Woman searching on laptop for where to sell her car.

The Best Place To Sell Your Car: Online Vs. Dealer

Hanna Kielar5-minute read
March 23, 2022


Selling your car can be stressful. You want to get the best price you can for it, but you don't want to go weeks or months without any buyers. In the past, your only options were to either drive to a dealership to try to haggle with a professional car buyer, or to list your car in the classified ads to wait for lowball offers from the public.

The internet has changed the landscape for selling a vehicle. Online-only car sales jumped by 36% during the first 6 months of 2020 alone, and the online market model is only going to grow. Don’t believe us? The number of people searching “sell car online” on Google is north of 12,000 per month and growing.

With the distinction between brick-and-mortar dealerships and online sales blurring, the best place to sell a car just might be from the comfort of your own home on the internet.

With a bit of research, a little camera work and a trusted site that makes instant cash offers, you can get the price you deserve for your used car.

Who Buys Used Cars?

All kinds of people buy used cars, but the way they buy cars is changing rapidly. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a reported 50 percent increase in car shoppers who are willing to buy a car online, sight unseen. According to a 2021 study, those most eager to online car buy are younger, male, economy-car buyers in metropolitan areas.

It’s a mistake to pit online car buying against dealership purchases. In fact, many dealerships are taking their businesses online and it shows. At one time, the average car buyer would visit five dealerships before making a purchase. Thanks to online research, the average car buying journey now only brings buyers to two brick and mortar dealerships. Time spent at the dealership hit a record low in 2020, with an average of 2 hours — a fact that may be the reason satisfaction with the car buying process hit a record high.

Private Parties

Selling your used car to a private party is probably the first thing that comes to mind when it's time to put it on the market. It's generally believed that selling directly from person to person helps you get the highest sales price, and with the average used car for 25% more in 2021 than it did in 2020, and 34% more than in 2019, there may be some truth to this. Listing it on social media and online marketplaces, such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or eBay Motors, may get you enough attention to get the price you're asking for.

Private sales have their drawbacks, however. For one thing, you don't have any help with the sales process. If you're selling a car without a title, for instance, you will have to make a trip selling to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) before you can complete the sale. As a private seller, you're also responsible for listing your car, vetting potential buyers, finding a secure form of payment you can trust and transferring the title. It also could be difficult scheduling test drives if any potential buyers live out of the area.


Dealerships are another option for you to sell your car. Selling to a dealership certainly makes car title transfers simpler, since most have people in house who can do that for you. An established dealership in your area can also be a tempting choice if you're thinking about trading in a car rather than just selling it. With a dealership sale, you’ll skip the more risky peer-to-peer money transfer and get paid quickly and more securely, too.

If you’re thinking “Yes! Sell my car to a dealer,” remember that you'll likely be negotiating the sales price with a professional car buyer. Unless you sell used cars for a living, you probably have little experience in these kinds of deals, and it may be hard to get what your car is worth. If you're driving your car to a dealership to sell it, you're also somewhat limited to those in your area. This may not be a problem if you live in a large urban area, but sellers from small towns and rural areas may only have a few dealerships to sell to, while the dealers have been shifting most of their sales to a much broader online audience.

Instant Cash Offers

Instant cash offers are a fairly new development in the online car buying experience. This option combines some of the best elements of both private sales and trade-ins at a brick-and-mortar dealership. Like selling to a dealership, instant cash offers do all the heavy lifting for you, from advertising your car to filling out the paperwork at the DMV. Like private sales, this option often brings a higher price than in-person negotiation with a dealership sales professional.

When you offer your car online for this kind of sale, you will be asked to input some details about the vehicle. To calculate the appropriate amount for your offer, the site needs to know the make, model and year of your car, the odometer reading, whether you have a clean title and some other details. Based on your information, you'll be offered a tentative price within minutes, pending an inspection at a participating shop or dealership near you. When the condition and mileage of your car is confirmed, you can redeem your offer for cash or apply it toward the purchase of another car.

What's your car worth?

Get a great offer on your car, instantly.

How To Get The Best Value When Selling Your Vehicle

It isn't hard to get a good price for your used car online. First, you have to find out how much your car is worth and shop around to get the best quote. By the end of 2021, the  average sale price for a used car reached $28,205.    

Private buyers will offer the most cash for your car, though you’ll have to do the logistical work that dealerships would otherwise take care of. That’s why you tend to get a little less from a dealership sale than a private buyer. Online instant cash offers are usually somewhere in between, although they lean toward the high end of this range and come with a practically zero-effort sales process. By just entering your license plate number, getting a vehicle history report and maybe uploading a few pictures, you could get close to top dollar for your used car, all while not having to deal with the DMV.

The Bottom Line: You Can Sell Your Car Online For Free

If you're looking for the best place to sell a car, you have a few options, but there's really nothing like an instant cash offer. Rocket AutoSM has partnered with numerous dealerships to make car buying and selling easier than ever. Be sure to include Rocket Auto’s instant cash offer in your queue as you do your research.

What's your car worth?

Get a great offer on your car, instantly.

What's your car worth?

Find out the value of your vehicle, instantly.

Get A Price

Hanna Kielar

Hanna Kielar is a Section Editor for Rocket Auto℠, RocketHQ℠, and Rocket Loans® with a focus on personal finance, automotive, and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.