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CarGurus vs PrivateAuto—Battle of the Marketplaces

What Is CarGurus?

CarGurus Inc is a car shopping and research website. They offer new as well as used vehicles for sale and also feature car reviews and car recommendations, as well as other educational content.

What Is PrivateAuto?

PrivateAuto is an end-to-end platform for private vehicle transactions. PrivateAuto includes a marketplace, integrated banking and payments, in-app messaging, vehicle financing options, and a quick way to e-sign any necessary documentation (such as the Bill of Sale and title transfer documents).

PrivateAuto vs CarGurus - Sell my car privately

CarGurus vs PrivateAuto

CarGurus and PrivateAuto seem similar on the surface—both are automotive marketplaces—but they have significant differences.

  • CarGurus offers dealer inventory in addition to private-party inventory, while PrivateAuto is strictly a private-party platform for used vehicles.
  • CarGurus has lower seller fees than PrivateAuto (both platforms have zero buyer transaction fees).
  • PrivateAuto offers an entire tech stack to get every aspect of a transaction done, while CarGurus is more sparse in terms of transactional features.
  • Both platforms offer an integrated payment option (CarGurus Pay and PrivateAuto Pay, respectively), but CarGurus Pay has significant constraints that PrivateAuto Pay does not.

CarGurus Review

CarGurus for Sellers

On CarGurus, vehicle owners can get an instant offer on a used car, but that offer is via a third-party that aims to buy the car wholesale (pay as little as possible) and sell it to dealerships. Sellers who decline the “instant offer” feature can list their car on the CarGurus marketplace.

CarGurus has a low seller fee of just $4.95 but lacks some of the much-needed functionality PrivateAuto offers. For example: the ability to counteroffer, accept, or reject buyer offers; the ability to message with buyers without exchanging contact info; the ability to receive funds instantly, anytime, with no limits on amount; verified buyer funds—to name a few.

CarGurus for Buyers

Buyers are met with a lot of inventory on CarGurus, but that inventory is a mix of dealer and private-party cars, with dealer offerings making the lion’s share of cars for sale. On the left column of a listings page, users can scroll down to a filter feature for “Dealer,” “Authorized Dealer,” “CarGurus Partners,” and “Private.” All of these are initially enabled by default.

Private sellers often offer better value than dealers (who need to make their spread), but the private sales are diluted in a deluge of dealer and partner offerings.

On CarGurus, buyers lack the ability to interact directly with sellers, and lack the ability to send funds instantly, including on nights and weekends.

CarGurus for Both Buyers and Sellers

The CarGurus payment gateway, CarGurus Pay, offers a transaction medium for buyers to pay sellers. However, the service is only available in select states and has a transaction limit of $25,000.00. Where PrivateAuto Pay is instantaneous, CarGuru Pay funds take anywhere from one to three days to clear.

As a marketplace, CarGurus connects a seller to potential buyers, but doesn’t offer a lot of support for getting a transaction done. Buyer and seller need to exchange contact info—potentially making them vulnerable to scams—because the CarGurus platform lacks a native messaging feature.

CarGurus does not allow buyers to make offers and sellers to accept, reject, or make counteroffers; the platform also does not offer a feature for buyer and seller to schedule a test drive.

CarGurus Pros

  • Low seller fees
  • No buyer fees
  • Vehicle advertising included in the seller fee
  • Mobile iOS and Android apps
  • Integrated transaction technology (CarGurus Pay)
  • High vehicle inventory

CarGurus Cons

  • No vehicle history reports
  • No instant messaging integration
  • No identity verification
  • $25,000 transaction limit
  • No split payment option
  • Longer transaction times
  • No test drive scheduler
  • No in-app way to sign documents

PrivateAuto Review

PrivateAuto is a technology platform designed to simplify every aspect of a private vehicle transaction. The PrivateAuto tech stack includes a marketplace, instantaneous payment gateway, identity verification, scheduling, and messaging.

PrivateAuto, PrivateAuto Marketplace, PrivateAuto Pay

PrivateAuto for Sellers

Sellers can easily create a listing for their vehicle, and can manage incoming offers via their listing dashboard, with the option to accept, reject, or make a counteroffer. They can chat with potential buyers via the in-app messaging feature without ever giving out their personal contact info.

With PrivateAuto’s ability to verify funds, sellers can stop dealing with buyers who can’t afford their car.

When they accept an offer, the PrivateAuto scheduler allows sellers to arrange a test drive with the buyer. At the time of the meeting, buyer and seller can conclude the entire transaction via the PrivateAuto mobile app, which allows for the following to occur:

  • The app conducts each party through a step-by-step process that includes documentation, title, and payment
  • Both parties e-sign the bill of sale
  • The buyer pays the seller via PrivateAuto Pay and the seller receives the funds instantly, 24/7/365

PrivateAuto for Buyers

Buyers on PrivateAuto can place offers on vehicle listings and communicate with sellers. They can schedule with sellers for a test drive and can complete the entire transaction at the time of meeting—including sending unlimited funds instantaneously.

PrivateAuto also allows buyers to apply for vehicle financing within the app. If approved, the buyer’s status appears as “verified funds” to sellers.

PrivateAuto for Both Buyers and Sellers

Buyers and sellers alike benefit from the security of identity verification, in-app messaging, and instantaneous payments.

Verify your identity with PrivateAuto

PrivateAuto Pros

  • No hidden fees
  • No buyer fees
  • Vehicle advertising available
  • In-app messaging and test drive scheduling
  • Buyer and seller verification
  • Vehicle history reports available
  • Instantaneous payments of any amount, 24/7/365
  • Intuitive mobile app and website
  • Integrated banking system
  • In-app financing
  • E-signing of the bill of sale for both parties
  • Guided walk-through of necessary paperwork for buyer and seller
  • Verification of funds
  • Higher inventory of private seller cars
  • Mobile app for iOS and Android

PrivateAuto Cons

  • Higher seller fees than CarGurus

CarGurus vs PrivateAuto: Pricing

Neither CarGurus nor PrivateAuto have buyer transaction fees. On the sell side, CarGurus is the clear winner: sellers pay $4.95 to post a listing on CarGurus and $150 to do so on PrivateAuto.

CarGurus vs PrivateAuto: Advertising

Both CarGurus and PrivateAuto offer vehicle advertising on their website and app. PrivateAuto also offers a detailed vehicle history report (accident history, repairs, and maintenance history), while CarGurus doesn’t.

Vehicle history reports make it easier for buyers to trust that the state of your vehicle is as advertised. Therefore, if you’re looking to sell your vehicle quickly, you’re much more likely to find a buyer if you include a detailed vehicle history report in your car listing.

PrivateAuto also offers a window brochure with QR code so that sellers can drive offline traffic to their listing; CarGurus does not offer anything similar.

PrivateAuto vs CarGurus: Getting to the Deal

PrivateAuto is the clear winner when it comes to sellers and potential buyers interacting prior to the transaction.

  • Verified funds
  • Test drive scheduler
  • Offers
  • E-signing documents
PrivateAuto Deal Flow


Both companies offer financing options via third-party lenders. CarGurus financing option, Finance in Advance, requires buyers to apply for financing before submitting an offer. However, this can be a double-edged sword, as a buyer is locked into buying through CarGurus once they’ve been approved for financing.

PrivateAuto also has a buyer financing option, but buyers don’t have to apply for a car loan before they find a vehicle they want to purchase. Rather, PrivateAuto allows a buyer to apply for financing at any point, including after making an offer on a vehicle.

Verified Funds

PrivateAuto can verify buyer funds, and sellers can opt to receive offers only from buyers with verified funds. CarGurus has no verified funds capability.


PrivateAuto allows buyers and sellers to message inside the PrivateAuto app without exchanging contact information. On CarGurus, in contrast, parties must exchange contact info and take the conversation off the CarGurus platform.


PrivateAuto allows buyers to make offers, and sellers to accept or reject them—or make counteroffers. CarGurus lacks equivalent functionality.


PrivateAuto allows both parties to e-sign the bill of sale via the mobile app; CarGurus does not.

CarGurus vs PrivateAuto: Payment Features

If you want to sell your car and get the money for it quickly, PrivateAuto is the clear winner in the payments arena. PrivateAuto Pay has an unlimited transaction limit, and funds appear instantaneously in the seller’s account, any time of day, 7 days per week.

CarGurus Pay, the CarGurus banking integration, has a transaction limit of $25,000, so you won’t be able to sell or purchase a more expensive vehicle through this integration. Additionally, their transaction time is 1-3 days. This means that either the seller will need to trust the buyer to take the vehicle, trusting that the funds will come through—or the buyer will need to send the money to the seller and return for the vehicle after funds have cleared. All in all, terribly inconvenient for both parties.

With the speed and security of PrivateAuto Pay, PrivateAuto is the only private vehicle transaction platform that allows a seller and buyer to conclude the entire deal in a few minutes when they meet for a test drive.

Instantly transfer funds securely with PrivateAuto

In addition to being instantaneous, PrivateAuto Pay offers the following benefits that CarGurus Pay lacks:

  • Available in all 50 states
  • Available on nights, weekends, and holidays
  • Allows for split payments; a buyer can break a payment up between financing, cash, PrivateAuto Pay, and cryptocurrency
  • Allows for full or partial buyer financing that is directly integrated into the PrivateAuto platform

CarGurus vs PrivateAuto: Fraud Prevention

Fraud is among the biggest concerns when car shopping or selling a vehicle online. CarGurus does offer one form of verification to curb instances of fraud—driver’s license verification.

PrivateAuto wins out in terms of fraud prevention, offering thorough identity verification via selfie, as well as driver’s license verification. You can choose to only sell to and buy from verified accounts.

Plus, PrivateAuto offers an in-app chatting option, so you don’t have to share personal information to communicate with buyers and sellers.

Choosing the Best Online Car Selling Platform

The verdict on CarGurus vs PrivateAuto?

Best Platform for Sellers

If you want to sell your car easily, quickly, and securely, PrivateAuto wins out over CarGurus. Though the PrivateAuto seller’s fee is higher than that of CarGurus, the security and convenience of PrivateAuto justifies the additional cost. With instantaneous payments, secure in-app messaging, and buyer verification, sellers have more flexibility and safety on PrivateAuto.

Best Platform for Buyers

For buyers, PrivateAuto’s tech platform far outperforms the CarGurus app. The in-app messaging integration makes it easy for buyers to go car shopping online without having to give out personal information in order to communicate with sellers.

To maintain their safety, buyers can choose to only contact verified sellers and those with a detailed car history report (including repairs, maintenance, and accident history) on PrivateAuto.

With split payment options, instantaneous payments, and in-app financing, PrivateAuto’s payment options have no direct competition in the world of private car sales.

As neither company has buyer fees and PrivateAuto offers many more benefits than CarGurus, PrivateAuto wins on the buy side.

Selling Your Car Privately with PrivateAuto


Selling Your Car Privately with PrivateAuto

Thinking about selling your car privately? Check out PrivateAuto—the easiest, safest, and only self-service way to sell your car privately. The sales process consists of a few simple steps:

  1. Gather necessary documentation

You’ll need your vehicle title and other documentation. Have all the paperwork you need to sell your car privately handy, so you’re not scrambling to find it at the moment of completing a sale.

2. Register on PrivateAuto and get verified

To make PrivateAuto a safe place for everyone, we require email, phone, and driver’s license verification, including facial recognition. Get started here.

3. List your car

Easily create your PrivateAuto listing with our step-by-step guide. Bonus: we include a window brochure with a QR code scannable to your listing.

4. Set your terms

It’s your car, so you drive the deal! You can control where, when, and who you meet. Decide whether to accept only ID-verified buyers, or buyers with verified funds. Don’t waste your time with buyers who aren’t verified to your preference.

5. Vet incoming offers

Manage offers in one place with the ability to accept, reject, or counter offers within the app. Listing on multiple sites? Filter all communications through PrivateAuto by sharing your listing link on all platforms. Your personal info is protected: no more giving out your phone number or email address. All communication happens in our app.

6. Choose a buyer

When you find an offer you like, accept it and proceed to the next step with that buyer.

7. Schedule a meeting

The buyer will want to look at your car. No more back and forth texts. You never have to give out your phone number. Rather, use our handy scheduling feature to schedule test driving and coordinate a time and place for meeting. (Oh, and you’ll be able to finalize the transaction instantly at the first meeting, FYI.)

8. E-sign documents

After the buyer is satisfied with your car and the two of you have agreed on a purchase price, you can easily e-sign the Bill of Sale within our app, from your phone. With our shared documents feature, you can easily locate the paperwork needed after the sale.

9. Get paid, instantly

Before PrivateAuto, receiving funds was the most stressful part of the entire selling process, especially for any used car sale over $5,000. There just aren’t a lot of good ways to move large amounts of money quickly and conveniently. Those days are over! Verify and receive funds instantaneously with PrivateAuto Pay, our innovative banking integration. Guaranteed funds for transactions large and small.

10. Transfer title

When you sell your vehicle, fill out the necessary information on the back of the title transfer form and sign the vehicle title in order to transfer ownership of the vehicle to the new owner.

CarGurus and PrivateAuto FAQ

How many miles is too high for a used car?

How many miles a car can go is highly dependent on the model and the condition that the vehicle is in. Generally, if you’re buying a vehicle with over 100,000 miles on it, it’s best to buy one with a detailed vehicle history report that shows the car’s accident history and maintenance history. Of course, check the deal rating of the vehicle you’re buying to make sure you’re not overpaying.

Is CarGurus trusted?

Yes, CarGurus is a fairly trusted website by both buyers and sellers. However, their platform does not offer many features that ensure the safety of sellers and buyers during the vehicle selling process. Plus, if you apply for CarGurus finance in advance, you’ll be tied to them and won’t be able to back out if you find a better vehicle elsewhere.

Are Carvana and CarGurus the same company?

No, Carvana and CarGurus are not the same company. CarGurus Inc and Carvana are both vehicle selling platforms with similar features, including car recommendations and reviews. However, CarGurus is a pure marketplace, while Carvana is a digital-first dealership.

Is PrivateAuto trusted?

PrivateAuto is a trusted platform to sell your car or buy a vehicle. We have several fraud prevention features, which is ideal if you’re a seller receiving large sums of money from a stranger.

With PrivateAuto, you don’t have to request financing in advance, as you can do so after you find the vehicle you are interested in. Therefore, there’s no risk of you changing your mind on a vehicle or waiting for a price drop to get the car you want—though we can’t guarantee the vehicle won’t sell in the meantime.

What is a good price for a used car?

If you are a seller, we recommend using industry-leading resources, such as Kelley Blue Book, to determine real rates and a fair listing price for your used car. You may accept offers on your car, in which case you might consider a slightly higher list price to leave room for negotiation.

As a buyer, we recommend checking the deal rating of the vehicle you’re interested in to see if the price matches the estimated value of the vehicle. Of course, if the vehicle is too expensive for you, you can always wait for a price drop, though we can’t guarantee no one will snag your dream vehicle before you do.

What is a vehicle body style?

A vehicle’s body style refers to the size and shape of a vehicle. The most common car body style is a sedan, and other popular styles include hatchbacks, SUVs, MVPs, pickup trucks, and convertibles.

Does a title transfer need to be notarized?

A title transfer does not need to be notarized in every state, but some states do require a title transfer notarization. States that require a title transfer to be notarized are:

  • Montana
  • Louisiana
  • Arizona
  • Oklahoma
  • Ohio
  • Kentucky
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania