If you’ve done any research on how to find a great business to buy, you’ve probably discovered that there are dozens of online marketplaces where owners list their businesses for sale. Each platform has their own audience and approach to connecting buyers and sellers.
Which one is right for you?
Of course, there are other ways sellers market their business, besides signing up on an online marketplace. Some sellers hire a business broker directly, market the business through their own word of mouth, or simply spread the word on social media. The success you’ll have finding interesting businesses to buy using these methods depends on your connections and the size of your network.
As you might guess, doing your own prospecting for a good acquisition can be very hit-and-miss. Why look to the online marketplaces? They offer some distinct advantages for business buyers–primarily, access to many businesses that have been listed for sale.
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Why Buy a Business Through an Online Marketplace?
Where asking around your network or checking your social feeds might yield a lead or two on businesses for sale, marketplaces aggregate hundreds of business opportunities. There should be many more businesses to consider here.
We took a look at the most popular online marketplaces for buying a business to identify the strong points and differences between the different marketplaces.
Business Marketplace vs Business Broker
You may be wondering why, as a buyer, you might want to look at opportunities on a business marketplace rather than perhaps connecting with a business broker to help you identify and buy a business.
One consideration may be the size business you’re interested in–brokers don’t represent a lot of under-$500,000 businesses. Businesses listed on marketplaces also tend to be pretty straightforward. Many are franchise resales, or simple digital businesses such as domain names for sale. More complex or larger businesses’ sellers are more likely to retain a traditional broker to help explain their company’s value to buyers.
Reviews of The 10 Best Places to Buy a Business
Which is the best place for you to buy a business online? It depends a bit on the size of the business you want to acquire and the type of business you’re looking for. Each business marketplace has its own approach and many specialize in particular business types.
Because of this, our reviews aren’t a ranked list, as different marketplaces will be the best fit for certain buyers. Some marketplaces charge buyer fees, some don’t–and the fees and benefits often change over time, so it pays to look those up when you’re researching marketplaces you might want to use to buy a business.
Our ten favorite business marketplaces are listed alphabetically. Here’s an overview:
- Businesses for Sale
- Empire Flippers
- Investor’s Club
- Exchange Marketplace
1. Businesses for Sale
If you’re looking to buy a physical business, BusinessesforSale is the site for you. Where most online marketplaces focus on digital businesses, BFS puts its emphasis on brick-and-mortar business. It’s also one of the oldest marketplaces–it began in the mid-’90s as an online bulletin board.
Every imaginable type of physical business is featured here, from farms and bed-and-breakfasts to liquor stores, restaurants, and a range of franchise businesses. It’s got a strong track record with over 61,000 businesses sold over the years. The site also has a strong international flavor, with many businesses in Canada, throughout Asia, and the Middle East, though Florida is actually the most common location, with over 2,600 current listings. Sale prices range from under $100,000 into the millions.
Want to browse for businesses on the biggest-traffic site? That may be BizBuySell, which says it gets 3 million monthly views.
The site claims 65,000 annual listings annually and over 100,000 sales closed in its history (it was founded in 1996). Like Businesses for Sale, BizBuySell emphasizes physical businesses. Most listings are on the low end, with asking prices under $1 million. If you’re looking to jump into business ownership and don’t have millions to invest, this could be a good place to look for opportunities.
3. Empire Flippers
Empire Flippers concentrates entirely on digital business. Since its 2010 founding, it’s been growing fast, making the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in the U.S. the past 5 years running.
Interesting stats here: Empire Flippers boasts closed deals worth $422 million since its founding, with businesses located around the globe. Nearly half that volume is in 72 $1M+ sized businesses that sold for a total of almost $200M. That means there’s plenty of opportunity here in six-figure businesses, too.
It also reports an average sale valuation of just over 3X annual net profit, a healthy ratio. Average days to closing: Just 66. Notably, the site boasts a 75 percent success rate–sky-high in the world of business sales–and provides a range of vetting services.
An interesting wrinkle is that Empire Flippers also offers fractional investing through its EF Capital arm. Through EF, you can buy a percentage of a business as a passive investor, rather than acquiring a business outright.
If you’re looking to buy a digital business, check out Flippa. Founded in 2009, Flippa says it’s helped sell over 300,000 online businesses. Some 360,000 users get their newsletter.
Businesses are valued with Flippa’s proprietary tool. Listed businesses over $2 million in valuation get a VIP team working on their deal. This site also has some of the cheapest digital businesses on offer anywhere online–it’s a great place to look for a side-hustle business you could pick up for under $1000.
With over 16,000 members signed up, IndieMaker is the place to buy SaaS businesses, social-media accounts and starter businesses that could be good side projects. A 2021-founded newcomer to the marketplace space, IndieMaker says it’s hosted nearly 10,000 listings and midwifed close to 6,000 offers, closing transactions worth $7.8 million in all.
As you might guess, there are a lot of tiny-money businesses and social accounts on offer here. There are other side-project marketplace sites out there, but this one seems to have the most traction. Vetting seems to be low–both buyers and sellers join with a free account, so get ready to do your own research on acquisitions that interest you.
6. Investors Club
The big point of difference at Investors Club is exclusivity–their deals are only listed on their platform. (Yes, if you thought that was true everywhere, it mostly isn’t.) Investors Club also promises a lot of no-fee services and support to buyers.
On the downside, exclusivity does mean fewer deals on offer. To rip some current stats, on a recent visit, there were 57 active listings at an average asking price of $88,923. Like many online marketplaces, this doesn’t appear to be a place to find a lot of $1M+ deals. They report an average valuation of 2.67X annual net income on the businesses sold through their platform.
Upstart MicroAcquire, which launched in 2020, says it has over 120,000 buyers on its platform. For sellers, one attraction is the freedom to list their business anonymously, a great strategy for business owners who want to keep it quiet with competitors and employees that they’re thinking about selling. The site claims $500 million in closed acquisitions–a hefty figure given their short tenure in this space so far.
The site also offers premium services to sellers of SaaS businesses with over $1M in revenue. They promise sellers vetted buyers, so get ready to have your investment history and experience as an acquirer verified.
At MotionInvest, the focus is on supporting the sale of profitable websites. A portion of them are sites owned by MotionInvest itself, while others are listed by independent sellers. They even offer help transferring digital assets to the new owner.
One interesting wrinkle here–all the sales are Dutch-auction style. That means the price is lowered every 3 days until the site sells. A buyer with time on their hands could camp on here and watch for deals.
9. Shopify’s Exchange Marketplace
If selling physical products online is your thing, check out ecommerce giant Shopify’s own Exchange Marketplace. From dropshipping businesses to starter stores, every flavor of ecommerce is featured here. A big plus: Because Shopify’s already involved in the business, they also help transition assets over to the new buyer.
Another advantage here–because the exchange is run by Shopify, they have direct access to sellers’ actual data, so there’s no fudging the numbers. And some of those numbers are small, making the Exchange a great place to jump into entrepreneurship with a starter business. On a recent visit, plenty of Shopify shops were being sold for three or four figures. There are some $1M businesses on here, but they’re rare.
Want to buy a YouTube channel, blog, or website? Trustiu only lists these types of businesses. And, as you can tell from their name, they’re about building trust between buyers and sellers.
Trustiu was founded in 2018, and has more of a boutique feel than many of the other marketplaces. On a current visit, 34 properties were actively for sale, with a combined value of about $4.27 million.
Choose the Business Marketplace That’s Right for You
As you can see, business marketplaces tend to be a place where smaller businesses list themselves for sale. Depending on the type of business you want to buy, they can be a good resource if you want to buy a business you could grow into a bigger revenue source.
If you’re looking to buy larger businesses, it’s more likely that you’ll be looking to connect with business brokers. They tend to manage larger business-sale transactions and have connections with buyers and sellers.