Best Online Car Dealers

Online car dealerships let you buy a car from the comfort of your home. Learn about the benefits of shopping from the top online car dealerships.

Online shopping has become increasingly popular, with most stores offering a digital store. One surprising industry to make the shift to online marketplaces is car dealerships. At first, many shoppers are skeptical about purchasing a car online, fearing they will be scammed if they cannot physically inspect the car. While it is reasonable to worry about purchasing a car online from a stranger, online dealerships are as legitimate as a physical dealership. If an online dealership sells a damaged car, they won’t remain in business for long. Many dealerships also offer a limited money back guarantee, providing additional security for shoppers.

For many shoppers, purchasing a car online eliminates many of the hassles previously associated with car shopping. In-person dealerships often have a limited selection, with dealers constantly trying to upsell the available vehicles. There is also a limitation on what vehicles are available, with dealerships frequently trying to sell the newest and most expensive vehicles. Listed below are the pros and cons of shopping online and some recommendations for online car dealerships.

Benefits of Online Car Dealerships

For many shoppers, the primary benefit of shopping for a car online is a streamlined experience. With an online dealership, you do not have to negotiate with the dealership. You also have a greater selection of vehicles, as well as the freedom to browse at your leisure without having a dealership employee trying to redirect you to a different vehicle. Filling out paperwork is much easier through an online dealership. Not only can you complete the paperwork at your leisure, but you also have more time to review the documents. 

There is also less pressure during the shopping process. You do not have to carve out time to drive down to a dealership. Instead, you can browse the website at your leisure, without any concern for when the dealership opens or closes. Dealerships also provide detailed information on each vehicle, including a host of pictures and even video tours. 

Another benefit of online car dealerships is that researching vehicles is much easier. Instead of relying on what the dealership tells you, you can open a separate browser window and do your own research. This not only applies to looking up vehicle specs, but also how much a car costs at a similar dealership. With so many dealerships to choose from, it is much easier to find a fair price on your dream car.

Cons of Online Car Dealerships

The biggest downside of purchasing a car online is you do not get to physically test the vehicle. Even detailed videos and photos cannot equate to getting behind the wheel for a test drive. If this is a concern, make sure you use a dealership that provides a return policy. You can also use the online dealership to locate potential videos, then take a trip to test drive your desired vehicle.

Another downside is sales and other deals are less common with online dealerships. There are also fewer options for trade-ins. Without the ability to negotiate, you typically end up getting less for a trade-in vehicle. If you intend to get rid of your old car, consider selling it yourself instead of trying to trade it at an online dealership.

New vs. Used

Whether you buy a new or used vehicle is nearly the same with an online dealership, but there are some differences. With an in-person dealership, buying a used vehicle is difficult because you have a limited selection. Dealerships use to this to their advantage, charging more for harder to find vehicles, making it more appealing to spend extra and purchase a new car. With online car dealerships, you have a significantly larger stock to choose from, making it easier to find used cars at their actual market value.

In addition to more used models being available, you have a greater chance of finding an upgraded model. A downside of purchasing used is your vehicle lacks modern safety features. However, if you’re buying a used vehicle that was traded in, the previous driver may have updated the car. The cost will go up, but with so many dealerships to choose from you still have plenty of freedom to shop around.


AutoTrader was one of the first dealerships to sell cars online. They have one of the largest listing of cars, with over three million listings as of writing. The website has a variety of search filters, allowing you to look for specific makes and trims. There is also detailed information on all the vehicles, as well as multiple options for financing and insurance. In order to post on AutoTrader, sellers must pay a small fee, ensuring there are only serious listings on the site. While AutoTrader does allow for some trade-ins, it greatly varies by location. You can also look up reviews of vehicles directly on the website, making research even easier.


Carvana is another respected online car dealership. It has stricter requirements compared to other online dealerships. While there is no minimum credit score to purchase a vehicle, you must have an annual income of at least $10,000. Carvana also has pricier delivery fees, but these are waived if you are purchasing a vehicle from a local market. All vehicles listed on Carvana include a seven-day return period, as well as a 100-day warranty. In addition to shopping for a car, you can also look for auto loans through the website.


CarGuru is a newer online dealership, but it has risen in popularity because the dealership largely focuses on affordable vehicles. The website allows you to filter cars based on a deal rating, highlighting cars with the best savings. The dealership also provides more detailed information about the vehicle, including whether the price has previously increased or decreased and how long the car has been on the market. CarGurus also pulls reviews and other information from across the web, giving you a detailed overview of all the available cars. While the site primarily focuses on used vehicles, there are also listing for new models.


If you want to focus your search on local dealerships but still want to shop from the comfort of your home, CarsDirect is an excellent online dealership. Unlike other dealers, CarsDirect only accepts ads from existing dealerships. It has a smaller selection than other sites, but you can narrow your search specifically for cars in your area. One benefit of this is you can take advantage of whatever local sales are going on at nearby dealerships. The website also has extensive options for financing and car loans.