Buying Cars On eBay: What You Need To Know

August 31, 2010

More people are buying cars on eBay every day, looking for that perfect car at a bargain price. Although many people are wary of buying a car they've never seen before, there are millions who bid on cars every day. In fact, car sales are eBay's single biggest source of revenue, with billions of dollars changing hands each year. If you're interested in buying a car on eBay, there are a few things you should know in order to protect yourself.                           

1. Do your homework. Buying a car on eBay requires a bit of a leap of faith, but if you research the vehicle properly, you can be confident you have all the information you need. Email the seller any questions you have and ask for proof of inspection and a copy of the title. Also check out the car's history through eBay's Autocheck system or log onto CarFax, where you can get a complete auto history for less than $30. 

2. Check out the seller's history. eBay reviews all sellers and allows customer feedback. If the seller of the car you're interested in has a history, you can get a reliable idea of their trustworthiness. Don't forget to read the comments left by other buyers!

3. Know what a fair price is for the car. If you've spotted that perfect SUV on sale with no rust and a clear accident report, you may be tempted to bid whatever it takes to get it, particularly if you're sucked into a bidding war with someone who wants it as much as you do. Don't do it. Research fair market value before bidding and decide on a price you're willing to pay, then stick with it. Two good sources of information on automobile values include Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book

4. Be sure to factor in the cost of pick-up or delivery. If you live in Nebraska and you're purchasing a car in Florida, you'll need to either pick up the car or have it delivered. Delivery is often the best option; taking time off work to drive across country can cost a lot, particularly after you buy a one-way plane ticket to get to the car's location. Price auto transport services and take this into account when deciding how much you're willing to pay for the vehicle.

5. Use eBay's Vehicle Protection Plan. This protects you against loss from a variety of possible problems, including undisclosed damages to the car, fraudulent sales, mileage discrepancies and problems you have receiving the car after payment has been made.

6. Look for no reserve auctions. These are cars that don't have a reserve price that has to be met before the car can be sold. You'll generally get a better price on a car with no reserves, particularly if bidding is slow and the car appeals to a specific type of buyer.

7. Look for the seller's cancellation policy. The top sellers will usually give you the opportunity to cancel the sale after you've seen the car or had it inspected. If the auction says the car is being purchased "as is," or specifies the sale is final once your bid is accepted, it's best to walk away. The seller may be hiding something. 

8. Take advantage of eBay's certified pre-owned vehicles. These cars have been inspected at a local auto dealership and usually come with a warranty. They will have been checked for any mechanical problems, hidden damage or mileage discrepancies.

9. Once you win the bid on the car of your dreams, be sure to pay either through financing, PayPal, or in cash on delivery. Western Union or other instant payment options should be avoided. 

Armed with these tips, you should be able to find and buy a car on eBay with confidence. When that auto transport pulls up a few days later and unloads the car of your dreams, you'll be glad you took advantage of one of the best ways there is to buy a used car at a reasonable price. 

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