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Picking and Buying a Winner on eBay Motors

Here's what you need to do for your eBay vehicle purchase to turn out well

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Picking and Buying a Winner on eBay Motors

Buying a car on eBay isn't simple, but it doesn't have to be risky or difficult. Here's what you need to do as you shop the site and place your bids.

Photo: Kjpargeter / Dreamstime.com

Once you’ve laid a solid foundation in preparing to shop eBay Motors for the vehicle you want, you can begin the process of actually searching eBay and evaluating listings.

By this time you should already:

  • Know what make and model vehicle you want
  • Have some idea about model years
  • Have some idea about price range
  • Know whether you want to buy locally or are willing to work at a distance
  • Know how you’re willing to pay
  • Have a mechanic ready and waiting
  • Understand what’s involved in buying and registering a vehicle in your locality
  • Have a PayPal account to pay a deposit
  • Be ready for a long, tough slog

If this sounds like you, the foundation has been laid. Now it’s time to shop eBay Motors.

Finding and Winning Your Vehicle

Here’s what you need to do in order to find the vehicle you’re looking for on eBay and win the bidding.

  • Use the right search parameters. The front page of eBay Motors enables you to search by make and model while providing your location details and opting to search new vehicles, used vehicles, or both. The search results page enables you to select a radius for your search around your local area, measured in miles. Use these features. You do yourself no favors by including the entire universe of eBay vehicles when you already know the limits of your search.

  • Watch the score. Take the AutoCheck Vehicle History Report Summary seriously. It’s there for a reason. Unless you’re a collector, restorer, or really know what you’re doing, look for AutoCheck scores in the “Within Range” group rather than the “Below Range” group. Know that you’ll probably pay more for vehicles in the “Above Range” group.

  • Inspect the seller, too. Just as is the case with any eBay purchase, the quality of the seller is more important than the listing itself. Look carefully at the seller’s feedback score and understand what it means. Pay attention to detailed seller ratings as well.

  • Check the details. Read listings and descriptions carefully. Note discussions of operating condition, required repairs, existing damage or flaws, and other relevant details. Note the deposit required upon winning, if any (if a deposit is required, it is spelled out in blue text at the top of the listing, in the “Price” section).

  • Inspect the photos carefully. The photos can’t tell you whether or not to buy a vehicle, but they do tell you whether or not you should spend any more time considering one. Look at every photo, and look at it carefully. If you see something that you don’t like, move on. Compare all of the photos across all of the vehicles you’re looking at to get an idea of relative and typical conditions on eBay.

  • Evaluate the price. Use one of the standard “blue book” values for the vehicle, if applicable, to evaluate the listing’s value. Compare the price against similar vehicles in your area and on eBay. Make sure that the price is either in line for the make, model, year, and condition you’re targeting, and that the price is appropriate to the specific vehicle in question.

  • Evaluate the terms. Know exactly what the seller is offering and exactly what the seller isn’t offering. What parts of the sale will you be responsible for? What kinds of forms and legwork are you required to supply? Is there a warranty? What are its terms? Are these terms acceptable to you?

  • Ask for clarifications. You should have some serious questions about any vehicle you’re considering buying on eBay. Ask them of the seller and expect a response. Request that the seller take specific pictures of the vehicle (specific areas of the vehicle, specific angles, specific lighting conditions, etc.) and supply them to you.

  • Do your legwork. If everything else checks out, now is the time to do the serious “vehicle buying legwork” that will tell you whether or not you really want to bid. If you’re local to the vehicle, arrange for a personal inspection and/or a visit to or from your own mechanic. Take your camera with you and get pictures to help you to decide later on and compare against other vehicles you’re considering. If the vehicle is far away, get on the line to the mechanic or other expert you’ve found that is local to the vehicle and arrange to pay them to make a visit to the vehicle and inspect it.

  • Make preliminary arrangements for purchase transport. Have the all-important discussion with your seller about how and when you’ll transfer ownership and collect the vehicle if you decide to buy. If you’re local, talk about dates, times, locations, and who’s responsible for what aspects of the sale, as well as how payment is to be carried out and where their responsibilities end. If you’re remote, come to an agreement about how the transaction is to be carried out, and by whom. Thoroughly investigate any third party company that the seller uses to handle this process, including calls to the Better Business Bureau of the locality or equivalent. If you’re handling transport yourself, find out about costs for this particular vehicle from a group like DAS or Showroom Transport.

  • Go down the “red flags” checklist. Make sure that the listing doesn’t throw up any obvious red flags that should cause it to be crossed off your list. If you find a red flag, move on, no matter what else you’ve found or think about the listing. Again, if you find a red flag, move on.

  • Bid, buy, or offer. Once everything else in the process checks out, it’s time to bid, buy, or offer, depending on the format of the listing. If the “Make Offer” button is present and you’ve developed a good rapport with the seller, it can often be to your advantage to make a well-considered offer before doing anything else. If the listing is an auction, know what you’re willing to bid, place that bid once using the proxy system and wait. Don’t let yourself get caught up in a bidding war over an eBay auction unless you’re a collector/restorer and you’ve done your homework very carefully.

  • Make your deposit—or don’t. Once you’ve won a listing, go over everything else again just to double-check your work. Sit down, have a cup of coffee, and reflect on your decision to ensure that this is a purchase that you want to complete. Remember that Motors listings are non-binding, meaning that you can change your mind once everything is said and done without having to do anything else, even after you’ve won a listing. If all systems are go and you feel good about your purchase when all is said and done, pay any deposit that is required and move ahead with completing your transaction.

Even with all of these steps carefully attended to, it’s still possible to end up feeling cheated if you ended up, despite everything, with a bad seller or a bad vehicle.

If this is you, don’t begin by panicking or by turning around and selling the vehicle on eBay again to an unsuspecting buyer. Instead, contact eBay and take advantage of the eBay Motors purchase protection program. If that doesn’t pan out, then consider moving on to other options.

In all likelihood, however, if you’ve followed the steps outlined above, you’ll probably end up scoring the vehicle that you want at the price you want on eBay Motors.

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