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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Coleman

How to Sell a Car Online to Comparing the Online Car Offers

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

We already reviewed selling a car to, now we’ll tackle reviews to Although I couldn’t sell my same car to Vroom (as I sold it to Shift, perhaps I should sell my next car to Vroom), this review is gathered from multiple online appraisals, and interviewing potential sellers first hand. In this article we’ll cover:

  • How to prepare the car for sale online to ALL the online car buyers

  • How to do an online appraisal using website (and what’s different)

  • The steps to get an instant cash offer from Shift, Carvana, and Vroom with one link

  • How to determine which service is "right" for your car

  • What process and steps are involved in the sale process itself

How do I prepare to Sell my Car Online?

Before trading into a dealership you probably briefly thought about selling the vehicle private party? I highly recommend AGAINST doing that. As stated before, I don’t think the risks or headaches are worthwhile for most cars (unless you’ve got a rare car, or an incredibly cheap Japanese made car). Here’s just a few of the annoyances I encountered in over 200 private party sales:

  • Buyers and test-drivers rarely make an appointment on time, and frequently “flake” (these so called "potential buyers" are often just tire-kickers)

  • The individuals who test drive your car often can’t afford it (its just a joyride)

  • Craigslist and other platforms are littered with scams and scammers (we once received a forged cashier’s check as some context).

  • Consummating the sale is difficult and requires you to (a) coordinate lien payoffs with your bank (b) Often coordinate with the local DMV

We ran an online peer to peer car sales business (, and after hundreds of transactions - I’ve come away with the conclusion that this market is severely flawed.

Luckily, the major online car retailers have made selling your used car online easy and hassle-free. No more dealing with private party craigslist tire-tickers - instead get a quick online appraisal for your car, gather the necessary documents, and be done.

That said - there are a few items you’ll need to prepare:

  • Get your documents in order (title, registration, and a 10 day lien payoff statement from your lender)

  • Fix “deal-breakers”. Now is not the time to put on new tires and get the car serviced (dealers can do so far more cost-effectively). It IS worth getting repairs done that make your car un-sellable (e.g. a bumper falling off, major items that would significantly impact the offer).

  • If the car is still under warranty, have it checked out and any issues remedied free of charge. Also make sure to cancel your extended warranty or VSC (you should be entitled to a pro-rated refund)

  • Make sure the car is reasonably clean (this will impact perceived value)

Getting an Online Car Appraisal from

Now it's time to get an online appraisal. Visit I tried getting an appraisal on a TON of different vehicles to get a good sense of the process, but here’s a basic overview:

(1) Choose to enter the vehicle VIN or license plate number, which then brings up all the vehicle details.

(2) Enter the odometer and some basic options information about the car. It will also ask for the vehicle trim (which for most Toyota/Honda or other makes is located on the trunk lid).

(3) The form ALSO asks for options. But interestingly, not all of these options might have even been available on your vehicle. For example here’s a Ferrari 458 submission (which was never available with a sunroof and always included Alloy wheels, Bluetooth, and Navigation). If you don’t know what options the vehicle had you can research it at or other online research sites.

(4) Answer some basic questions on the vehicle history and condition. Try to be honest about the mechanical condition, the interior condition, and the exterior condition. Although Vroom will check vehicle history reports like Carfax and Autocheck, they’re also looking for your input on unreported accidents.

Now when you get the price back there’s a few things different than the other car buying services. Unlike Carvana or Shift, Vroom doesn’t show you a comparative market value from KBB (Kelley Blue Book) or any other vendor. Additionally, Vrooms car selling portal often ends up asking you to "wait 24 hours" for expensive or rare cars (so don't expect an appraisal immediately on your Ferrari 488).

Comparing your offer to other Cash Offers:

There are other alternatives to selling your car online, and you should be sure to get instant cash offers and trade-in quotes from these other online vendors too. It should be noted that the price they show shouldn’t be the only driver of “who to choose”. Some services will add/deduct money after they arrive for inspection (as an example shift will conduct an “inspection in the driveway” and make offer adjustments from there). So don't simply choose the vendor with the higher price, but its worth doing your complete research.




To get a comparison from all these services the same time - you can visit our handy trade-in comparison tool.

You can get an appraisal from Carmax as well but that requires driving the car into the nearest location. Hopefully Carmax will offer online appraisals soon.

In order to get a better sense how these offers vary across vehicle, mileage, and year we ran a bunch of VINs through each online appraisal. A few things to note:

  • The "best offer" or "best price" may still require an inspection, so don't take every number as a literal offer.

  • The price is only reflective of the price in a moment in time. So as a certain car becomes more or less desire-able to these dealerships, the pricing will change to reflect that.

  • For all of the online car-sellers the "instant cash" price is equivalent to the "trade-in value". The only difference may be the added tax benefit of trading a car in.

  • Different sellers may offer different prices in a given geography. These offers are reflective only of offers in Northern California so might change substantively depending on where the retailer wants the car.

What are next steps in selling to Vroom?

I didn’t get a first-hand selling experience from Vroom, but do have lots of content online to wade through on how the process goes, and in general it seems fairly hassle free.

The steps break down as follows:

  • Unlike Shift - Vroom will ask to gather all the relevant documents BEFORE they actually come to pick up your car. They’ll be asking for your lien release, the ability to pay off your negative equity, and the title and registration as well.

  • Sometimes Vroom will need to confirm a carrier to actually come and pickup the car (the car can be picked up in a 10 car hauler). This can take 1-4 days depending on your location.

  • Vroom will then issue you a check OR payoff your old lender (if you’ve got an outstanding loan on the car).

  • Vroom does not require any condition checks - they simply take your word for the condition of the car for at least a subset of the cars.

  • The entire process can take 2-8 days end-end for the more complicated scenarios. A lot of these delays are based on bank-funding turnaround times, or paperwork turnaround times. Some of the delay can be in arranging transport.

  • The carrier ( or non-branded delivery) truck will actually pickup your car. Because of the COVID pandemic, they'll insist on a contact-less handoff.

  • The final asking price is rarely adjusted - and so your final sale price is often the offer you received earlier!

Any videos to outline the experience?

Several YouTubers have had positive first-hand accounts of the selling experience. You can check out those experiences here.

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