Shift Review: What’s the Deal With Digital Car Buying?
I am a serial entrepreneur and a consumer advocate. When I’m not helping car buyers, I love working on ventures that have a positive impact.
You’re no longer stuck with in-person car deals. Now, companies like Shift are making digital car buying and selling commonplace.
Shift promises easy, haggle-free car buying. But our expert editors know you have two major questions about Shift: "Is it really that easy?" and "Can I trust Shift?"
In this review, we'll answer those questions and more as we take a deeper look into how Shift works and if it’s worth it.
Table of Contents
- What is Shift?
- How Does Shift Work?
- How Do You Buy a Car Through Shift?
- How Do You Sell a Car Through Shift?
- How Do You Trade-in a Car Through Shift?
- Can You Negotiate with Shift?
- How Does Shift Make Money?
- Shift Fees – What’s the Catch?
- What is Shift’s Return Policy?
- Does Shift Offer Financing?
- What Documents Does Shift Need?
- Will Shift Accept My Car If I Have a Loan or Lease?
- Shift Review – The Good & Bad
- Alternatives to Shift
- Best Car Deals by Category
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is Shift?
Shift is a digitally-driven company that offers car buying and selling experiences. The company is based in San Francisco and buys and sells cars directly to consumers.
Is Shift Legit?
Shift is a legitimate company. They have over 75,000 customers. They’ve earned a 4.5-star rating on Facebook reviews, 3.6 stars on Trustpilot, and 3.8 stars on Cars.com. While they are a legitimate company, they are not BBB accredited.
How Does Shift Work?
Shift Inspection Process
Shift inspects all vehicles that it sells and reviews the vehicle's service records, history reports, and ownership info.
They use a “rigorous 150+ point” inspection. If they find any necessary repairs during the inspection, they repair or replace the part. The 150+ point inspection looks at the engine, transmission, electrical components, suspensions, cooling, and brakes. All vehicles must pass this inspection.
Shift Test Drives
Shift offers free test drives for many vehicles on their site. You can schedule the drive at your home or the nearest Shift location. The Shift Concierge works with you throughout the test drive to answer any questions and discuss financing. You can purchase the vehicle immediately after the test drive with the help of the Concierge.
How Do You Buy a Car Through Shift?
Shift aims to create a “fun, fair, accessible” car-buying process. On their site, you can shop for cars and book test drives. Those who want to can complete a car purchase within one day. Here’s the process of buying a car through Shift:
- Browse Shift inventory. Use filters to search for vehicle types and other preferences.
- Book a Test Drive. This can be done at your home or nearest Shift location.
- If you choose the test drive, you will meet with a Shift Concierge. You can drive the vehicle, ask questions, and learn more about financing options.
- If you’d like to buy the car on the spot after the test drive, the Concierge will help with the paperwork and leave the vehicle with you upon purchase.
- Place Deposit. The test drive is optional, and you can also place an online deposit for the vehicle and schedule delivery.
- If you opt for this option, the Purchase Advisor will work with you to handle financing, purchase completion, and delivery.
Shift Certified vs. Shift Value
Shift sells two categories of vehicles, Certified and Value. The Value vehicles may have more miles and signs of wear. However, they still passed the full Shift 150+ inspection and bolstered excellent mechanical condition. These vehicles are labeled as “Value” because of their affordability. They are also sold “as-is.”
On the other hand, Certified vehicles are in excellent mechanical and cosmetic condition. They also come with a 30-day powertrain warranty. They are more expensive than the Value vehicles.
How Do You Sell a Car Through Shift?
Selling your car on Shift is fairly easy. You will need the vehicle title, registration, and a legal form of ID. Here’s the basic process:
- Provide Vehicle Info. Provide your vehicle information (year, make, model, license plate/ VIN).
- Provide Vehicle History. Answer questions about your vehicle history.
- Receive Estimate. Receive an estimate fast, often within 2 minutes.
- Schedule Evaluation. Choose to book your evaluation appointment or save the estimate for later.
- Appraisal. At the evaluation appointment, a Shift Concierge will evaluate the vehicle. You can have the appointment at home or a Shift location. The Concierge evaluates the condition of the vehicle and compares it to the information you provided.
- Final Offer. Following the inspection, you receive a final offer valid for 7 days.
- Paperwork and Payment. If you sell the vehicle at the appointment, the Shift Concierge will handle the paperwork and leave with your car. You’ll then receive an ACH transfer or physical check. Payments are processed within 24 hours but may take 3-7 business days to appear in your account.
Looking for an alternative or a competitive qoute? Check out Carvana
How Do You Trade-in a Car Through Shift?
Shift also accepts trade-ins. Here’s a run-down of the trade-in process:
- Browse. Find a car you want to purchase on Shift.
- Start Trade-In. Indicate your plan to trade-in a vehicle.
- Receive Estimate. Work with a Shift Advisor to acquire an online estimate for your trade-in vehicle.
- Evaluation. Schedule one appointment with Shift to evaluate your current car and test drive the car you are looking to buy.
- Provide Documents. Bring all the documents to sell the vehicle, your driver’s license, and your payment method to pay for the new vehicle.
- Receive Final Offer. After the inspection, you’ll receive a final offer on the spot. You can then opt to take that offer and apply the value to the new vehicle.
How Does Shift Calculate Trade-in Value?
To determine the estimate for the trade-in value of your vehicle, Shift assess many data points. They evaluate the mileage, condition, demand, features, location, and more to come up with an estimate.
Can You Negotiate with Shift?
Shift prices are not negotiable. They do not accept negotiations from buyers or sellers. Shift claims that they carefully consider all parameters before determining a price and that their prices are already below the average dealership prices. You can accept or decline Shift’s price when buying, selling, or trading-in, but you cannot negotiate.
How Does Shift Make Money?
In part, Shift makes money through service fees. Those who sell to Shift must pay a flat service fee. However, Sift claims that the fee is a better deal than most dealership fees.
Much like any other service selling used cars, Shift also builds a profit margin into their pricing. After buying and reconditioning a car, Shift will sell it for more than it purchased the vehicle for. This is a normal way to make money selling used cars, and Shift makes approximately a 15-20% profit margin on selling cars.
Shift Fees – What’s the Catch?
As mentioned above, fees are one way Shift makes money. Here’s a breakdown of Shift fees:
- Service Fee: Shift charges a service fee to offset operating costs, like the Concierge service. They do not disclose the exact cost of the service fee on their website.
- Delivery Fee: Shift also charges a delivery fee for most purchases. The delivery fee varies and will be displayed on your vehicle detail page.
- Shift Deposit Fee: Car buyers can place a deposit on vehicles they schedule a test drive for. The $250 deposit is non-refundable but will go toward the price of the vehicle if you move forward with the purchase. The deposit holds the car for 72 hours.
- Payment Options: Shift offers many different payment options, including financing through Shift, ACH bank transfer, or third-party financing.
Does Shift's Price Include Tax & Title?
Because tax and title fees can vary by state, Shift will not include the tax and the title in the final price.
Therefore, it is a good idea to know the state sales tax and the title fees that are applicable in the state where you will be registering the vehicle.
Does Shift Have Hidden Fees?
Unlike conventional dealerships, you will not find “hidden fees” when you use Shift. The company does charge a service fee to handle the sale.
On top of that, you may have to pay a delivery fee if the vehicle that you purchase is not in your immediate area. Shift’s delivery fees are competitive with other online car buying services.
Does Shift Change Their Offer?
Shift will usually not change the offer that they make on your vehicle. You only have a certain amount of time to accept the offer. If you do not accept the offer within the set time limit, then the offer will not be honored.
Additionally, Shift states that they may adjust the estimate if the vehicle that you are selling is less common and their internal algorithm updates a new price.
Shift Warranty & Protection Packages
Shift offers warranty and protection plan options.
Shift Certified vehicles come with a 30-day powertrain warranty. However, Value vehicles do not include a free warranty
For extended protection beyond the 30-day powertrain warranty, you can purchase a Protection Plan. The Protection Plan covers the cost of roadside assistance, towing, repairs, and rental cars and can be used by certified mechanics.
The protection plan offers coverage for more than the powertrain. It includes transmission, engine, electrical, cooling, drive axle, air conditioning, power steering, suspension, key lockout, towing, emergency fuel, and more.
Shift does not disclose the cost of the Protection Plan.
Shift also offers GAP insurance to fill the “gap” between what insurance pays and what you will owe in the event of an accident or auto theft. The GAP coverage ensures you will not have to pay more than the vehicle is worth. It can supplement existing car insurance up to $50,000. Shift does not disclose the cost of GAP insurance.
Are They Worth It?
Additional warranty and GAP insurance from Shift may be worth it. However, you should gather quotes from other warranty and GAP insurance providers to determine which is best for you.
What is Shift’s Return Policy?
Shift offers a free 7-day return policy. You can change your mind or return the vehicle for any reason within 7 days or 200 miles, whichever is first. However, you will not receive money back on the shipping cost of the original purchase.
Does Shift Offer Financing?
Yes, Shift offers financing options. They connect buyers with a network of trusted lenders. Shift recommends getting pre-qualified for financing to ensure a smooth process. On their helpful financing page, you can apply for prequalification. Then, you can shop for cars within your budget and finally finance the one you choose.
You will need to submit your credit score, monthly income, loan amount, down payment amount to see financing options.
What Documents Does Shift Need?
If you're looking to buy a vehicle, then you will need to provide a government ID before you can purchase a vehicle. If you're looking to finance your vehicle with Shift, then you will need to provide proof of income along with your government ID.
If you're looking to sell your vehicle to Shift, then you will need your government ID along with your vehicle registration and either the title for the vehicle or information about the loan. Also, you will have to provide a photo of the odometer reading.
How Long Does It Take Shift to Verify Documents?
After you have submitted documents to Shift, the company will usually take about 24 to 48 hours before they will be able to verify all the information.
Will Shift Accept My Car If I Have a Loan or Lease?
Unlike some other online car buying and selling platforms, Shift is willing to work with customers who have a loan or lease on their current vehicle. The criteria include:
- Those with loans must provide the 10-day payoff statement
- Those with leases must supply a copy of their lease-buyout packet.
- The Shift Advisor will work with you in the event of a preexisting loan, lease, or negative equity.
- Shift cannot work with those in the Nevada market who have loans and leases.
Does Shift Buy Cars That Are Not Paid Off?
Shift will buy cars that are not paid off. However, if your vehicle is “underwater” or if you owe more money than the vehicle is worth, then a Shift advisor can help discuss any available options.
However, you may not be able to sell your vehicle if you own more money than it is worth.
Shift Review – The Good & Bad
Pros: Here’s What I Like About Shift
- Quality. Detailed inspection to ensure vehicle quality.
- Pricing. Offers fair prices for used cars.
- Nationwide. Expand your car search nationwide for a better chance of finding what you are looking for.
- Free Inspection. Provides a free vehicle inspection.
- Fixed Cost. Haggle-free prices, you know the price.
- Delivery. Offer vehicle delivery.
- Options. Offers Value and Certified options to appeal to many buyers.
- Financing. Provides financing options.
- Warranty. Sell additional warranties and coverage.
- Return Policy. 7-day, 200-mile return policy.
Cons: Here’s What I Don’t Like About Shift
- Customer Service. Complaints about quality of customer service.
- Vehicle Issues. Some buyers still complain of undisclosed damage or vehicle issues.
- Lengthy Process. Paperwork/processing may take longer than Shift promises.
- Problems After Return Period. Many issues may not arise until after the 7-day return period.
- Fees. Non-refundable shipping cost.
- Non-Negotiable. With haggle-free pricing, customers can't try to get a better price.
Alternatives to Shift
- Carvana: Much like Shift, Carvana is a haggle-free car-buying and selling service and financing. However, they are only available online. Read more about Carvana in our detailed review.
- Vroom: Buy, sell, or trade vehicles on Vroom’s online platform. They offer vehicles under 3 years old with clean titles. Read more about Vroom here.
- CarMax: Shop for (or sell) certified used vehicles with Carmax. Carmax offers curbside pickup or delivery. Read our Carmax review here.
- CarsDirect: CarsDirect is another online platform for buying and financing used or new cars. Learn more about CarsDirect in this helpful article.
- WeBuyAnyCar. They provide a fast, convenient process for selling a car from the comfort of your home. Check out our detailed review of WeBuyAnyCar.
- Peddle: Peddle gives sellers an instant offer for their vehicles. They claim to provide a simple, modern way to sell your car online. Read our full review of Peddle.
- Rental Car Companies: Another great option for well-maintained, affordable vehicles is rental car companies. Which one should you buy from? Read our comparison of Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise.
- Costco Auto Program: Costco sells more than groceries. You may be able to get a great affordable vehicle from the Costco Auto Program. Learn more about the Costco Auto Program here.
- Autotrader. Autotrader seeks to improve the car market by providing tools for retailers, manufacturers, and consumers. Read our full review of Autotrader.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Shift offer incentives or deals?
Shift does not usually offer incentives or deals when buying or selling cars. However, they offer a referral bonus. When you buy or sell a car with Shift and refer someone else who does the same, both will earn a $100 gift card.
Does Shift check your credit score?
Shift will check your credit score if you apply for financing through Shift. Shift states that they serve customers with a wide array of credit profiles, including those with poor credit.
Does Shift cost any money to use?
To buy or sell from Shift, you must pay a number of fees, including a service fee, delivery fee, etc.
Does Shift own the cars they sell?
Shift owns all of the cars they sell. They purchase vehicles from customers, and they recondition them as necessary.
Should I sell my car through Shift?
To assess whether or not you should sell your car through Shift, gather quotes from several sources. If Shift offers the best deal, then it makes sense to sell your car through Shift.
Does Shift deliver cars?
Yes, Shift delivers cars for a delivery fee. If you do not want to pay the delivery fee and live near a Shift location, you can pick up your vehicle.
Does Shift handle the vehicle title and registration process?
Yes, Shift works with buyers to handle title and registration. Shift will help you gather the necessary documents before purchase, and the Purchase Advisor will take you through the process. They will register the vehicle after the 7-day return window.
How much does Shift charge for delivery?
Shift’s delivery fee will depend on how far the vehicle will have to be transported to your location. Typically, the delivery fee can range from $190 up to $500. However, if the vehicle is located locally, then you may not have to pay the delivery fee.
How long does it take for Shift to pay you?
Once you have agreed to the offer and you have handed over the keys to Shift, you will receive payment in three to seven business days via ACH. That means that the funds will be deposited into your bank account.
How long does Shift take to pay off your loan?
In just about all cases, Shift will be able to pay off your loan in about 10 days. Be aware that if you have a vehicle payment that falls within that 10-day time frame, then you will be responsible for that payment.
How long does Shift take to pick up your car?
If you agree to sell your car to Shift, then they will be able to pick up your vehicle within one business day.