Where Is the Best Place to Buy Used Cars Online?

Car shopping online is a convenient way to find the perfect vehicle for your needs and budget—without leaving the comfort of your home. But, of all the online marketplaces popping up, what is the best place to shop used cars online?
From Craigslist to CarGurus to all the other car marketplaces, what sites offer the best car shopping experience?

The team at PrivateAuto researched that question, and here is what we found:
Some online marketplaces create a better car-buying experience than others.
The best used car deals come from private party car sales and not dealerships.
Most car sites make it hard to narrow your search to vehicles listed by private sellers.
With the exception of PrivateAuto, car-buying sites lack transactional infrastructure.

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


Before the internet, Auto Trader magazine sat near the checkout at almost every convenience store. It was about an inch thick and chock full of vehicles listed in local ads, from cheap cars by owner to offerings from local dealers.

It improved on print newspaper classifieds by having more complete vehicle descriptions, along with a black-and-white photo accompanying each ad.

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

Its popularity as a print publication carried over to the new digital format. Most days, Autotrader lists over 3 million new and used cars for sale in the US alone.

The website’s search function displays a list of banner ads of new and used cars for sale, each with a photo and a brief description.

The asking price is visible on the right-hand side of each listing. Above that, you might see the Kelley Blue Book logo and ratings for “Good Price,” “Great Price," “Fair Price.”

Autotrader Pros

For car buyers, Autotrader has helpful loan payment and affordability calculators.
They have reviews of hundreds of cars and trucks.
They have many “10 Best” lists, such as “10 Best Used Cars Under $12,000” and “10 Cheapest Pickup Trucks of 2022”
The site features research articles on nearly every new, certified pre-owned, and used car imaginable.

Autotrader Cons

The site does not facilitate scheduling a test drive; instead, car buyers and sellers must coordinate outside of Autotrader, which involves sharing personal information.
Autotrader does not allow buyers to make an offer on a used car; they can only accept the asking price or move on.
Car buyers need to share private information, such as email or phone number, to contact sellers.
Most used car listings are from car dealers rather than private sellers.
It’s hard to narrow your search to used cars from private sellers only.
Ratings reference a generic Kelly Blue Book market value for a particular year, make, and model—but may not accurately reflect the quality of the car.
A used car listed on Autotrader may not have an AutoCheck history report.
Autotrader does not offer a way for buyer and seller to e-sign the bill of sale.
The site does not allow buyers to apply for used car financing within the Autotrader ecosystem. Instead, buyers must coordinate with third-party lenders and sellers in a cumbersome three-way process.
Autotrader does not have a scheduling feature for test drive meetings, meaning that buyers and sellers will need to do a lot of back and forth to coordinate. Also, they will need to exchange personal contact info.
Autotrader does not feature a payment gateway, meaning that buyers and sellers are left figuring out how to do the deal outside of the website.

Overall Autotrader Evaluation

While Autotrader’s online car marketplace is a big improvement from the paper classifieds of old, it lacks a lot of important features available on other platforms.

You can do a lot better with a platform that goes beyond merely connecting buyer and seller. Look for a car marketplace that gives you the technology to get the deal done (hint, hint: PrivateAuto).

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, his car sales went through the roof.

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

KBB Pros

The KBB website really shines in the expert information it provides.
Expert car reviews
Top 10 lists
Best cars by type
KBB awards
Best car buys
Best resale value
5-year cost to own
Online tools and car loan calculator
Car dealership price quotes
Check credit score
Car insurance information

KBB Cons

KBBs downsides are pretty much the same as Autotrader’s. In the realm of car marketplaces, it’s a bit of a clunker.

Overall KBB Evaluation

With all respect to KBB’s legacy as a provider of stellar vehicle information and valuations, its vehicle marketplace is rather vanilla and outdated. Car lovers should continue to use it as a trusted resource, but should opt for more user-friendly, tech-driven solutions when it comes time to buy or sell a used car.

eBay Motors

The eBay Motors online marketplace has a massive inventory of cars listed. This auction site is a definite heavyweight in the car buying arena.

Nearly every kind of car or truck can be found on eBay Motors, from luxury and sport cars, to vintage and classic cars, to electric vehicles.

eBay Motors Pros

eBay offers a wide selection of cars for sale.
They feature many unique vehicles and classic cars.
Car buyers can filter used cars by local dealers and private sellers.
eBay features a list of carriers who can ship the car to you after you buy it.
Paid listings include a vehicle history report

eBay Motors Cons

It’s not at all intuitive to narrow your search to used cars by owner—you have to scroll down and click “More refinements.”
Not all cars have vehicle history reports.
eBay is an easier car site than most for scammers. Many car buyers 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.
Neither car sellers nor vehicles are verified, which increases the chances of getting ripped off.
Because eBay Motors is an auction site, you have no guarantees of getting the car you want.

Overall eBay Motors Evaluation

eBay Motors has a wide range of cars. From cheap cars to luxury vehicles, nearly-new to well-worn, they have it all. Whether you’re looking for classic cars or pickup trucks, you’ll find it all on eBay Motors. Unfortunately, they lack the tech infrastructure to make the buying experience seamless.

There are more secure, faster, safer, and more convenient options.


CarGurus is yet another car marketplace. For the most part, it’s fairly vanilla, without much to differentiate it from Autotrader and other competitors. One differentiator is their integrated payment gateway, CarGurus Pay—though it has its limitations.

CarGurus lists new as well as used vehicles for sale, with a mix of dealer and private seller inventory.
When you search the car listings on CarGurus, many many will show “Fair Deal” or “Great Deal.” These ratings reference how the listed price compares to CarGurus own valuation, which they term “Instant Market Value” (IMV).

CarGurus Pros

CarGurus does driver’s license verification to help eliminate scammers.
The site will update you via email or text message if a seller lowers the price on a car you’re watching.
Their CarGurus Pay offers a way to pay a vehicle through a secure funds transfer (subject to limitations).

CarGurus Cons

Listings for used cars aren’t always accurate.
It’s difficult to narrow your search and filter for used cars by owner (filter out dealer inventory).
A buyer can only contact the seller by sharing personal information such as phone number and email address.
Buyers are unable to make offers on used cars; they can only accept the listed price.
The site does not offer a vehicle history report.
CarGurus does not offer easy financing within their platform.
CarGurus Pay has a $25,000 transaction limit.
CarGurus Pay is available in select states only.
CarGurus Pay takes 1-3 days for funds to clear.

Overall CarGurus Evaluation

With CarGurus Pay, CarGurus stands out from other car buying sites a bit. As a payment gateway, it’s limited by geography (not available in all states) and by funding amount (limit $25K), but at least CarGurus HAS a payment gateway.

In all other aspects, CarGurus is yet another unremarkable online car website “meetingplace.”


PrivateAuto is the only platform exclusively for private car sales that uses technology to make used car transactions fast, easy, and safe. We create a user-friendly car buying experience so far beyond our competitors that we're in a league of our own.

Our payment gateway works across the US for instantaneous and secure transfer of funds, anytime. Our scheduling tool lets buyers and sellers schedule test drives and inspections. And all of it happens right in the PrivateAuto app without the exchange of any personal information.

Vehicle History Reports

PrivateAuto is partnered with AutoCheck. They provide the most complete vehicle history report with data from Experian.

You get a full picture of a 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

Secure and Instant Payments

There aren’t a lot of great ways for two strangers to transfer large fund amounts quickly and securely. PrivateAuto Pay changes all that. It is the only way to instantly and securely transfer large sums of money in a private car transaction.

Available in all US states: no matter where in the US you’re buying or selling a vehicle, PrivateAuto Pay will work for you
Split payment options: seller and buyer can opt to split up payments between crypto, cash, and PrivateAuto Pay
Large fund transfers: PrivateAuto Pay allows you to transfer up to $1,000,000, which is more than enough for most used vehicles
Remote transactions: a buyer can do an over-the-phone deal with a seller in another state via a third-party agent who can be on-site and verify the pertinent details.

PrivateAuto Pros

We keep your private info safe when you buy used cars online on PrivateAuto.
We verify IDs, emails, and phone numbers of buyers and sellers.
Our in-app scheduling feature lets buyers and sellers schedule test drives without exchanging personal info.
We allow buyers to make offers on cars.
We allow sellers to accept, reject, or counteroffer buyer offers.
Buyers can apply for financing within our app.
Buyers can contact sellers, request more info and photos, and negotiate—without sharing personal information.
Our integrated banking solution, PrivateAuto Pay, allows instantaneous funds transfer anytime. It is available across the US.
An AutoCheck vehicle history report is included when private sellers have a Premium listing.
Buyers can schedule a mechanical inspection with an ASE certified technician straight from the PrivateAuto platform.
Buyers and sellers e-sign the bill of sale (customized for their state) within the PrivateAuto app.

PrivateAuto Cons

None. We built our platform for the ultimate used car buying experience.

Honorable Mention: Other Platforms

There are many other websites for buying and selling cars. Here are a few more we can compare.

Bring a Trailer

Like eBay Motors, Bring a Trailer is an auction site with a nice inventory of classic and custom vehicles. It has the same drawbacks of other marketplaces; while it brings buyers and sellers together, it doesn’t provide tools to help them get the deal done seamlessly. Read our PrivateAuto vs Bring a Trailer comparison article to learn more.


Like many classifieds sites, Craigslist connects buyer and seller, but doesn’t offer solutions for messaging, payment, and other aspects of a vehicle transaction.


Carvana is an online-first car dealership. While they do offer convenience, they make their money by selling high and buying low. Sellers are likely to pay more for used cars, while buyers are likely to receive less. See our full comparison of Carvana and PrivateAuto for more.

Local Classifieds

As we report in our comparison of KSL and PrivateAuto, local car classifieds sites such as Salt Lake City’s KSL Cars don’t offer much convenience, nor do they have many security precautions.

Start Your Deal Anywhere, Finish it on PrivateAuto

Even though PrivateAuto is the world’s only fully transactional automotive marketplace (and the best car buying app by a long shot), we don’t hate car listing sites. In fact, some of them have more vehicle inventory than we do (we’re still ramping up).

We want you to take advantage of all the cars for sale on platforms such as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and eBay Motors. But we also want you to enjoy the safety and convenience of our instant payments, privacy, and streamlined dealflow.

That’s why we created DealNow. It’s our fast-tracked process that bypasses the shopping experience and allows you to get the deal done fast—no matter which platform you find your car on. Simply invite the seller to your personal dealroom on PrivateAuto and finish the transaction fast.

Start your DealNow.

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Used Car FAQ

Is it a good idea to get a used car?

Yes, it can be a better idea to get a used car instead of a new car because you can save money while getting more value. Many used cars for sale are still in excellent condition. Browse our used vehicle listings for some of the best used cars from private sellers.

Where is the best place to buy a used car near me?

Where is the best place to buy used cars under $5000?

Is Carvana a good place to buy a used car from?

Is Edmund’s the best place to buy a used car online?

Where is the best place to buy a used car online?

Are used car prices negotiable at dealerships?

Is it better to buy used from a dealership?

Do I need to get a personal loan to buy a used car from a private seller?

Should I use my Roth IRA or life insurance policy to buy a used car online?