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  • Nicholas Hinrichsen

How to Sell your Car Online to Shift.com: Comparing the Online Car Vendors

Sell your Car Online to Shift: A brief overview


In this article we'll give a first-hand review of selling to the online service Shift.com, with first-hand accounts of the appraisal process, appraisal comparison, and finally the pickup and payment process. We'll go over:

  • How to prepare your car for sale online

  • How to do an online appraisal using Shift.com website

  • How to get a cash offer from Shift, Carvana, and Vroom in minutes

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

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

How to prepare for an online car sale


You may have been hoping to sell your car via private party listing, but these peer-to-peer are quite frankly a waste of time. You've got two price-sensitive under-informed consumers trying to make a deal on something neither of them frequently buys or sells. Personally I think the risks and headaches of selling privately just aren't worth it given:

  • People rarely show up (so "potential buyers" will waste your time)

  • People often waste your time (with lowball offers or joyride test drives)

  • Theres potential for safety and scammer concerns (not only meeting a stranger but often having them drive your car or bouncing a forged cashier's check).

  • The logistics of the sale are painful (what happens if the car has a lien, the buyer often arranges a mechanical inspection and expects a perfect car. You'll need a trip to the DMV or title notary in many cases).

Having run a business that attempted to sell cars online peer to peer (Carlypso.com), I think this market is completely flawed and inefficient.


Luckily - selling your used car online, effectively, and for a good price is now easy thanks to online sellers. And unlike selling to a private party, or craigslist tire-tickers, these online sellers are rational about what to expect from a used car. Here's a quick list of what to prepare before sale:

  • Ensure you've got all the vehicle's documents (title, current registration, insurance readily available, any payoffs from your lender)

  • Fix the "cheap and easy" stuff. If the car requires a $5,000 engine replacement this is NOT worth taking care of on an old car, but if it needs a new accessory belt to avoid a nasty rattle this is well worth taking care of. If the car is still under warranty, have it checked out and any issues remedied free of charge.

  • Get the car washed


Getting an Online Car Appraisal from Shift.com:


Now it's time to get an online appraisal. Visit https://shift.com/sell-my-car. I used my own personal 2008 Toyota Rav4 to compare services (and I ended up selling my car and getting a new vehicle).


  • Now you can enter your vehicle's VIN (typically found on the drivers side door sill) or enter the license plate number

  • Enter the odometer of the vehicle

  • Select the appropriate TRIM level and ENGINE for your car. If you're unsure of this, typically the trim is written on the back trunk lid of the car (such as EX for a Honda).

  • Select all the relevant options and packages your car has. You can find these on the original window sticker, or research the package names using a site like Edmunds.com

  • Now it's time to enter details on the vehicle history and condition (answer honestly, they'll find out). The first few questions are about the vehicle history itself (which includes accidents reported to vehicle history report services like Carfax or Autocheck and unreported accidents). Then you'll need to answer questions on mechanical and cosmetic condition.


After inputting all these details its time to get a value! Shift.com will present this instant cash offer with comparisons to the Kelley Blue Book (KBB) market price so you get a sense of the "relative price" to other online car buyers. Its worth double checking independently, but it is a handy reference point.


Please note its also very easy to get simultaneous offers to sell your car online from our online appraisal tool here.



How to get a Cash Offer to Compare the Shift.com Offer to?


I don't think value should be the ONLY driver in who you choose to sell to, but it is worth doing your research and knowing the facts. It should be noted you can get an instant cash offer from:


  • Carvana.com: https://www.carvana.com/sellyourcar

  • Vroom.com: https://www.vroom.com/sell

  • Autotrader.com: https://www.autotrader.com/instant-cash-offer/


All as a good comparison and to get a true sense to the value of your car. If you're open to physically driving the car for appraisals it may also be worth a visit to Carmax as well. The services all operate similarly, but have different guarantees, different car buying expertise, and a nuanced different experience, so while the values may be comparable the service may not be.

To get a sense of how offers compare across these services, we put together this quick chart below that shows a value comparison across a selection of VINs from 2017-2019. A few items 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.

What are next steps in selling to Shift?


I'll comment on the other processes, separately, but wanted to give first hand experience of my experience with Shift. Here's the whole circumstance in my situation:

  • I ended up buying a new car (I leased a 2020 Chevy Bolt for an amazing $109/month)

  • I decided didn't want to deal with the hassle of selling the Rav4 privately.

  • I had worked for Carvana and knew how GREAT an experience they provide, so wanted to try an alternative.

I had my car appraised at Shift and Vroom - and was not surprising Shift offered a higher price for my 2008 Rav4 with 99k miles. Carvana and Vroom tend to specialize in newer vehicles, and if the car would be resold through wholesale markets anyways, then the offer price is likely to be lower. The market value in retail for the Rav4 was difficult for me to determine since my Rav4 was a rarer V6 model with third row seating. 4 cylinders sold for $5,500-7,500 and V6's seemed to be about $1,500 to $2,000 higher. I was ecstatic to receive an offer for $7,500 for my Rav4 given its mileage, age, and condition (it was average, with lots of signs of use).


After receiving the offer, I was able to schedule a pickup. Shift called shortly thereafter to confirm the vehicle was actually in my wife's name and she needed to be present. Oddly they didn't validate the vehicle documents before confirming the appointment. Luckily I knew what documents could make the experience even more hassle free and had my registration, title, and insurance documents ready for the shift staff member.


The Shift associate arrived via Uber right on time, and was EXTREMELY polite, but because of COVID pandemic we had to maintain a safe distance when talking. She patiently walked me through her inspection process and let me know the process would take 10-15 minutes. She was clearly a genuine car enthusiast (remarking how rare the Rav4 V6 was, and being able to name some of the other obscure cars I had in the garage).


I went inside, and 15 minutes later received a text message saying "Ready". The final asking price was adjusted by $405 below the initial estimate from cosmetic damage (I was not surprised at all given how generous I thought the first offer was). Shift furthermore offered a $300 "Bonus" for having all the vehicle documents ready and letting the associate drive away in my vehicle. The final sale price therefore ended up being $7,395.


We agreed to the final price and then signed about 3 documents via Docusign and wet signature. The money would be ACH'd to my account pending 1 final inspection that the car had no frame damage. Less than 36 hours later, the ACH cleared and I was complete done with my car selling experience. All -in all extremely smooth.



Selling your car to pay off you loan? Thought about refinancing?


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