A closeup of a black keyboard is shown and one of the keys is replaced with an orange shopping cart button.

The Story on Online Car Dealerships

In this golden age of online shopping, when we are able to purchase anything from Cheese Whiz to a tool shed with nary a movement other than a couple of thumb pressings, why does purchasing a car online instill all sorts of fear into the hearts of most people? We believe that shopping for a used car online should be pain-free and secure in 2020, and are determined to help you navigate your way to a better online car buying by showcasing the best and most useful online car dealerships/services catering to the car buying population.

The phrase “online car dealership” is somewhat of an umbrella term that entails a multitude of online services that all aim to put you behind the wheel of your desired ride but in different ways. Some services have their own inventory you would need to select from, just like your local dealers’ websites. Some others have a network of physical locations to allow you to have access to a greater variety of cars, while a number of other sites act as middlemen by securing an agreed to price with car dealers. Informational and research sites have also expanded their services beyond merely browsing selections and learning about a vehicle by facilitating trade-in, documentation, and delivery processes.

Striving to help you weave your way in this maze of available online car buying services, we have curated a list of 10 worthy sites that can make your online car buying process pain-free and efficient, with special accolades for a handful of their unique offerings. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here is our list:

1- Carvana

The third-largest used-car retailer in the U.S in 2019 and famous for their “Car Vending Machines,” Carvana is an online-only used car marketplace with an inventory of over 15,000 vehicles. Consumers can drill down to their exact selection via nine dynamic filters, view its details, and then take it for a virtual spin and obtain a free vehicle history report. They can then move forward with their own financing, pay cash, trade-in or sell their current vehicle to Carvana, sign contracts, and schedule delivery or can pick up at one of Carvana’s automated Car Vending Machines. No haggling pricing and 48 hours-or-less delivery truly makes the entire process pain-free. All vehicles include a 150-point inspection and are backed by a limited warranty and a 7-day return policy.

2- CarMax

The giant used car superstore stretched out across the nation has 225 physical locations, but their online dealership empowers the consumers to quickly and efficiently select the car of their dreams at their own leisure. CarMax’s famous no-haggling policy is offset by their strict selection and inspection processes, as well as a limited warranty. For additional peace of mind, their well-regarded extended service plans are also available. Customers can apply for financing on the site and view their selection’s free vehicle history report. Among CarMax online’s strong suits is the ability to have a vehicle delivered to the customer’s location for a test drive and seven-day return policy.

A woman is shopping for Online Car Dealerships on her laptop and holding a credit card.

3- CarGurus

CarGurus is somewhat unique in how it utilizes data to benefit the online shopper. Its proprietary algorithms find the best matches based on a customer’s selection and help them determine what type of value it represents. It also empowers them with lots of information on a vehicle’s true market value, how long it’s been on the site, and its pricing history. This type of information is invaluable for the discerning used car buyer as it allows them to enter negotiations armed with the knowledge they need to land a great deal.

4- AutoTrader

The venerable website that was a pioneer in online car shopping now offers full-service vehicle buying options. A place where private parties and dealers co-mingle in bringing you one of the internet’s largest automobile marketplace, AutoTrader also has some of the highest numbers of used vehicle shoppers. What also sets AutoTrader apart is its in-depth and advanced search tools. You are able to find the exact vehicle you’re searching for from their massive listings, and may even be able to have it delivered with their online delivery program available on some of their listings.

5- Vroom

Much like Carvana, Vroom specializes in showcasing and delivering quality, low-mileage pre-owned vehicles at set prices. You can browse, apply for financing online, get a free vehicle history report and a trade-in quote and have the vehicle delivered to you (and your trade picked up). Vehicles undergo an extensive inspection regimen to ensure they are of the highest quality. Shipping is available to the lower 48 states but costs $499. A 90-day limited warranty and a 7-day/250-mile return window help mitigate the no-test driving pitfall.

6- eBay Motors

eBay Motors showcases a nationwide selection of cars and other vehicles. Just like eBay itself, you are able to bid on a vehicle in an auction format (usually with a set reserve price) or purchase it outright or by making an offer (if available). eBay protects the buyer by highlighting the seller’s feedback ratings, and also offers vehicle purchase protection for eligible car purchases should the vehicle you bought have undisclosed damage or issues. However, you need to be familiar with the fine print to protect yourself.

There are some annoying drawbacks for both buyers and sellers on this platform. This includes the inability to test drive or inspect the vehicle unless you live locally or are willing to go to the physical location, issues that may arise out of lack of disclosure/communication, deadbeat buyers (for sellers), etc.

A hand is holding a car key in front of an out of focus car.

7- AutoTempest

AutoTempest is essentially the equivalent of Kayak or Priceline, but in the used car realm. This site curates cumulative search results from many other sites such as eBay Motors, Cars.com, AutoTrader, etc. by bringing you a wide range of vehicles, all in one easy-to-use resource. AutoTempest also features many car shopping tools and car reviews.

8- Online.cars

Online.cars offers a virtual dealership experience, including the ability to purchase online, along with no-haggle pricing on their selection of used vehicles. A dedicated Vehicle Solution Specialist is there to walk you through their simple buying process, provided that you have selected your desired ride from their bevy of reconditioned vehicles. They are also able to source the used vehicle of your dreams by using their patented nationwide search function from over 200,000 available used cars and trucks in the nation.

9- Shift

Shift offers no-haggle pricing on its selection of inspected and vetted cars, and their concierges will even bring the car to you for a test drive! You can trade your car in and apply for financing online with a 5-day or 200-mile return policy. One major drawback is that the service is only available in limited areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and a few others.

10- Bring a Trailer

A true car enthusiast’s dream, Bring a Trailer (BAT) features vintage, rare, collectible, and noteworthy cars and other vehicles in an auction format. With plenty of information, photos, and even a discussion forum so potential buyers and sellers can voice their opinions on any given vehicle, it’s truly a unique site that caters to the car aficionado in all of us.