Craigslist… Facebook Marketplace… Offer Up… letgo… With a whole slew of trading websites, where is the best place to buy a used car?

The team at Private Auto dove into that question and here are some things we found:

  • Automobile trading sites may offer tools that make a better buying experience compared to general trading sites. That’s why we’ll only look at car trading sites in this post. We go over general trading sites like Craigslist in other posts.
  • Some of the best used car deals come from private car sales. We didn't include sites that only list dealership ads.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular car trading sites:

Best Place to Buy a Used Car

Autotrader

In the days when no one ever heard of the internet, Auto Trader magazine sat near the checkout at almost every convenience store. It was about an inch thick, chock full of local ads for cars and trucks.

It owed its popularity to having more complete vehicle descriptions compared to the newspaper classifieds. Each ad even had a black-and-white photo.

In 2017, the brand shifted to an online-only marketplace. Auto Trader is now known as Autotrader.

Its popularity as a print publication carried over to the new digital format. Most days, Autotrader publishes over 3 million new and used car listings in the US alone.

For buyers, Autotrader has helpful loan payment and affordability calculators.

They also have reviews of hundreds of cars and trucks. You get a heap of “10 Best” lists, such as “10 Best Used Cars Under $12,000” and “10 Cheapest Pickup Trucks of 20XX.”

Plus, you get all kinds of research articles on nearly every new, certified pre-owned, and used car.

When you use the search engine, you’ll get a list of banner ads. There’s usually a photo and a brief description.

You’ll see the asking price on the right-hand side of the banner. Above it, you might see the Kelley Blue Book logo and “Good Price,” “Great Price," “Fair Price,” etc. These are ratings based on how they compare to the Kelley Blue Book value.

Keep in mind that the rating might not reflect the quality of the car. The ad might say “Great Price” even though the car’s run down.

Click on the banner ad to see more detail on the landing page ad. Here you can look at the AutoCheck history report if it has one. You can also message the seller to get more info.

There aren’t any tools to schedule a test drive or make an offer. You’ll need to share your email or phone number for that.

Most of the used car ads come from car dealers. If you want to filter your search for private sellers only, you have to scroll down to the bottom of the filters list.

Kelley Blue Book

Les Kelley opened Kelley Kar Company in 1918. At the time, the Model T Ford only came in black. When Kelley began buying used Model Ts and painting them pink, sales went through the roof.

In 1926, Kelley published the first Blue Book. It was so named because of the blue cardstock cover. It has since become the definitive source for car pricing.

The Kelley Blue Book website offers more than car pricing.

  • Expert car reviews
  • Top 10 lists
  • Best compact SUVs
  • Best small cars
  • Best midsize luxury
  • Et cetera
  • KBB awards
  • Best buy
  • Best resale value
  • 5-year cost to own
  • More
  • Online tools and calculators
  • Car dealership price quotes
  • Five-year cost to own calculator
  • Loan payment calculator
  • Check FICO score
  • Insurance info

The listings of cars for sale are the same as Autotrader. Like other car classifieds, the listings are mostly from dealers. If you want to see only private sellers, scroll down to the bottom of the search filters.

eBay Motors

Like Autotrader, the eBay Motors marketplace is enormous.

You’ll find almost any kind of car or truck you’re looking for...

From luxury cars, sports cars, SUVs…

… vintage, classic, limited production…

… low mileage, high mileage…

… beaters, clunkers, jalopies, hoopties…

… you’ll likely find it.

You can filter to shop from private sellers only, but you have to scroll down and click “More refinements…”

If you click the ad from the search results list, it takes you to the landing page ad. There you can see more details and make an offer.

If there’s a vehicle history report, you’ll find it here. Paid listings include an AutoCheck report. It might have another history report from a different provider such as Carfax. Scroll down to see other reports.

Open the “Shipping and payments tab,” and you’ll see a list of carriers that can ship the car to you.

Scroll down and you’ll find a form to apply for financing.

When you shop eBay motors, beware of used car scams. Many have fallen victim to sellers listing inexpensive cars they don’t own. They will try to get you to pay off the eBay platform with gift cards or wire transfer.

Beware of a seller who says they can’t or won’t meet in person for an inspection and test drive.

CarGurus

When you search the listings on CarGurus, many ads will show “Fair Deal” or “Great Deal.” These are how the price compares to the CarGurus Instant Market Value (IMV).

CarGurus verifies the seller’s ID to help you avoid used car scams.

You can contact the seller without sharing personal info. You can make offers, request more info and extra photos, and more. You can also schedule a test drive from the platform.

You can get updates by email or text message if the seller lowers the price.

The platform also allows you to pay for the vehicle through a secure funds transfer.

The number of dealer ads overwhelms the number of private-seller ads. Scroll to the bottom of the filters list if you want to see only private sales.

PrivateAuto

Most car trading sites have mostly dealer listings. PrivateAuto is the only site exclusively for private car sales. Yet, we create a user-friendly buying experience — it’s like having car dealer services in the palm of your hand.

We make it a priority to keep your private info safe.

  • We verify the seller’s ID, email, and phone number.
  • We check the vehicle identification number (VIN) and title.
  • You can contact the seller, request more info and photos, and make offers without sharing your personal info.

It’s easy to set up a test drive. The scheduling tool lets you pick a place to meet and choose from the times available.

You can schedule a mechanical inspection with an ASE Certified technicianstraight from the PrivateAuto platform.

PrivateAuto now partners with AutoCheck. They provide the most complete history report with data from Experian. You get a full picture of the car’s past:

  • Reported accidents
  • Reported stolen
  • Branded title (total loss, storm or flood damage, fire damage, salvage, etc.)
  • Title liens
  • Odometer discrepancies
  • Maintenance records
  • Rental car use
  • More

It’s the history report that delivers the most value for the money. You can see the AutoCheck report for free from sellers with a Premium listing.

Premium advertisers also give you access to integrated banking services.

  • Secure banking and money transfers up to $250,000
  • Real-time transfer tracking
  • No sharing your banking info with the seller

Plus, you can get financing too. Our third-party loan provider offers low interest rates and terms to suit your needs.

Conclusion/Final Thoughts

Autotrader has its roots in pre-internet print advertising. Its popularity carried over when they went online-only in 2017. Autotrader is a huge car trading marketplace with over 3 million listings on the US site alone.

You can contact the seller from the Autotrader platform, but you have to share your contact info to get a response. Also, there are no tools to schedule test drives or inspection.

Kelley Blue Book partners with Autotrader and runs simultaneous ads on both sites. The KBB website has articles and reviews to help you make good buying decisions. You also get tools to help with getting financing and insurance.

Like Autotrader, eBay Motors is a giant marketplace. You can find cars for sale at a fixed price or bid on a car auction. You can find almost any kind of auto you could want.

Beware of used car scams on eBay. If the seller asks you to close the sale off the platform, it’s probably a ripoff.

CarGurus has a message center and offer tool so that buyers and sellers can communicate without sharing private info. You can schedule test drives and inspections on the platform. You can also get financing and securely transfer funds.

Like most car-selling sites, the overwhelming majority of ads are from car dealerships.

You can get a great bargain compared to dealer pricing when you buy from a private seller. PrivateAuto is the only car trading site that deals with private-party sales only.

The best part is, we make it as easy as buying from a dealer.

  • Verify the ID, email, and phone number of both buyer and seller.
  • Verify vehicle identification number (VIN) and title.
  • No sharing your private info with strangers.
  • Make offers on the platform.
  • Schedule test drives and inspections.
  • Ready-to-sign state-specific electronic documents.
  • Electronic signatures.
  • Apply for an auto loan with our third-party financing partner.

Search PrivateAuto’s Premium ads and get more great services.

  • Vehicle history report from AutoCheck.
  • Secure funds transfer with our integrated banking services.
  • Secure transfer tracking.

Find an awesome used car deal today!