Instead of spending time and gas money going to multiple dealerships, online car buying sites let you shop from the comfort of home. You can often see the vehicle history report, including the car’s mileage, and how many owners it had. Some online car buying sites will even bring the vehicle to you for a test drive.
The best online car buying sites are easy to use and have a generous return policy. They also keep dealer, processing, and delivery fees low and may even offer financing options.
Best Overall : Autotrader
Autotrader is a reputable site with nationwide vehicle listings and robust search options.
Financing and insurance tools
Sells both used and new cars
No general return policy
Shipping prices vary
Autotrader started as a print publication and has become one of the most well-known online car buying sites in the industry. You can research new and future models, read about the latest industry news, read car reviews, browse over three million listings nationwide, and sell your car through the site and locate local dealers.
Autotrader is easy to navigate and offers the widest range of search filters out of all the sites we reviewed, allowing you to search by body style, interior and exterior color, and even by budget. Additionally, the site offers insurance quotes from third parties as well as car valuation tools, car research, and tips on buying cars.
Autotrader doesn’t offer a blanket return policy because it doesn’t own its inventory. Return policies are up to each seller, as are test drive and car delivery options. Cars on the site include affordable compact cars, extra-large SUVs, exotic and luxury cars, and everything in between.
Best Deals : CarGurus
CarGurus lists dealer’s inventory across the country including new and used cars with an abundant number of affordable cars.
Deal ratings for each car
Lets you compare vehicles on the market
New and used cars available
No details on vetting sellers
Site is not very user friendly
CarGurus is a huge online car buying site that offers new and used cars for sale as well as certified cars, financing, car values, and the ability for dealers and individuals to sell their car with the company. The site also provides research on vehicles, helpful tools and tips, and lots of search options, as well as guides and videos on credit scores and buying a car.
Unlike most online car buying sites, CarGurus lists both new and used cars. CarGurus doesn’t own the inventory it lists and doesn’t have dealership locations. Instead, dealers pay to list their cars on the site. Its standout feature is its deal ratings which let you know if the vehicle you’re interested in is rated as a great or a good deal or not a good deal to help keep you from overpaying for a car.
CarGurus lets you get pre-qualified in minutes without impacting your credit score. If you’re approved, you will get personalized monthly payment information on the cars you’re interested in. You can also get financing through some individual dealerships. Return policies are also up to the dealer or individual selling the car, as are transportation costs, dealer fees, and test drives.
Best Comparison Site : AutoTempest
AutoTempest brings together listings from all the major used car sites so you can easily compare them in one place.
Largest online used car database
Compare cars side by side from different sites
Lists both new and used cars
Can’t purchase vehicles online
Cars haven’t been vetted
AutoTempest has been in business since 2008 and has put together a huge database of used cars from major sites, including eBay, Craigslist, Cars.com, CarGurus, Carvana, and more. Its goal is to bring together all the cars in one search online to save you time in finding your ideal car.
AutoTempest lets you sell your car, search for cars, or search car reviews. Its most impressive feature, however, is its car comparison tool which lets you compare the prices of cars across the country so you know that you’re getting the best price for the make and model you want.
AutoTempest’s search options allow you to filter cars based on mileage, location, and even specific sites. If you’re unsure where to start, it also has popular searches to get you started. AutoTempest also offers guides for first-time buyers and tools for comparing insurance and shipping quotes. The company doesn’t facilitate the buying process, so you need to work with sellers directly once you find a vehicle that you like.
Best Financing Options : Carvana
Carvana has no minimum credit score requirements for financing, lets you pre-qualify without impacting your credit score, and offers an auto loan calculator.
Easy online financing
150 point inspection performed on every vehicle
Fixed prices with no room for negotiations
Only offers used cars
No delivery to Alaska or Hawaii
Carvana is an online car buying site known for its easy financing options. More than 80% of shoppers finance their car with Carvana. You can get pre-qualified online within a few minutes without affecting your credit, and there is no minimum credit score requirement.
Carvana can be used to purchase a car, sell your car, or trade in a car. It gets its inventory of used cars from auctions, trade-ins, individuals, and partnered dealerships. Cars are kept at Carvana inspection centers throughout the country and receive a final inspection before purchase.
Once you get pre-approved by Caravana, you can search for cars in your price range and even get estimated monthly payment amounts and personalized terms on the cars you’re interested in. The site also offers an auto loan calculator.
Caravana also offers a unique car finding tool that narrows down the options based on your answers and preferences. It’s also the only car buying site to offer car “vending machines” that let you come and pick up your car without ever having to interact with a person. Although Carvana delivers cars for free in select cities, it may charge you if the car was shipped from a different location first. The company also offers a seven-day, 400-mile return policy.
Best for Peer-to-Peer Sales : Tred
Tred offers peer-to-peer sales and handles all of the paperwork without needing a dealer or going to the DMV.
Talk directly to the seller on the app
No return policy
Not as well known as other sites
Tred is a peer-to-peer marketplace for car sales. You can buy a car on the site, sell your car, or get financing through the company. It verifies that the seller is the legal owner of the car, checks to see if there are any liens on the car, and verifies the buyer’s identity and that the funds have been transferred. Tred does all the necessary paperwork so no visit to the DMV is needed.
The company also works with major banks and offers car financing as well as insurance. Unlike many other sites, Tred lets you chat with the seller to find out more about the car before you buy. Tred users are located throughout the U.S. and shipping fees apply if you find a vehicle that isn’t in your area.
Tred doesn’t offer a return policy, so once you buy a car you’re stuck with it unless you can convince the seller to take it back. Although Tred lacks some of the more sophisticated tools and features that other sites have, it does offer helpful car buying and selling tips and a What’s My Car Worth calculator.
Best Home Delivery : CarMax
Free home delivery, generous return policy, and 24-hour test drives make CarMax a top contender for the best online car buying sites.
Easy to use site with multiple search options
Free home delivery
Shipping fees may apply for home delivery
Wait times vary to receive cars after purchase
CarMax sells pre-owned cars including SUVs, minivans, and different models ranging from affordable to luxurious. The company owns the vehicles it sells and all cars are located at CarMax dealership locations unless otherwise noted. You can get pre-approved on the site, and you can also sell your car to them without being obligated to buy a car from them.
Some of CarMax’s helpful tools include tips for first-time buyers, a car payment calculator, and optional service repairs and warranties. The company has 224 locations throughout the U.S. and offers free home delivery from most of its locations within a 60-mile radius. However, if you find a car in a farther location and it needs to be shipped, you will be charged shipping fees.
CarMax also offers 24-hour test drives so you can see if the car is a good fit for you. All cars are certified by the company and come with a 30-day or 1,500-mile buy-back guarantee if you want to return the vehicle. A 90-day or 4,000-mile warranty, whichever comes first, is also included and additional warranties are available for purchase.
Overall we recommend checking out Autotrader. The company is reputable, has been in business for years, and offers an easy-to-use site with tons of search options to help you find cars from both private sellers and dealers.
Compare the Best Online Car Buying Sites
|Company||Financing Available||Listings||Home Delivery Fee||Return Policy|
|No||3 million||Free to $999||Varies by seller|
|Varies by seller||5+ million||Varies by distance||Varies by seller|
Best Comparison Site
|Varies by seller||Lists ads from eBay, Craigslist, and more||Varies by distance||Varies by seller|
Best Financing Options
|Yes||20,000+||Free to $599+||7 days|
Best for Peer-to-Peer Sales
|Yes||Not disclosed||Varies by distance||None|
Best for Home Delivery
|Yes||80,000||Free to $999||30 days|
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do Online Car Buying Sites Work?
Online car buying sites come in all different shapes and sizes with different processes. However, the majority of them advertise cars from different dealerships on their site and allow you to search for specific cars, compare models, and look at ownership history, photos, and videos. Some even offer home delivery and financing applications directly from the site.
Car buying sites are designed to make the car shopping process easier and less time-consuming. You can search near your home or across the country for a car all from your smartphone or computer.
Is It Safe to Use an Online Car Buying Site?
It can be safe to buy a car online but you do need to take some precautions. Don't give your personal information such as social security number or home address to a personal seller. Don’t wire money to an individual or give them your bank account information. Find a trustworthy and reputable dealer that is legitimate with positive reviews. Then fill out their online encrypted application and speak directly with someone from the company.
Use your best judgment and do some research as there are online scams, stolen cars being sold, and cars misrepresented.
What Are the Benefits of Using an Online Car Buying Site?
Some of the benefits of using an online car buying site include:
- Saving time by shopping online or from an app
- Saving money by staying at your home or office and not driving to dealerships
- Comparing cars side by side easily and quickly
- Saving cars on the sites to look at later
- Avoiding hours in a dealership haggling or waiting on customer service
Can You Negotiate Price on an Online Car Buying Site?
If the car is listed on the site by an individual owner, there may be more room to negotiate, but they may not offer financing. Conversely, if the car is listed by a dealer, they will most likely offer financing but usually already have their lowest price online.
It also depends on if the car is used or new and how strong your credit score is. It doesn’t hurt to ask and you may get a bit knocked off the price, a reduced delivery fee, or even a discounted warranty.
We evaluated a dozen of the top online car buying sites for this review and selected companies with a strong reputation and easy-to-navigate sites. We also considered tools, features, return policies, and financing options. Finally, we looked at geographic areas where the cars could be shipped, home delivery fees, and any unique services offered.