Should I Buy a Car From Shift?

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Shift offers haggle-free online shopping for used cars and a 7-day money back guarantee.

These days, we can shop around and buy almost anything online. Whether you’re looking for a couch, groceries, or even a new car, your next purchase can be just a few clicks away.

If you’re looking to buy a vehicle, Shift is one website that might be worth considering during your search. Here’s a look at what this platform offers and how the Shift buying experience differs from shopping at your local car dealer and other online retailers like Carmax, Vroom, or Carvana.

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What Is Shift?

Founded in 2014, Shift is an online concierge platform for peer-to-peer consumers to buy or sell their used cars. It aims to help drivers simplify the experience of trading in their vehicle or buying something else by offering an easy online platform, free test drives, and a streamlined registration process.

With Shift, there is no need to ever visit a dealership, negotiate with a salesperson, or even leave your home. That’s because the whole process is web-based, from the start of shopping to scheduling a car delivery or a test drive.

Vehicles sold through Shift are put through a 150-point inspection and, if necessary, reconditioned before being put up for sale. The Shift Certified process also includes photos and a straightforward report of the vehicle, so car buyers know exactly what they’re getting into before they even click.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Car From Shift


  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Green renewable energy sources are more sustainable
  • Often a smoother driving experience
  • Reduced noise pollution
  • Tax credits, rebates, and other incentives available


  • Long driving range makes it practical for long-haul road trips
  • Lower initial purchase cost
  • Filling up at the gas station is quick and efficient
  • Gas-powered vehicles generally have higher top speed than EVs

How does buying a car from Shift work?

Buying a car through Shift is designed to be a simple process, and one that buyers can do on their own time, day or night.

Potential car buyers can browse Shift’s inventory online. There, they can see all of the details of each vehicle they’re considering, including car price, car history, detailed photos, expected monthly payment amount, inspection reports, and more. If they find a car they like, they are able to reserve it with a $250 non-refundable and non-transferable deposit.

After a vehicle is reserved through Shift, shipping is arranged to the individual’s home, work, or other place of interest for a test drive and in-person inspection. Once the car arrives, buyers can complete the final purchase process on the spot in about an hour or less, assuming they love the car as much as they thought they would.

Shift takes care of all the hassle, including paperwork such as DMV forms and registration. They can even help with financing if necessary, working with your own lender or connecting you with one of the lenders in their trusted network.

Can you negotiate on Shift?

Shift offers competitive pricing on all of their for-sale vehicles. By tracking millions of different data points — including vehicle features, market trends, and location-based pricing — they are able to offer a fair price upfront.

For this reason, there is no negotiating when buying a car from Shift. This allows buyers to walk into the transaction knowing that they got the lowest possible price on their car, without the back-and-forth haggling process that so often accompanies car-buying.

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Do Shift cars have a warranty?

All Shift certified vehicles come with an included 30-day powertrain warranty*. If you discover that your vehicle has a mechanical issue after it arrives, this warranty may step in to cover the cost of repairs or a necessary replacement.

Depending on the vehicle’s age and mileage, it may also come with a manufacturer’s warranty remaining. When browsing vehicles on Shift, you’ll be able to see if there is still a warranty on the car and how long until it expires.

Does Shift have hidden fees?

Any time you go to buy a vehicle — car, truck, or other — there are certain fees and taxes required. These might include local sales taxes, registration fees, and DMV documentation fees. In addition to these common fees, though, there are some Shift-specific costs to also note.

While test drives through Shift are free, there are delivery fees associated with bringing most purchased vehicles to you. These fees depend on your location and how far the car will need to travel to you.

There is also a Shift Service Fee of $1,250. According to Shift, this fee helps to offset many of the operating expenses and costs involved with Shift’s concierge-style, online car-buying service, which (ideally) saves buyers time, money, and hassle throughout the process.

What is Shift’s return policy?

After buying a car from Shift, you’ll have up to seven days or 200 miles (whichever comes first) to decide if you actually love and want to keep it. If you change your mind, you can return the vehicle to Shift… no penalties and no questions asked.

With that said, delivery fees from the vehicle’s original purchase are not refundable. Depending on where you are located, though, Shift may be able to pick the vehicle up, saving you the additional cost (and headache) of shipping it back.

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How Car Buying on Shift Compares

So, how does buying a car on compare to other car-buying options? Here’s a brief rundown.

Shift vs. a traditional car dealership

Most of us have purchased vehicles in a more traditional way, such as by visiting a local dealership. The Shift purchase model offers a very different experience; for some buyers, this may be preferred. For others, however, buying a car online may feel challenging.

When buying through Shift, you can shop their entire online inventory, no matter where you are in the country. If you find a vehicle you like, you can browse the CARFAX Vehicle History Report, see the results of its 150-point inspection, and view HD photos of the entire vehicle (especially any defects). When buying from a used car dealership, you’re limited to the cars in their inventory, which can sometimes just include a single lot. While they may preview available vehicles online, photos and inspection reports are typically limited.

Buying from a dealer means that you can go test drive the car any time without any obligation, and can take your new purchase home that same day. If you decide to buy, though, you’ll generally need to haggle and go through the arduous buying process with a sales associate. While buying from Shift means that you need to put down a $250 (non-refundable and non-transferrable) deposit, they’ll bring the test drive to you in just a few business days. If you love it, you can buy the car on the spot at the no-haggle price. If you don’t, just send it back.

Shift Certified cars go through a comprehensive inspection and reconditioning process. They are covered by a 30-day powertrain warranty, and returns are allowed for any reason within seven days… no questions asked. Inspections and reconditioning through local dealerships can vary widely, and the cars don’t always come with any sort of warranty or guarantee beyond that state’s lemon laws. There usually isn’t a return policy, either, so if you decide you just don’t like the car after a few days, unfortunately you’re stuck with it.

Financing options through Shift or a local dealership are similar. Both have partner lenders that they can connect you to, though dealerships may also offer in-house financing. Both will also work with your own private lender, if you come to the table with one.

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Shift vs. other third-party sites

It’s easy to see how different buying through Shift is compared to buying in-person at a dealership. But how does the Shift buying experience compare to buying through another online third-party platform, such as Carvana?

The biggest difference between the two will be the inventory of available cars. Since you can buy any vehicle available in either network — regardless of location — you have a wide range of cars to choose from. However, since both of these platforms rely on peer-to-peer transactions to fill their inventories, you may not be able to find exactly what you want when you want it.

Each platform has its own policies regarding holds, deposits, and test drives, as well. For example, Shift requires a $250 non-refundable, non-transferable deposit in order to place a hold on a vehicle and schedule a test drive or delivery. Carvana may charge a $100 hold fee for a vehicle, but this is refundable if you don’t follow through with the test drive or change your mind on the vehicle.

Both companies have a no-haggle sales price listed, and each conducts 150-point inspections on their vehicles. Each offers a 7-day money back guarantee, as well. Shift has a 200-mile limit on this guarantee; with Carvana, the limit extends to 400 miles, or an additional charge of $1.00 per extra mile. Both companies also warranty their certified vehicles: with Shift, this is 30-day powertrain coverage* and with Carvana, it’s 100 days or up to 4,189 miles. More coverage is also available from Carvana at an additional cost.

Is Shift a Good Place To Buy a Car?

So, is it worth it to buy a used car from Shift? Well, that really depends on what you want most from the used car buying experience.

If you want to browse a nationwide selection of cars from the comfort of home, avoid the hassle and headache of haggling, and prefer to have your car delivered to you, Shift might be the answer. While Shift can’t offer many of the perks of a local dealership — such as same-day transactions and test drives, in-house financing, or the ability to negotiate — the benefits could make up for all of that for many buyers.

*Shift Value cars are sold as-is and do not include a 30-day powertrain warranty, though they do still go through the rigorous 150-point inspection process.

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About The Author

Stephanie Colestock

Stephanie Colestock is a DC-based personal finance writer with an expert focus on credit and lending. With over ten years of industry experience, she is a regular contributor on sites such as Credit Karma, The Balance, Quicken Loans, Dough Roller, Finance Buzz, and more. She enjoys teaching people how to optimize their finances and save themselves money in the process.

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