Buying a car from Ebay

minigreenhouseJanuary 16, 2007

Have anyone had an experience with buying a car on Ebay? What are the pros and cons?

Any input would be greatly appreciated.

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I haven't done it myself, but I know a few people who have.

Pros: Can find some rarer models/engines/colors/etc. because you're shopping a national market; most eBayers I've dealt with will help you with any problems you encounter because a lot of negative feedback will hurt future sales.

Cons: You can't kick the tires until you get to wherever the car is (it could be thousands of miles away and you may have to pull the plug on the deal once you get there and walk away empty-handed); you're relying on pictures and a description provided by the seller -- which can make it easy to gloss over some things which are more serious than they appear; factor in the cost of getting to wherever the vehicle is being sold or paying for shipping; bidding mania can up the price of a specific vehicle far higher than you'd see on a dealer's lot or someone's driveway.

I don't think I'd go the eBay route unless you were looking for a rare model that just hasn't been available in your area lately. It doesn't make much sense to buy a common vehicle that way.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 3:47PM
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My daughter bought a used Saturn on E-Bay and so far is very happy with it. She bought it sight unseen. The price included delivery from another state. The funny part was when the 2 Russian, non-English speaking drivers arrived at the wrong farm at 2 am in the morning. It was eventually straightened out but there were a couple of really startled farmers there for a while. The State Patrol checked out the car. It wasn't stolen. Everything matched up and they issued a new license for it.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 4:11PM
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I agree with the advice that it's not a site to go to for a car that's readily available elsewhere. Although it doesn't happen ofter, I have read a couple of news stories in the past about people being scammed on eBay when buying things like cars, boats, or motorcycles. I want my mechanic to inspect any car I buy used.

Also, remember that there are a lot of flood-damaged cars from Hurricane Katrina that have been bought cheap, shipped around the country, and foisted on unsuspecting buyers.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 7:19PM
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We bought a pickup truck via eBay from an individual seller. A hefty purchase, and a successful one.

There are wrong ways to buy a vehicle on eBay, and right ways.

We did not buy sight unseen. We restricted our eBay search to the area around us, within 200 miles, and we contacted the seller during the auction to arrange a visit. We met up with him and did a test drive and kicked the tires.

Second, we did our due diligence. We did a Carfax report, plus we checked values on Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book. We read on the Internet about the particular model, reviews and such.

We were looking for a diesel late model pickup truck, which means 250/2500 class or better. We had checked the nearest Carmaxes, we checked the local papers for several weeks, craigslist, plus local ad papers, in addition to eBay. For the individual person wanting to sell his or her vehicle, eBay is a way to tell people about it, and provide many details and pictures in the process. In this sense, it's better than newspaper ads.

FYI, we had checked out another truck on eBay being offered by what amounted to an eBay-only car lot, and did not like the situation at all. The vehicle was not up to snuff and was being worked on/detailed as we were driving 3+ hours to see it - on appointment. We didn't get to see the vehicle till hours after our appointment was supposed to be, and it was not in as good a shape as the eBay pix and text had indicated.

Limit your search to your local area, check out the car in person, check out the seller's feedback, and do Carfax and value reports. And don't be in a rush.

Also, we turned over the money (cashier's check) and collected the signed-over title in person after checking the local authorities about what was needed to effect a transfer of ownership.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 2:28AM
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likesdoilies makes some excellent points. A couple, however, I would amend:

For the individual person wanting to sell his or her vehicle, eBay is a way to tell people about it, and provide many details and pictures in the process. In this sense, it's better than newspaper ads.

This is true, but there are more and more venues out there for providing eBay-like ads filled with pictures and descriptions without the auction -- sites like and eBay is no longer the only game in town for such ads.

And don't be in a rush.

Yes, but auctions have limited timeframes, so when you see a vehicle that interests you, you will not have unlimited amounts of time to arrange (sometimes longer-distance) for inspections and travel. Don't jump on the first likely candidate you see, but be prepared to move on something that looks like a very good deal.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 8:51AM
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A co-worker of mine keeps buying cars on ebay and keeps winding up w/ lemons. I don't know what they're doing--price range, etc.--but they always wind up w/ rust and other problems. They've been thru several cars in the last year or 2.

For myself, I've had it w/ used cars--the time when all 3 of our cars (for 2 people) were in the shop at once convinced me that new is the only way to go. I've actually saved money.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 12:50PM
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A co-worker just successfuly bought a specialty truck--as advised above, it was within driving distance & they checked out everthing they could.. Another coworker bought a car that in fact did not exist---she lost $5000.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 3:06PM
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If you know how to go about it, you can get some good non-new cars - ones that'll give you good service for a substantial period without a large investment.

Need to know some good mechanics, willing to check some candidates for you.

And not be in a hurry.

When I ask new car sales staff whether they can get me 100,000 mi. for about $5,000. - they just laugh.

Some snort, with it.

And most walk away.

Try it - you'll like it.

But learn the rules of the game, first.

Often folks who jump into a pool unprepared are in for some (unpleasant) surprises.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 8:47PM
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'Know some good mechanics'--there's the rub.

Better yet, be a mechanic oneself. We sold our '88 suburban--which we had put 2, count 'em 2, transmissions in in a little over a year--to a guy who owned a car repair shop. He was quite tickled to get it. That vehicle was nothing but a money pit for us.

After that experience, and since low-mileage cars are only a couple thousand bucks less than new cars w/ full warranties, and used cars that are a lot less money than new are really old and decrepit, we decided to go new. Haven't had any major repair bills--except for when some $#%^%^ scraped up the car in the parking lot. Yes, we've had depreciation, but we've also owned the cars free and clear for a while now, and still have way less than 100k on each. Barring a disaster, we can avoid needing a new car for a couple more years.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 12:49PM
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I bought a car on Ebay. Sort of.

I wanted a used Honda for less than $4k, and found one on Ebay. It was close to my home, only 6 miles away. I emailed the seller, took it for a test drive, and phoned him with an offer the next day. He accepted and withdrew the car from Ebay. It turned out to be a good purchase, I put 40,000 more miles on it and traded it in for $2500.

So in my case, Ebay basically performed the function of a classified ad. I didn't place a bid or pay through Ebay.

The seller said he'd gotten lots of emails about the car, but I was the only one who actually showed up to drive it.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 1:46PM
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I dont think you should do it. You could end up with a big lemon. I have heard horror stories of this. If you ever buy a used car, take it to a licensed Master Mechanic BEFORE you buy it and have a prepurchase inspection done on it. This would cost $80-$125 and could save you from making a big mistake or even help you renegotiate your buying price. I am a licensed Master Mechanic and cant believe consumers buy cars and then bring them to be to get inspected. Most of the cars I see are over priced and need of repair or just have not had regular maintenace done in the past which means the vehicles life span has been severly reduced.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2007 at 12:34PM
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I wouldn't depend solely on a Carfax report. I bought a car that had been in two accidents and afterwards ran a carfax report on it and it came back clean. It also had a registration problem where the previous owner hadn't paid the back registration on it and I had to pay it before I could register it. Carfax only shows accidents that were reported to insurance companies. If someone repaired the car at their own expense an accident wouldn't show up.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 10:54PM
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Raee your co-worked that lost $5000 should really contact eBay Motors. Did you know that eBay insures automotive purchases for this and many other reasons up to $25,000?
We have been lucky since our first purchase in 2001, my Sister
just picked up a 2003 Honda CR-V from Ft. Myers and it is mint! The dealer shipped it up North, guaranteed it's condition, and it was $3600 less than book price.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 7:37AM
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We've bought 2 and sold 1 car on Ebay.
The first Ebay car had passed one the seller's state inspection, but failed our state's more stringent one. We put it back up on Ebay with a detailed list of all the work it needed and ended up selling it to a shadetree mechanic in the original seller's state for a little more than we had paid.
The 2nd car was a early 70's Mercedes coupe (which is just the type of car you should buy on Ebay). The seller was less than 10 miles away, but we would have never known about the car without Ebay. We saw and drove it first and then won the auction.
Whay we've learned-
The thing about Ebay now it that new car dealers are also putting their used inventory there. I would only buy from an individual selling their own car or from a new car dealership. Avoid the "dealers" who just go to wholesale auctions, clean the cars up a little, and resell them. There are tons of them in FL and TX.

Bidding can be misleading. Early on we noticed shill bidding (where the seller has agents act on their behalf to drive up the bidding) on a few sellers auctions. We turned them in, BTW and they were booted, but it's easy to get a new ID and re register.
Buy the car on Ebay, even if you see it in person. That way you get a little bit of buyer's protection, as well as, the opportunity to leave feedback.
Verify the title is completely clear. I would avoid buying a car from an individual who still owes money on it. It's a hassle and prone to disaster. Seller needs to have the tiltle in hand at the time of purchase.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 10:25AM
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Am a court show addict and have seen too many e-bay cars featured. with no way to get your money back as you buy "as is". Don't ever buy a car that you can't have a mechanic you know to inspect it.
The person that payed $5000 and did'nt get a car sounds like they have a good small claims court case.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 9:16PM
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blue fastback, pre purchase inspections aren't always helpful.

I bought a used Jeep (Grand Wagoneer with 28,000 miles) from a Lexus dealership about fifteen years ago. It came with a three-day return guarantee, I could bring it back for a full refund within that timeframe. I immediately had a Jeep dealership do an inspection, telling them the situation and requesting a thorough check. They gave it a good report, no problems found. Took it back to the same Jeep dealership a few months later (when it started falling apart) and they found a zillion things wrong. Deferred maintenance, brake problems, etc. When I asked them why they hadn't noticed this during the previous $150 inspection (with receipt in my hand), they shrugged.

The secret to buying a good used car = Consumer Reports.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2007 at 8:39PM
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