine finds the best deals from commercial dealers and private sellers.

eBay Motors
Read 175 Reviews

eBay Motors sells cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles. You can bid on cars or buy them at a set price, just like on the traditional site. Satisfaction ratings help show which sellers are best.

CarsDirect
Read 11 Reviews

CarsDirect specializes in financing for those with weaker credit or no credit at all. New and used cars are available. Quick shipping and a convenient Recently Viewed tab are highlights of this site.

CarGurus Read Expert Review

CarGurus is dedicated to transparent pricing. Proprietary algorithms search through millions of cars for the best matches. Each car is marked with a market value to guide consumers in their decision making.

Cars.com Read Expert Review

Cars.com lets you search for, buy and sell a wide variety of cars. Their comparison tools let you compare up to four vehicles side by side. Additional features include mobile apps and vehicle history reports.

CarSoup Read Expert Review

CarSoup sells new and used cars online. Local media partnerships make it easy to connect you with dealers nearby. A referral tool also helps sellers find a dealer willing to sell their car.

Carvana Read Expert Review

Carvana specializes in selling and buying used cars. The selection of cars is small but highly selective to ensure quality. Fixed prices mean no haggling, and delivery takes less than 48 hours.

Edmunds Read Expert Review

Edmunds’s True Market Value functionality helps consumers know if the car they’re interested in is a good deal. Narrow down your search by body, make, model and features to find the right vehicle.

Our top 3 picks for best online car buying sites

We were selective when choosing our top three picks for online car sites. First, we studied consumer reviews, only choosing trusted sites with the best buyer analyses. Second, we made sure each of our top picks for best online car buying sites had a wide selection of vehicles. Last, we considered pricing, apps and online experience.

Whenever you buy a car online, make sure the person or dealership you’re buying from is legitimate. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Consumer reviews are always a good place to start to see what other people think of a particular online car dealer.

If you’re worried about scams, then only buy cars online from certified dealerships instead of individuals. Read on to learn more about the best sites to buy and sell cars.

Best online car buying site overall
CarGurus

Company nameContact
CarGurus
LogoSummary
  • New and used vehicles
  • Flexible pricing
  • Instant Market Value highlights best deals

What we like: The magic of CarGurus starts with its search engine. They have over five million new and used cars listed on their website, and you can use filters like make, model, year and ZIP code to focus local deals. Each vehicle in the search results is labeled as one of the following: Great Deal, Good Deal, Fair Deal, High Price or Overpriced.

Once you click on a car, you can look at the listing history, which shows how long the car has been listed on the site and its pricing history. If a price has been fixed for a long time, you might be able to ask for a lower price. You can also sign up to be notified when a car’s price drops.

Additional features:

  • Test drive videos and preview upcoming cars
  • Vehicle history reports
  • Payment calculator
  • Question and answer forum
  • User reviews
  • Companion app for Apple and Android

What to consider: Technically, anyone can post a car on the CarGurus site. For this reason, it’s important to make sure the posting is legitimate. One way to do this is to buy a car through a certified dealership on the site.

Next, it’s free to view the summary of a vehicle history report, but CarGurus charges money to see the entire report.

Finally, you should know that sponsored listings often appear at the top of search results. These sponsored results sometimes don’t match the search filters, but they are clearly marked, so it’s easy to know what’s promoted and what isn’t.

Who it’s best for: CarGurus is best for price-conscious shoppers looking for objective information on the market value of a car.

Best car buying app
Autotrader

Company nameContact
Autotrader
LogoSummary
  • New and used vehicles
  • Flexible pricing
  • Highly rated mobile app

What we like: You may be familiar with AutoTrader as a magazine, but it’s also a comprehensive online site for buying and selling cars.

In addition to being a great online car buying site, Autotrader also has highly rated apps for Apple and Android. In the app, you can search for cars, save cars to your favorites and connect with sellers. Dozens of search filters allow users to pinpoint the exact car they are looking for.

Through Autotrader’s intuitive search engine, you’ll be able to find new and used cars from professional and private dealers nationwide.

Additional features:

  • Comparison tools to view several cars side-by-side
  • User reviews
  • Resources on warranties, car insurance and financing
  • Free quote for Geico insurance
  • Affordability calculator
  • Vehicle top ten lists
  • Financing through LendingTree
  • Vehicle history reports

What to consider: There are over three million cars for sale on the Autotrader site. This can be overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to narrow down your search using filters. It’s also important to know that the car loans option on Autotrader will direct you to an outside source, LendingTree, which is an online auto loans broker. Last of all, promoted cars show up at the top of the search results, so make sure to scroll down a bit further, as these featured cars won’t always match your search filters.

Who’s it best for: Autotrader is best for those looking for the most comprehensive search available on a highly rated app. It’s also a good option for those looking mostly for professional car dealers, as these comprise the bulk of the site.

Best used car buying site
Carvana

Company nameContact
Carvana
LogoSummary
  • Used vehicles
  • Fixed pricing
  • 7-day money-back guarantee

What we like: We like that Carvana’s cars are highly curated to ensure the highest quality of vehicle. Cars that have been in an accident are not allowed to be sold on Carvana, and Carvana runs an Experian auto report to confirm this. Carvana also performs a 150-point inspection to make sure each vehicle is fit for purchase.

Carvana actually owns the cars it sells, so you can speak directly to Carvana instead of an unknown dealership or individual seller. The prices on Carvana are fixed, so this means no haggling. We like this because it provides transparency and helps you know what you’re getting. 360-degree photos are available for every car online in order to simulate the experience of seeing the car in person.

Once you buy the car, it will be delivered in 48 hours. If you prefer to come to the Carvana center to pick up your vehicle, take advantage of their Fly and Drive option.

Additional features:

  • Financing available, even for those with poor credit
  • Every car cleaned to look like new
  • Free oil change
  • Limited 100-day bumper-to-bumper warranty
  • 7-day money-back guarantee

What to consider: Unlike some other big car buying websites, the amount of vehicles on Carvana numbers in the ten of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands. However, there still is a wide selection of cars, and they are highly curated for quality.

Although it costs money to ship a car to your current location, if you’re near a Carvana hub in Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Dallas or Nashville, you can pick up a car for free. If you are between 75 and 250 miles away, the cost is $199. It’s $1,000 for even longer distances. You also never get to test drive a car, but you can return it after 7 days if you don’t like it. Last of all, if you trade a car in, you have to deliver it to one of Carvana’s local sites yourself.

Who’s it best for: Carvana is best for those looking for a carefully selected collection of used cars. It’s great for those who don’t want to negotiate a price and good for those with poor credit who need financing.

Questions to ask when buying a car

If you’re unable to find certain information online, it’s always a good idea to ask the car dealership or individual seller a few questions, especially if the car you want to buy is used. If the seller can’t or won’t answer your questions, consider that a red flag. The questions to ask when buying a car online should vary based on whether you are buying a used car or a new car.

Questions to ask when buying a new car

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying a new car and forget to ask the right questions. Although the car is new now, one day it will be old, so make sure you know how to best take care of your car and if it fits your current needs.

Can you buy a car online and have it delivered?

It’s important to ask if the vehicle can be delivered and if there is a fee for delivering it. If you are willing to pick up the vehicle yourself, or if you live within a certain radius of the pickup location, pickup will be free. If you live far away, however, fees can quickly add up to $1,000 or more.

Do you have a car that fits my needs?

If you were buying a car in person, you would ask a salesperson this question. In the case of an online car buying site, the site’s search engine should do that work for you. If you don’t have any luck finding a car that meets your specifications, don’t give up. Instead, try a few other online car buying sites to see if you can find another one that works for you. If you have trouble finding matching cars on several sites, either wait a bit and try again, or loosen the restrictions you’re using, starting with the least important feature.

What do repairs typically look like for this make and model?

Sometimes it can be hard to get an answer on this one, so it might help to look at other user reviews online for answers. Look for patterns in repairs, and factor these into your budget.

What’s the gas mileage?

This is an important question to ask when you are budgeting for a car. If you are shopping online, this information should be available on each vehicle’s individual page.

Does this vehicle have 4 wheel drive?

All-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) help with traction and acceleration when driving on slippery surfaces or in inclement weather. They typically cost more and require more maintenance than two-wheel drive (2WD). If this is important to you, make sure to ask about it.

Are there any additional fees?

Nothing’s more annoying than hidden fees popping up at the last minute. Make sure to ask about additional fees so you can see the full financial picture.

What does the warranty on this car cover?

If something goes wrong with your new car through no fault of your own, it’s always comforting to know you can repair it at a low price. But warranties don’t cover everything, so it’s important to know exactly what it does cover.

Is it possible to hold the vehicle?

Some car dealers will put a hold on the vehicle for you while you make your decision on whether or not to buy. Holds can range from 24 hours to a few days to even a week. It’s better to take time and think over a big decision like buying a car, rather than be rushed into it.

 

Questions to ask when buying a used car

You might worry that a car that seems pristine on the lot or online actually has a checkered past. But if you ask the right questions, you won’t have to worry. Ask the questions below to make sure you know what you’re getting.

Why are you selling the car?

If you’re dealing with an individual seller rather than a dealership, this is a great question to ask. This is one of many questions that will help you get a better understanding of the car’s overall health.

Is the maintenance up to date?

Some online car buying sites will provide an oil change and a car wash for a used car, but it’s good to also check whether other important maintenance is up to date.

Are service records available?

If service records are available, that’s a good sign. Make sure to review them carefully. If they aren’t readily available, that might mean the car hasn’t received proper service in the past.

Has this car been in an accident?

The best car buying websites run a vehicle history check and prohibit vehicles that have been in accidents from being sold on the site. If a vehicle has been in an accident, that is a major red flag.

Are any features not working correctly?

This is another question that will get you to the heart of the condition of the car, and also let you know what would need to be fixed, so you can have a better idea of the true cost of the car. Features like the heater and AC, turn signals, lights and audio system should all be working.

Would anything stop me from taking this car on a long road trip?

This is a good question to ask to fish out any details about how the car’s condition may be less than optimal. It’s vital you have a transparent history of a used car before buying.

Can I see the ownership history?

Most good online car buying sites will be able to provide a history of the vehicle. This will give you a better idea of the condition of the car. A history of several owners also implies something is wrong with the car.

Can I take the car to a mechanic for inspection right now?

If you are about ready to buy, this is a good question to ask. The assumption here of course is that, if the mechanic gives you the go-ahead, you will buy the car. If a dealer is reluctant to let you do this, consider it a red flag.

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Online car buying site reviews

CarGurus

CarGurus strives for transparent listings, which it achieves by sorting search results by market value. Every vehicle receives a price rating of great, good, fair, high or overpriced, helping consumers see immediately if a posted vehicle is a good deal. Its companion app has high reviews and most of the same functionality of the website. Additional onsite information such as price history and how long the vehicle has been listed for sale also gives buyers additional information with negotiating on the price.

  • Market value labels: CarGurus’ claim to fame is their market ratings, which let you know if you’re looking at an average price, unfair pricing or a deal that can’t be missed.
  • Test drive videos: The experts at CarGurus take popular makes and models out for test drives and offer their candid feedback. Beyond being fun to watch, these videos are helpful when deciding between two or three vehicles.
  • Companion app: The CarGurus app for iOS or Android will help find the right vehicle, no matter where you are. Users praise the intuitive interface and extensive features.
  • Vehicle history report summary: It’s helpful to have a history of the car you’re looking at, especially if it’s a used vehicle. Check out a free summary of the vehicle’s history at CarGurus or pay a small fee for the full, detailed report.
  • Filter by ZIP code: Search by ZIP code to find privately sold cars or dealerships near you. You can also expand your search if you’re willing to travel a bit to pick up your new vehicle.
Autotrader.com

Autotrader has millions of vehicles to choose from. The Car Research and Review section of the site helps car buyers calculate how much they can afford to spend on a car. The site is also full of helpful educational resources to inform users on every aspect of buying and selling a car, including finding the right insurance, tips for getting a car sold and comparison photos. In addition to buying vehicles, you can also sell or trade in your car on the site.

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Carvana

Carvana sells used cars that have passed the company’s rigorous testing practices. Buyers can pay to have their car shipped to them or pick up their vehicle at one of several locations around the country. The company uses fixed prices on the site, which eliminates the stress of negotiating. Carvana also offers financing for car buyers, including those with bad credit or no credit history.

  • 150-point inspection: Carvana performs a careful 150-point inspection on every used car they buy to ensure that every vehicle is fit for sale.
  • Cars all owned by Carvana: Every car on the site is owned by Carvana, so there’s no dealing with a middleman.
  • Each car prepared by Carvana: Each car from Carvana is cleaned inside and out and given a free oil change so it’s road-ready from the moment it’s purchased.
  • Limited warranty: Every car comes with a limited 100-day bumper-to-bumper warranty. This means most common fixes for your car are covered by the warranty.
  • Money-back guarantee: If you are unhappy with your purchase, you can return it to Carvana within seven days. This is known as the “test drive” period.
Carmax

The prices on CarMax are non-negotiable, meaning there’s no need to haggle. The site exclusively offers used vehicles. However, there are a moderate amount of cars with very low mileage. CarMax spends an average of 12 hours prepping each vehicle for purchase — each car must pass a 125-point inspection and undergo a thorough cleaning before being put up for sale.

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CarsDirect

CarsDirect has both new and used cars for sale. The site is able to provide auto financing for those with poor credit, no credit and any other level of credit. Leasing and refinancing are additional options. Because this site works with a high number of diverse dealerships nationwide, a wide range of cars are available to customers.

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Carfax

CarFax is well known for providing comprehensive vehicle history reports that detail all previous damage and ownership history. It works with over 28,000 dealerships nationwide to sell a variety of used cars. You can sign up for alerts on recalls and necessary maintenance reminders to make sure your car is in tip-top shape. The accompanying mobile app receives strong reviews from users.

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eBay Motors

Cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles are available on this classic bidding site. You can either bid on a vehicle or, if available, buy at the set price. You can also look at satisfaction ratings to see if a seller has a history of satisfied customers and is legitimate. Daily deals on car parts and other accessories also provide opportunities for savings.

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Edmunds

Edmunds has a wealth of resources to guide consumers on their car-buying journeys, including user forums, latest news in the auto industry and informative articles. You can read professional reviews of cars, including pros, cons and what’s new in recent models. The True Market Value for each car helps you know if you’re getting a good deal.

  • User forums: If you have a question for the world out there, you can post it in the Edmunds user forums. You can also see if anyone else has a similar question.
  • Expert-ranked cars by category: If you already know what type of car you want, like a mid-sized sedan or a crossover, then you can look at Edmunds’ expert rankings for each category to get an idea of the best models.
  • Compare prices: You can see what people like you paid for similar cars in your area, helping to ensure you get a good deal on your car.
  • News and resources: Stay up to date on all things auto-related by reading the latest news and combing through Edmunds’ informative resources.
  • Companion app: Edmunds’ companion app provides most of the functionality available on the website. One neat feature is the Edmunds Suggested Price, which can help you haggle with the dealer.
CarSoup

CarSoup offers both new and used vehicles. Multiple search options and filters make finding the perfect car easier than ever. The site uses referral tools to connect individual sellers to local dealerships. Informative articles and research tools also help consumers broaden their knowledge on all subjects automobile related. Last of all, their accompanying app serves as a helpful resource to search for cars wherever you may be.

  • Price calculator: CarSoup’s Price Your Car Calculator lets you put in the basic details of your car and get a general estimate of how much your car is worth.
  • More than just cars: CarSoup also sells RVs, campers, boats, ATVs, trucks, snowmobiles and motorcycles.
  • Referral tool for sellers: CarSoup’s referral tool helps individual sellers find local dealerships that want to sell their car.
  • Online resources: CarSoup has a wealth of other resources to help you in your car search, including financing for those with poor credit, car donation options and vehicle history reports.
  • My Garage feature: CarSoup’s My Garage feature lets you save all the vehicles you have an eye on. Just go to your garage to compare the vehicles you’ve saved.
Cars.com

Cars.com is a great site to start with if you’re new to buying cars online. Intuitive search features make it easy to narrow down your car search. A chat feature lets users message dealerships and private sellers to ask any questions they might have. Countless resources also help new buyers get up to speed with the latest in the automotive industry. Comparison tools and vehicle history reports are two other key features that help users understand the ins and outs of every car.

  • Vehicle comparison tool: If you have two cars in mind, it’s helpful to compare them side by side. Cars.com lets you examine the similarities and differences of up to four different cars with their vehicle comparison tool.
  • Car Affordability Calculator: Enter details like your desired monthly payment and down payment to get a better idea of what sort of loan you might qualify for and at what amount.
  • Vehicle history reports: Cars.com serves up a vehicle history report from Autocheck.com. The report lets users know if the vehicle has been in an accident, ever been stolen or repossessed or if it’s been damaged.
  • Mobile apps: Cars.com’s two mobile apps for iOS and Android are highly rated. On the app, you can search for vehicles and use most of the same tools available on the website, all for free.
  • Value estimation tool: If you’re looking to sell a car and want an idea of the value, you can enter a few details into Car.com’s value estimation tool and get a basic idea of what your vehicle is worth.
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Profile picture of Tom Rains
Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Tom Rains graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2014 with a master’s degree in Professional Writing. Tom’s passion for delivering quality content fuels him to provide consumers with accurate, well-researched information on major life purchases.