14 best car-buying sites

Young couple using digital tablet at home Image:

In a Nutshell

You buy everything from toys to toilet paper online. Why shouldn’t you buy your next vehicle online? We dive into what we think are the best websites for buying cars directly, researching vehicles, finding peer-to-peer deals and comparing dealerships.

Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors' opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when it’s posted.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

Buying a car is a big deal. If you’re tech-savvy and want to skip the stress of a dealership, you can go online to research your new ride, shop for a vehicle and apply for an auto loan.

So which car-buying sites can you turn to when you’re shopping for your next car? We scoured both established and up-and-coming sites to evaluate the best car-buying sites — whether you want to buy a vehicle online, do preliminary research or compare dealerships. We’ll explain the pros and cons of each site so you can navigate the digital car-buying experience with more confidence.



Best sites for buying directly online

Want to do all your car shopping in your jammies? Some sites make it possible to buy a car online and have it delivered to your door. Each site has different warranties and terms, so be sure to understand a company’s policies before you buy from it.

EBay Motors

Want to buy a car from a private seller? Bidding on a vehicle through eBay Motors could help you snag the car you want. The site offers a nationwide selection of vehicles and free vehicle purchase protection for eligible car purchases completed on the platform.

That means if your car qualifies, your costs will be reimbursed if you never receive the vehicle you bought or if there are issues with the title that were undisclosed. It also protects against eligible damage on the transmission, engine or body of the vehicle.

But these protections won’t account for everything that could go wrong with your purchase. Outside of covered components, you’ll have to deal with the consequences.

Pros

  • You can buy from private sellers nationwide
  • You get certain protections for covered situations
  • You can apply for financing through RoadLoans.com
  • You have access to new and used vehicles
  • Winning a bid is not a contract to buy

Cons

  • No returns
  • No protection against certain undisclosed problems
  • No guarantee that you’ll win the auction

Carvana

Carvana is a car-buying site that lets you pick the car you want from its selection of used vehicles. You can also apply for prequalification for an auto loan through the site and have the vehicle delivered, depending on where you live. In certain markets, you can pick up your purchase from a futuristic-looking car vending machine.

Pros

  • You can apply for auto loan prequalification on the site
  • All vehicles include a 150-point inspection
  • Seven-day return window
  • Limited warranty of 100 days or 4,189 miles, whichever comes first
  • Trade-ins may be accepted

Cons

  • No flexibility on pricing
  • May have to pay a shipping fee
  • Delivery not available in all markets
  • Co-signers not accepted through Carvana financing (though outside financing is allowed)
Carvana auto loan review: Used-car loans, with restrictions

Vroom

Vroom is a competitor to Carvana that will deliver a used vehicle directly to your home. You can browse cars online and apply for financing on the site.

Pros

  • Vehicles can be delivered to you
  • Free vehicle history report on all vehicles
  • You can apply for financing online
  • Trade-ins may be accepted (including pick-up)
  • 90-day limited warranty
  • Seven-day or 250-mile return window

Cons

  • $499 shipping fee
  • Delivery typically takes seven to 10 days after purchase

CarMax

CarMax touts the extensive inspections its cars undergo. Like its competitors, CarMax offers a number of purchase protections, including a seven-day return window, a limited warranty on all cars and the option to purchase a comprehensive service plan.

Pros

  • Car can be delivered to you for test driving (fees may apply)
  • Apply for financing through the site
  • Free vehicle history reports
  • Seven-day return window
  • 90-day or 4,000-mile, whichever comes first, limited warranty
  • Stores across the country if you prefer an in-person experience

Cons

  • No price negotiations
  • No pricing guidance to determine whether a price is a good deal
  • May have to pay a shipping fee to see a car

Shift

Shift promises that it extensively inspects all the vehicles it sells. If you live in the company’s service area, you can test drive the car before you decide whether to buy. Shift sets vehicle prices using an algorithm, so pricing isn’t up for negotiation. But Shift’s warranty policy isn’t as generous as some of its competitors’ policies.

Pros

  • No haggling over price
  • Trade-ins accepted
  • You can apply for financing through the site
  • Five-day or 200-mile return policy

Cons

  • Limited service areas: Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego
  • Prices are firm

Best sites for researching before you buy

Whether you want to buy used or new, research is an important first step in the purchase process. These sites can help you learn more about the vehicles you’re thinking about buying and allow you to compare prices. 

Consumer Reports

Looking for independent reviews of new and used cars? Consumer Reports is a nonprofit organization that reviews products across many categories, including autos. The site provides tips and tools to help you with every step in the car selling and buying process.

New-car buyers may want to use Consumer Reports’ car-buying service, which allows members to see what local buyers paid for similar new cars.

Pros

  • Nonprofit organization
  • Used-car marketplace provided by Cars.com
  • Offers a car-buying service through TrueCar
  • Has a car repair estimator tool 

Cons

  • Must pay to be a member to see full reviews

Edmunds

Edmunds is one of the premier sites that offers expert reviews and pricing insights to help when you’re car shopping. Its car comparison tool ranks vehicles using such measures as consumer ratings, fuel economy and ownership costs.

But Edmunds isn’t just for research. The site also serves as a vehicle marketplace where you can find new, used and certified pre-owned vehicles in your area. Edmunds ranks vehicles on the site using a deal-rating score to help you judge if the price is fair.

Pros

  • Reviews from experts
  • Cars purchased through Edmunds may qualify for a 30-day or 1,000-mile warranty
  • 12-month roadside assistance with select vehicles

Cons

  • You can’t buy directly through the site
  • No private-party listings

Autotrader

Autotrader, another research-oriented site, has a used-vehicle search engine that allows you to find a car that suits your budget. You can filter for the type of vehicle you want and the distance you’re willing to travel to pick up the car. Both dealers and private parties can advertise on the site.

Pros

  • New, used and certified pre-owned vehicles
  • Option for cash offer or trade-in on eligible cars
  • Compare both dealer and private party cars

Cons

  • Not all cars have free history reports
  • You can’t buy directly through the site
  • Doesn’t guarantee transactions facilitated through the site

Kelley Blue Book

Looking to sell or trade in your current vehicle before buying? Kelley Blue Book, which is owned by Autotrader, has been giving people visibility into car prices since 1926. You can use Kelley Blue Book values to understand what may be a fair price for your existing car. Then you can use Kelley Blue Book’s pricing estimates for new and used vehicles to negotiate a price for your next car.

Pros

  • Vehicle marketplace where you can find new, used and certified pre-owned vehicles
  • Option for cash off or trade-in credit on eligible cars

Cons

  • Not all cars have free history reports

Best peer-to-peer car-buying sites

These days, it’s rare to spot a “For Sale” sign on a car in somebody’s front yard. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a reasonable used car in your neighborhood. It’s just that the “front yard” has moved online. These sites allow you to find used cars for sale from regular people in your neck of the woods.

Just remember, many sellers on these sites are individuals. That means you need to consider your safety when taking a vehicle for a test drive. Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety offers tips on staying safe and avoiding scams if you’re buying a used vehicle.

Craigslist

Despite its old-school user interface, the site is still a go-to option for private party vehicle sales.

Pros

  • Find private sellers near you
  • Browse offers to find a vehicle that suits your budget
  • Refine your search by features like price, make, model year and miles on the odometer

Cons

  • Seller not vetted by a third party
  • Must arrange financing on your own or pay cash
  • No third-party guarantee for the purchase

Facebook Marketplace

Looking to buy a used car from someone you don’t know? Along with dealerships, individuals can also list cars on Facebook Marketplace.

Pros

  • Can view a person’s profile before agreeing to meet if you’re a Facebook member
  • Browse offers to find a vehicle that suits your budget

Cons

  • Seller not vetted by a third party
  • In private party deals, you must arrange financing on your own or pay cash
  • No third-party guarantee for the purchase

CarGurus

CarGurus bills itself as the largest car-shopping website in the U.S. The site had the best search interface of any website we tested. It ranks vehicles by a proprietary deal score, and it automatically lists its picks for the best deals first. When browsing, you can limit your search radius to as close as 10 miles to your nearest location or expand it nationwide.

Pros

  • CarGurus offers support for the paperwork, including title transfer
  • Instant Market Value pricing metric: CarGurus uses comparable sales to estimate a fair value for a vehicle you want to buy or sell
  • Able to apply for loan prequalification for select private party sales through CarGuru’s financing partner, AutoPay
  • A 30-day or 1,000 mile warranty available for select private party sales

Cons

  • Not all vehicles come with a limited warranty
  • Must communicate with sellers on your own

AutoTempest

Wading through dozens of peer-to-peer sales websites can get tedious, but AutoTempest makes it easier to spot a deal. AutoTempest aggregates listings from other sites like Craigslist, eBay, CarSoup.com, Autotrader and more. When it’s time to buy, AutoTempest provides quotes for shipping a vehicle across the country or for insuring it.

Pros

  • List your car for sale or get instant offers from AutoTempest partner site, Cars.com
  • New and used vehicles available
  • Read car reviews before purchasing 

Cons

  • No pricing analysis

Best sites for comparing dealerships

Looking to start your car search online but finish it at a dealership? These sites help you compare the inventory and pricing of dealerships near you.

Cars.com

For more than two decades Cars.com has been matching sellers and buyers to new, used and certified pre-owned cars through its website. The site is more of a matchmaking service, with the sale of vehicles taking place offline.

Pros

  • New, used and certified pre-owned cars
  • Get offers to sell your current car
  • Site includes a “deal ranking” that indicates whether pricing is great, good or fair

Cons

  • Not every vehicle has a free vehicle history report
  • Doesn’t guarantee vehicles
  • You must arrange financing and title transfer on your own
  • You can’t buy through the site. Instead, you must communicate with the seller.

CarsDirect

Want to see how dealership pricing and inventory stack up in your area? CarsDirect makes it easy to search for both new and used cars. When you a find a car that piques your interest, you can communicate directly with the dealer. You can also apply for financing directly through the site.

Pros

  • Apply for financing through the site
  • Get pricing information for new cars
  • Narrow search by price first

Cons

  • Must communicate directly with dealers. Sale completed offline.
  • No deal guidance on used-car prices
  • Not all vehicles have free vehicle history reports
CarsDirect review: An online hub for car shopping and auto loans

Tips for online car shopping

The average auto loan for a new car was more than $32,000 in the first quarter of 2019, according to Experian. You’ll want to do your research and set your budget before you start salivating over the latest luxury vehicle.

Edmunds recommends that most people spend no more than 15% of their monthly take-home pay on an auto loan. That means if your take-home pay is $4,000 per month, your auto payment should be no more than $600 per month.

Once you’ve set your budget, you can start researching the perfect ride. Keep these tips in mind.

  • Compare lender financing instead of relying on the dealer to arrange a loan.
  • Read reviews from experts and people who actually drive the car.
  • Request a copy of a vehicle history report like CarFax.
  • When buying used, get an independent inspection from a mechanic.
  • Be prepared to negotiate the price (although some sites won’t budge).