4 Things to Look for When Choosing an Online Car Marketplace


Let’s face it—buying or selling a car the traditional way doesn’t exactly spark joy. So it’s no surprise that taking the online route is becoming ever more popular.

Of course, online car marketplaces have been around for a long time—offering significant time-savings to prospective car buyers, as well as much-needed exposure for sellers. In many cases, however, you’d still be left alone to face the uncertainty and hassle of in-person dealings.

Fast forward to the post-pandemic era. Covid-19 propelled the world into full digitization much faster than expected—and, today, dozens of online vehicle marketplaces promise Canadians a seamless and hassle-free car shopping experience.

But do they all deliver on that promise? And how do you choose the right one? To answer these questions, here are the 4 key factors you should consider:

1. Safety & Transparency Guarantees

Everyone has a story—or knows someone who has a story—of people trying to rip them off with too-good-to-be-true listings, undisclosed damage, payment fraud, meetings at dodgy places, high-pressure or misleading sales tactics, and so on.

Other times, despite all good will, things can still go wrong. A car payment falls through or gets delayed. A vehicle shows signs of fault after it’s delivered. A buyer changes their mind at the last minute.  

Being vulnerable to risks like these is a major concern when using the internet for buying or selling vehicles. Which is only natural, seen as a car is probably the second largest purchase you’ll ever make next to buying a home. It’s your hard-earned money that’s at stake.

Look for an online car marketplace that checks these safety boxes:

  • Car listings are detailed and transparent—including full price breakdown
  • Vehicles are thoroughly inspected and come with a free Carfax report
  • Participants are vetted and trustworthy—titles are authentic, free and clear
  • You have the option to test drive at no cost or with a money back guarantee
  • All cars come with a comprehensive warranty and a straightforward return policy
  • Once you accept an offer, your price is guaranteed—and so is your payment
  • Your information is kept safe and not shared with anyone without your permission

A platform that takes safety and transparency seriously will be upfront about these measures—so it’s important you do your research.

2. A Large Inventory of Quality Vehicles

Greater reach and a wider range of options is among the top reasons why people choose to shop for cars online. But when it comes to both range and quality of choice, not all online vehicle marketplaces are created equal.

For instance, you’ll find that some marketplaces only offer used cars, meaning you’ll be missing out on some great deals for brand new vehicles.

Or you may be limited to choosing from a platform’s own inventory, which leaves you no other choice but to browse through numerous sites until you find what you want (kind of like the online equivalent of driving from dealer to dealer). A marketplace that lets you choose from multiple vehicle inventories might be a better option.

Remember, too:

  • Some sites are focused on selling cars only—while other focus on buying. So you may not be able to trade your existing car for a new one with these sites. If you’re looking to trade in, you should choose an online car marketplace that is two-sided
  • Quantity should not come at the expense of quality. Before you settle for a site that boasts the largest selection of vehicles, make sure that it’s equally proud of the quality of the cars it offers.

3. The Ease & Convenience of A Truly Online Experience

If you’re turning online to sell or trade your car, you already know you have better and more important things to do than spend days or weeks of your life arranging viewings, dealing with hagglers and pushy salespeople, or going through endless paperwork and inspection processes.

So why should you waste your precious time and energy figuring out how a platform works or following complex instructions with little or no support?

When reviewing platforms, ask yourself the following:

  • Is the process completely online?
  • Is the app user-friendly and intuitive?
  • Is it easy to create a listing or find what you’re looking for?
  • Will anyone come to your door?
  • Can you have the car picked-up from (or delivered to) your home?
  • Is there any paperwork involved?
  • Can you count on fast and responsive customer support?

When it comes to convenience, an online car marketplace should be exactly that—online from start to finish. You shouldn’t have to leave the comfort of your home unless you choose to.

4. The Best Possible Value with No Surprise Fees

Price is understandably number one priority among Canadian auto shoppers. Just like with any other transaction, you deserve the best value for the services you are receiving. This includes getting the best deal for your car—or having reliable buying options at the best possible price—without hidden charges, misleading add-ons, or costly bells and whistles that come up at the last minute.

Look out for hidden costs like:

  • Charges for signing up or posting a listing
  • Warranty coverage not included in the quoted price
  • Undisclosed inspection or Carfax report expenses
  • Extra charges for pick-up or delivery
  • Non-refundable down payments to reserve a car

If you’re exchanging your used car for another one, it is also important that you do not end up having to pay a lot more tax than you should.

According to a survey of 300 consumers conducted by MintList—Canada’s first two-sided online auto marketplace—66% were not aware that they are entitled to significant tax savings when they trade in a vehicle and purchase another vehicle from the same dealer.

Right now, MintList is the only marketplace that allows you to take advantage of this trade-in tax benefit and save thousands of dollars on sales tax even if you do business with multiple dealers on the platform. And because they allow hundreds of vetted bidders to compete for your car, they claim they can help you sell your car for up to $4,000 more than your best offer on other platforms or dealership visits.

In Conclusion

Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or trade your car for a new one—all from the comfort of your home—there are innovative online platforms that can make your experience easier, safer, and faster than ever.

But choosing the right one comes with its own set of challenges—and knowing what to look out for can make all the difference for your peace of mind.

By examining these 4 key areas before you select an online vehicle marketplace, you’ll help ensure you get top dollar for your car, save thousands in tax with your trade-in, and avoid risky or stressful situations without lifting a finger. Or—to be exact—without more than just a few taps on your mobile phone.