Where to list your car for sale in 2022
In most cases, selling your car to a private buyer will always maximize your price. It takes more time compared to selling or trading to a dealer, but new marketplaces (ahem...and secure payment services) are making it easier than ever. Listing your car on one or more marketplaces is the first step to a successful sale and to evaluate the seven most popular sites, I listed my car for sale on all of them. As the former Chief Technology Officer of a used car marketplace and experienced private party seller myself, this article provides a unique perspective on your options when selling your car.
After you decide where to list your car, take a look at our examples of good and bad used car ads and use our simple template to create a great one.
My current car is a 2020 BMW X3 M Competition. It's the compromised compact SUV from BMW where comfort is sacrificed in the pursuit of steering response and handling. With 503hp, this thing hauls skis and mountain bikes to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds and as such, I don't really mind getting tossed around by the plethora of potholes in Seattle. I bought it new in 2020 and have racked up 18k miles mostly via trips to the Cascades and the Rockies in Montana.
The table below summarizes the seven marketplaces I listed my car for sale. Most of these sites offer mobile apps with a varying degree of quality and usefulness, but I used a laptop to make creating my ads easier. I'll discuss how easy it was to list my car, unique features offered to buyers and sellers, and how visually appealing each listing looked. I won't compare how many interested buyers contacted me because that depends heavily on your specific car, the photos you take, your description, and your price.
- Cars.com - Free
- CarGurus - $4.95
- eBay Motors - $19 to $79
- Autotrader - $49
- Facebook Marketplace - Free
- OfferUp - Free
- Craigslist - $5
In April 2022, Cars.com started offering their private party selling service after a long hiatus. As one of the go-to sites for buyers to search for cars, I'm glad it's back. And it's free to list! The steps to list my car were clear and simple and I really liked the tips provided along the way. After submitting my listing, one of the tips was, “Get your car in tip-top shape — wash it and clean and vacuum the interior.” I couldn't agree more. Get that car cleaned up better than ever before and it's much more likely to sell on the first test drive.
There were a few things I didn't like. One was that I couldn't select the actual option packages my car came with. I could only select a few generic options which are not as helpful to buyers. I should give Cars.com a little leeway here, though, since I know how challenging it is to show the exact options that were available for every vehicle. Sometimes the data just isn't available or it's straight up incorrect.
I also didn't like the image upload feature. It was really difficult to reorder photos on my laptop, but it's possible that this works better on a phone. Lastly, it took a long time for my listing to actually be published after I submitted it. I assume this is to reduce fraudulent listings and overall quality of the cars listed on Cars.com, but it would be nice to have more immediate gratification.
According to similarweb.com, CarGurus receives about 71% more traffic than Cars.com and 85% more traffic than Autotrader. This is particularly impressive considering CarGurus has not been around nearly as long as the other two sites. So how easy was it to list my car? Well, what stood out the most was that CarGurus really wanted me to just sell my car to a dealership. At one point, I thought I was listing my car for sale, but was actually submitting a dealer offer. When I realized I was going through the wrong process, I had to reach out to CarGurus support to undo it - there was no way I could back out on my own and list my car for sale. If you intend to list your car on CarGurus, take a close look to make sure you're actually going through the process you intended.
Similar to Cars.com, I also couldn't select all the specific options and packages that my car has, which impacted the recommended price. This won't be true for every car, but if you have some expensive option packages (many German brands do), then this is a bit of an issue since CarGurus states on your listing if your car is a “good deal” or “overpriced”. If they don't know all the options your car has, then the fair price isn't accurate. I went with my KBB price of $75k and CarGurus shows it is overpriced.
Otherwise, listing my car was relatively straightforward and I was able to upload and reorder photos pretty easily. The ad was live in less than 15 minutes. I liked that I was able to scan my driver's license and show buyers that I was verified. However, I never had to take a selfie, so the identity verification process did not verify that the license I scanned was actually mine.
CarGurus also offers a way for sellers to accept payment from buyers called CarGurus Pay. It is not well integrated into their site, however. In chat, for example, I am warned not to accept payment outside of CarGurus Pay, but when clicking “Start Sale” I see a message that says CarGurus Pay is not supported for my transaction and that I have to take cash. I definitely don't want to accept $75k in cash (nor would I even want $5k in cash!), so this isn't a great experience as a seller. Even though my transaction is not eligible for CarGurus Pay, I still see promotions for it all over my chat messages and listing.
If you sell your car on CarGurus, you can still accept payment with KeySavvy, even if your vehicle is not eligible for CarGurus Pay. KeySavvy does not have a transaction limit and buyers can split payments across credit cards, bank accounts, and even Zelle.
eBay Motors is the only marketplace on this list that lets you sell by running an auction. You can also set a fixed price if you want. Even with a fixed price, buyers can still make you an offer through eBay, but the interesting thing is that you can disable this feature if you want. So if you are dead set on a firm price, you can advertise as such on eBay.
eBay also has some really helpful integrations specific to eBay Motors. For example, buyers can set up an inspection via WeGoLook where a representative will go to the car, verify the VIN, and take 60+ pictures of it for you. That service costs $99 and does not include a mechanical inspection. Assuming the mechanical inspection is not egregiously priced, that is a great way to help people make good buying decisions. eBay also offers protection from undisclosed title liens if the vehicle is advertised as having a clean title. No other marketplace offered that level of title fraud protection. KeySavvy offers title fraud protection by verifying the seller's identity and title documents prior to approving the transaction. eBay also allows sellers to accept payment via Escrow.com. For my ad, I selected “other” and added my KeySavvy payment link.
Autotrader is the original gangster of online used car marketplaces. Since 1997, they've been one of the default visits for people looking to buy a used car. It's also ten times more expensive to list on Autotrader ($49) compared to CarGurus.
What sets Autotrader apart from the other sites is their access to Kelley Blue Book (KBB) data. Autotrader and KBB are owned by the same company, Cox Automotive, so it makes sense that they'd be well integrated. Indeed, when listing my car I was able to select the exact option packages my car has and the recommended price matched what I saw on kbb.com. Autotrader also showed me the trade-in value and dealer retail value at the same time, which was helpful.
As is the case with most of these sites, I still had the option to select from a huge list of seemingly generic options like anti-lock brakes (ABS). ABS and stability control (ESC) have been required by law on every car manufactured since 2012, so why am I still having to check that box for a 2020 model year? Nevertheless, at least I could select the actual option packages my car has installed.
I really liked the guidance that Autotrader provided throughout their listing process. The tips were clear and helpful and I got the sense that they were really trying to help me succeed in selling my car. One minor annoyance was that I couldn't reorder my photos at all. I had to upload photos in the exact order I wanted them to appear.
However, I never actually managed to get my listing live on Autotrader. Days went by without any sign of my listing being approved until I finally received a voicemail asking me to call Autotrader. I called, was on hold for a while, and then a representative said they needed to confirm some information. They asked for my phone number (the same number they called earlier), I was on hold for a while longer, and then they said everything was good to go. I asked if that meant my listing was live and they said, "No, but it should be live in the next 24 hours." At this point I just asked for my money back. I had already been contacted by buyers on every other site for days. The whole experience was quite odd.
Facebook Marketplace is the newest option on this list and is part of Facebook itself. If you already have a Facebook account, you can use Marketplace to list your car. Messages from buyers show up in Facebook Messenger which is good because this is a full-featured messaging app. Other sites rely on emails that can go to spam, text messages, or sub par chat features that are harder to use compared to Messenger. Receiving messages from buyers in a reliable manner and responding quickly is critical to selling your car, so I appreciate Facebook's reuse of Messenger.
I did have a pretty big issue listing my car, however. I couldn't actually select my car's year, make, and model. When I chose “2020 BMW”, the only model available to select next was “7 Series”. My car isn't a 7 Series. I tried a few work arounds without success and eventually just selected 2021 as the model year and then I could choose my vehicle correctly. As a result, my ad looks a little bit like a scam. It says 2021 in one place and in the description it says 2020. If I wasn't writing this blog article, I wouldn't have published the ad at all because this is not a good look when you're trying to earn the trust of buyers.
Assuming you're able to create an accurate ad for your car, Facebook Marketplace is a good choice. There is a level of identity verification that inherently exists since Facebook uses your verified Facebook account and those of buyers. There are ways to beat this system, of course, so even if you're using Facebook to sell your car you should follow best practices when completing your transaction.
Facebook doesn't require your VIN to post a vehicle for sale, but you should include it in your ad's description. Your VIN isn't private information and actually helps you sell your car faster.
OfferUp is primarily an iOS and Android mobile app that makes it crazy easy to list anything for sale, including your car. OfferUp had the simplest listing experience of all the sites on this list. I didn't even have to include the mileage, if I didn't want to. Similar to CarGurus, OfferUp also provides a way to verify your identity by uploading photos of your driver's license. OfferUp's TruYou identity verification includes taking a selfie to check if the photo on the ID matches.
Although you can create your listing quickly and easily on OfferUp, I recommend including as much detail as possible, even if not required by the app. This will help buyers find your car and will reduce unnecessary questions about details you could have put in your ad, saving you time. Like many of the marketplaces that aren't just for cars, I couldn't really select the options my car has. In fact, OfferUp automatically included incorrect information in my listing that I was unable to edit. For example, it added a badge that says “regular” which I assume is the type of fuel required. However, the X3 M definitely requires premium fuel so this is a misrepresentation that I was unable to fix.
Ah, the old and faithful Craigslist. The only noticeable change to listing a car on Craigslist in the last 10 years is that private sellers now have to pay $5 to post and you can advertise if you accept cryptocurrency as a payment method. Craigslist has many unique quirks, but is refreshingly simple to use.
Uploading photos was straightforward and I could easily reorder them how I wanted. There are some odd options that no other marketplace had, like selecting the number of cylinders (including “other”) and choosing from FWD, RWD, and 4WD, but not AWD. Most of these are optional though so you can skip them.
Craigslist allows you to be completely anonymous and offers no identity verification features. They provide good advice for avoiding fraud and recommend dealing locally and using cash. However, considering the high value of most used cars, I don't recommend using cash. Check out our guide to safely selling your car for more tips.
Autotrader and CarGurus (and soon Cars.com) will also give you an instant offer to buy your car or they'll shop it around for dealers to bid on. However, don't think that listing on Craigslist will shield you from dealer offers. Dealers browse the private market frequently and you're almost guaranteed to be contacted by one given the current short-supply market conditions. Remember, you'll always get a better price selling to a private buyer, but if you're in a rush to sell, a dealership could be a convenient option. Any offer to buy your car is good traction towards your ultimate goal, but beware of the common “bait and switch” where dealers will offer you a high price over email and then lower their offer after you bring it in.
If you made it this far, you're probably wondering which marketplace I would use again. I would start by listing on every site that is free or $5 or less. Once you have good pictures and have written a description, it doesn't take very long to create several listings. This will maximize your exposure to potential buyers. If you don't get any interest after 1-2 weeks, lower your price by 5-10% and wait another 1-2 weeks. Regardless of where you list your car, KeySavvy will help finalize your deal securely and easily so you can focus on getting the best price.
About Andrew Crowell
Andrew is an avid car enthusiast, software engineer, and business leader in the automotive and e-commerce industry. He's owned a couple Mazda Miatas, an E46 M3, a Subaru WRX STI, and a Porsche 911 Turbo.