How To Sell Your Car Online

by Matt Smith

Selling your car online is easy, and it just got easier. You can now sell your car 100% online with CarGurus, where we’ll provide the best offer sourced from thousands of dealers.

Shoppers who prefer to advertise their vehicle for sale to private parties can do so on CarGurus, too. Both options will generally net you more money than a typical dealership trade-in deal; Selling 100% online is faster, while posting a for-sale listing will give you control over the vehicle’s asking price.

Regardless of how you choose to sell your car, CarGurus has the info and the tools to help you find the best ways to sell your car. Here's how it works.

Selling Your Car 100% Online

CG Sell 100% Online

CarGurus partners with CarOffer to provide the best possible instant cash offer for your vehicle. Enter a few details, such as your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or license plate number, and your vehicle’s mileage, and we’ll provide an offer sourced from our dealership network in under two minutes.

Once you’ve received an offer for your car, you can schedule a time to have your vehicle picked up. Make sure to track down your vehicle’s title or lien information, grab your government-issued ID (like a driver’s license), and snap a photo of the vehicle’s odometer. Once we’ve come for the vehicle, you’ll sign a couple documents and then be paid either via check or direct deposit. It’s as easy as that: Get an offer, have your car picked up, get paid.

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How Do Online Car Sales Work?

CarOffer’s software and algorithms generate an “offer matrix” that tracks demand in real-time from dealerships around the country. This means, unlike other "instant cash offer" businesses like Carvana or Vroom, we can identify top-dollar offers from dealerships nationwide, ensuring you receive the most possible money for your used car at any given time.

Where Can I Sell My Car for the Most Money?

Generally, the best way to ensure you receive the best price when selling a car is to identify multiple potential car buyers. On CarGurus, we use the offer matrix to do that task for you. However, selling privately is another way to maximize the amount of money you get for your car.

Listing a Vehicle for Sale to Private Parties

It’s not as fast as selling your vehicle 100% online, but you can also list your car for sale on CarGurus. Some shoppers still prefer to personally handle car selling from start to finish. If you want to set your vehicle’s for-sale price, communicate with buyers, and handle the sale personally, CarGurus can help you find motivated buyers quickly. Here’s what you’ll need:

1. Gather Documents
The first step toward selling your car to a private party is gathering all the necessary documentation. It's easy to think about this process last, but getting it out of the way early will help you sell your car more quickly and efficiently.

Whether you choose to sell your car via CarGurus, Facebook Marketplace, Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader, or even eBay Motors, one thing's for certain: Every state will require you to transfer the vehicle’s title to the new owner. You can pick up a title transfer form (and pay the accompanying fee) at your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Beyond a title transfer, however, there are a few extra forms you’ll need, depending on where you’re selling your car, be it Alaska, California, Hawaii, or anywhere else.

You can find each at the DMV:

Bill of Sale This documents the car's changing hands. It includes information about both buyer and seller, the date of purchase, and often the purchase price, VIN, and mileage of the car being sold.

Release of Liability This is a notice to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles stating that the car is no longer in your possession. This protects the seller from any violations the new owner may commit in the car, such as a parking ticket or collision.

Odometer Disclosure Statement This is a recording of your car’s mileage at the time of the sale. Basically, it’s included to certify that the mileage listed on the car’s odometer is accurate and no one has tampered with it.

If you were wondering, "Can I sell my car if I still owe money on it?" the answer is yes! If you still owe money on your car, you can still list if for sale to a private part and you can still sell it 100% online. You are not required to pay off your car before selling it. Selling to a private party may actually net you more profit than if you trade it in or sell it to a dealership, but it will require a bit more work, starting with acquiring a lien release from your lender.

It’s also a great idea to have your car’s service records and either warranty documents or an “as-is” declaration, depending on who will be responsible for future repairs and maintenance.

Unless you’ve maintained an organized and detailed file for each car you’ve owned, collecting proper documentation for a car about to go on the market can be a tedious job. Still, it’s best to collect the paperwork before you list your car online, lest you lose a potential buyer as you scramble to pull things together at the end. Although this may very well be the least enjoyable step, be sure to get it out of the way first, as it will save hassle down the road!

2. Prepare Your Car
If you’re selling your car, there’s a good chance you’re also shopping for a new car. Imagine rolling up to a dealership and seeing that all the vehicles are dusty, the carpets are muddy, and last week’s fast food garbage is on the backseat. Without getting too presumptive, it’s a safe guess you’re not going to appreciate that poor first impression.

Just as we treat others the way we’d like to be treated, a private seller should prep their car for sale as if they were shopping for it themselves. Give your car a good wash and pay special attention to the wheels – scrub the inside edge of the spokes and invest in some tire-shine products. On the inside, you’ll want to vacuum the seats, carpets, and floor mats at the very least (pay special attention to those tricky spots between the seats). Wipe down any hard surfaces, and Windex those windows, inside and out! The more your used vehicle looks to be a new vehicle, the more a buyer may be willing to pay.


3. Take Photos
Beyond great pricing, a set of high-quality, truthful photographs is the best way to draw shoppers’ attention to your car.

Honesty is one of the most important, yet most overlooked, details regarding car sales photos. Remember that you’re taking pictures of your car in an effort to sell it, not to show it off on Facebook. This means putting away the sepia-toned filters and Instagram editing—photograph the car in a way that will accurately capture how it looks to the naked eye. Shoot for plenty of interior and exterior photos, and if your vehicle has any noticeable blemishes, photograph those as well. Prospective buyers who come to test drive your car will be more likely to make an offer if they’re not unpleasantly surprised by the sight of it.

4. List Your Car
Finally, after gathering the paperwork and detailing and photographing your car, it’s time to put it up for sale. You'll need to determine your car’s worth to know a fair asking price, and the CarGurus Instant Market Value analysis can help you figure out the prices on comparable vehicles and how your sale price compares. Plug in your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), specs, a description, your location, and a lead photo to create your listing. If you're having trouble finding your car's VIN, check your registration or insurance documents, or just look inside the driver's-side door—it'll be the 17-digit number, and it doesn't include the letters I (i), O (o), and Q (q). After you've entered all this information, you’ll be able to add more photos and communicate with potential buyers securely through our anonymized email system. (No need to give your phone number to strangers from Craigslist these days.) They'll need the VIN in order to obtain a CarFax or other vehicle history report (which every used-car shopper should do).

Once you have a buyer lined up, double-check your state’s requirements for privately selling a car. If you’re selling yours “as-is,” be sure to note this on the bill of sale.

When it comes time to collect money from the buyer, make sure to take proper precautions to avoid scammers. You want to keep it as hassle-free as possible, of course, but you need to protect yourself from scams, too. Be sure to accept only cash or a cashier's check (no personal checks). And if the buyer wants to pay via a bank check, plan to conduct the sale at the bank so you can verify the check's legitimacy.

Once you’ve collected payment, you can sign over the title and remove your license plates, make copies of all the sale’s documentation, cancel the car from your insurance policy, and hand over the keys. All done, right? Not so fast! Now that your old car belongs to a happy buyer, make sure to log in to your CarGurus account and close your listing. That way you won't keep getting emails from interested online car buyers!

How Do I Sell My Car Online Safely?

Choosing to sell your car 100% online can help minimize risk, and it’s a great choice for people who want to sell their car as safely as possible, while avoiding a trip to the dealership.

Listing you car for private sale can also be a safe method, assuming the proper precautions are taken. In particular, you’ll want to make sure you’re arranging test drives in a safe manner.

How Do You Sell a Car to Someone in a Different State?

Different states have different requirements for selling vehicles, but the process can be relatively straightforward. Ensure both you and the buyer have the paperwork required, and make sure they know what they’ll need to transport the vehicle out of state.

Benefits of Online Car Sales

The Internet allows us all to cast a much wider net for prospective car buyers. We’re no longer limited by word of mouth, newspaper classifieds, or the local dealership’s trade-in offer. With online car sales, you can more accurately gauge the value of your vehicle, find a motivated buyer, and complete the transaction in days, rather than weeks. And with CarGurus’ you can sell a car 100% online—you can even sell a car you’re still paying off.

Related Topics:

A Guide to Selling Your Car Out of State
How To Make the Most Money Selling a Vehicle Privately
Why Cars For Sale By Owner Cost Less Than Cars From Dealerships

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When it comes to cars, Matt's curiosity extends well beyond the powertrain. From Ford to Porsche, he's as interested in the history behind the machine as he is in the view behind the wheel. Matt has been working on the journalism side of the auto industry since 2014. As CarGurus’ Deputy Editor, he creates and oversees the site’s written and video content.

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