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Comparing car selling platforms

When the time comes to sell your car, the 4 main ways to sell a vehicle include: ICOs, dealerships, and selling private or online auctions.

On this page, we explore each option to reveal the pros and cons, and to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

What method is best for me?

Instant cash offer (ICO), dealership trade-in, selling privately or an online auction site? 

Each used car has its own unique details and backstory just as each seller has their own unique situation, needs and goals. What works for one seller and their car may not be the best option for another. 

We've listed the pros and cons of each selling platform to help you understand your car selling options.

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ICOs

First impression,
one-glance offers.

Read the pros & cons >

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Dealerships

Working with one dealership to buy your vehicle.

Read the pros & cons >

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Selling Privately

 Posting ads online, you do all the work.  

Read the pros & cons >

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Auctions

A bidding process between multiple buyers.

Read the pros & cons >

Instant Cash Offers (ICOs)


Using the ICO's basic questionnaire. you can receive an offer for your car from one nearby dealership. The offer is generated based on your car’s trade-in value and the details you provided which can oftentimes be incomplete or inaccurate if a professional review has not been obtained.

Because the quality of the vehicle has not yet been inspected, the ICO offer usually isn't guaranteed. ICOs require you to take the car to the dealer to redeem the offer, and often times it results in an even lower offer. 

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ICO examples: Autotrader, KBB, Cash4Cars

Pros of Instant Cash Offers:

  • Quick cash
  • Sell quickly

Cons of Instant Cash Offers: 

  • Low offers
  • Tied to a buyer or the lead is sold to a dealership
  • The dealership buying the lead may not have the same positive assessment of your vehicle and may offer a lower price
  • Offer is based on industry numbers which are generally already on the lower end, baseline market value
  • Your initial offer can change once the car is delivered and seen 
  • Designed to benefit the dealer and  reduce their acquisition costs

ICOs are good for:

  • An initial value and a rough estimate of what your car is worth 
  • Cars that need a lot of work done

ICOs are not good for:

  • Getting a fair price

Traditional & Online Dealerships


While selling your car directly to a dealer or trading it in can be quick and easy, you are at the mercy of the dealer since there is no competition and a high barrier to you to find other offers. You would effectively have to spend the day driving around to other dealerships to find out what they would be willing to offer.

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Dealership examples: Carmax, Carvana, Canada Drives

Pros of selling to dealerships:

  • Easy
  • One buyer if you have a fair offer
  • Traditional dealerships are more likely to take older models (before 2010)

Cons of selling to dealerships:

  • Generally not a great offer
  • Just one buyer at a time
  • Possible legwork to shop your car around to additional dealerships

Dealerships are good for:

  • Quick transaction 
  • Safety and security
  • If you plan to buy a car from the same dealership

Dealerships are not good for:

  • Stress levels and avoiding negotiation
  • Cars that need a lot of work done (dealerships will lower the price as they have to “recondition” the vehicle for resale

Selling Privately


Selling privately can get messy and complicated. When using online platforms, you are responsible for it all. You'll put in a lot of time and effort with no real guarantee that your ad will be shown to an interested buyer, let alone receive a qualified offer. Believe it or not, many first-time buyers don't file the appropriate paperwork and the vehicle remains in the original seller's name long after the transaction is closed.

You may be maximizing the value you get for your car, but is it really worth all the risk?

private

Private sales examples: Kijiji Classifieds & Facebook Marketplace

Pros of selling on the private market:

  • Most likely to get the highest price
  • Good for specialty cars
  • Could sell quickly if priced right

Cons of selling on the private market:

  • Many low-ball offers
  • Possible fraud and scams
  • Personal safety risk meeting strangers and test drives
  • Inconvenient - you'll need to file paperwork at multiple locations (bank, registration etc.)
  • You do all the work and will spend a lot of personal time dealing with phone calls, text messages, cancellations/no-shows and then payment and paperwork
  • Could take several weeks to sell

Selling privately is good for:

  • Selling 'as-is'
  • Cars with mileage higher than 150,000
  • Older models (before 2010)
  • Cars that need a lot of work done
  • Highly unique vehicles

Selling privately is not good for:

  • Quick sales
  • Those with busy lifestyles or people who have better things to do
  • Stress levels and avoiding negotiation

Online Auctions


Online auctions happen in real-time just like a regular auction but it's all done online through a special bidding platform with a specific time limit. Registered buyers/bidders compete against each other to win your car. More buyers drive the final offer price even higher.

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Auction examples: Autozen

Pros of online car auctions:

  • Competitive bidding to get the fairest price.
  • Get offers from multiple sources without having to find them
  • Dealing with a business and not private market individuals - safe and secure
  • Fast (can happen all on a specific day)
  • Guaranteed price because we do the inspection

Cons of online car auctions:

  • Not guaranteed to sell if price expectations are unrealistic between buyer and seller

Online auctions are good for:

  • Getting the best of both worlds: fair price without any of the work
  • Those who want to sell but still physically need their car 
  • Those who have a loan

Online auctions are not good for:

  • Same day selling
  • Custom cars (major modifications & re-builds)

How is Autozen different from other car-selling platforms?

  • It's super easy & safe—just a few clicks from the comfort of your home
  • No strangers, no haggling and no stress
  • Autozen is your advocate and brings you the best offer from 100s of buyers
  • Autozen offers are 100% guaranteed and will not change
  • It's free for you! We get a small fee from the buyer

Read more about how we are different >

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Selling with Autozen is simple

Forget the complexity and we’ll take care of everything to sell it on your behalf.