Buying on Ebay

Buying a car on ebay

We’ve all heard the one about the disgruntled wife who sold her cheating husbands Lotus on E-bay for £50 . Did you buy it ? no funnily enough, neither did I.  Back in the real world here’s some practical advise on what to look out for on the bay.

First off Buying a car on E-bay falls into the buying used or buying privately section and you should read that information first . Here

Or our Guide to Inspecting a used car.  Here

Now to answer the question I am often asked is ebay a good place to buy a car?  Yes absolutely .  I have bought many here over the years.  I am going to go through what to look for and what to avoid but I would like to make it clear that this guide covers my views on E-bay currently (May 2011).   A search on Google will bring up some horror story’s but if you look at the dates many of these articles are 4-5 years old.

My current opinion is that E-bay has considerably more honest sellers than it used to have.   This is mainly because savvy buyers stopped accepting rubbish from fraudulent sellers.  And savvy buyers  began to realise that buying a car on eBay is not some copper fastened contract that has to be honoured, but merely an agreement to buy a car if the car meets all your expectations.  The same way you would buy a car from the local paper. Hence a lot of chancers have moved on

There was a time when a fair amount of sellers on eBay were dodgy dealers and part-time car spivs.   It was also the best place in the U.K to dispose of stolen recovered or total insurance loss categorized cars.   Most times this was not disclosed until you got the cars HPi details.  Sellers started to disclose it in their listings just to cover themselves legally. Sometimes a seller would give a ten page description of a car with a full paragraph describing how “The aircon blows Icy-cold” etc and somewhere lost in the blurb it would casually state “the car is cat D” Buyers would scratch their heads and go “Cat D, isn’t that one of those fancy Thatcham alarm systems?” .   My personal favourites where the ones that would make it sound like an extra ! “This car is mint, it’s got everything, it’s got heated seats, dual air, Bose music its even cat D” yes a veritable classic.

Now before I get a letter from eBay’s legal department I am trying to point out much of this is in the past and there has been much improvement.   Most horror stories of eBay these days are of the occasional wasted trip to view a car that was not as described, this happens in all walks of life and is hardly a disaster.

We live in an age of superhighway technology and with all the good things this has brought we also get some of the bad.   There are scams out there; they are not exclusive to the internet and certainly not exclusive to eBay.   In fact most scams date back to the Babylonians but have just been updated for web 2.0.   Basically if anything in life is too good to be true then it’s too good to be true!   If somebody attempts to sell you a ten pound note for a fiver your internal warning alarm should be going off.

The buy it now of a twenty grand car for £8000 from a seller with no feedback whose contact details amounts to a voicemail (surprisingly) is such a crude scam that I shouldn’t need to bring it up but unfortunately every now and then you hear of some poor dope who sent a large deposit to a bank account and never received their car.  I feel sympathy for these people; I also can’t help but think “how do they butter their toast in the morning without taking their fingers off?”

Okay then, I am presuming you are au fait with how to become an eBay member etc,and anything to do with such basics are covered by eBay’s own tutorials.  Once you know how eBay works go to motors and select cars. You can narrow down your search requirements using some of the search boxes.  This is a handy tool for me when I want to get a general feel for the price of a specific car.  However if you are looking to buy and you know what make and model you are after (for example a 2007 Golf diesel, under 60K) Instead of being specific, I would just enter vw golf and trawl through the lot of them.   The reason I say this is because the search parameters sometimes overlook cars that have not ticked all the correct listing boxes. This seems labour intensive but the extra 5 minutes work might turn up a car that you would not have otherwise found,  and more importantly other buyers might not find. For the same reason, as well as searching vw Golf , I would also search, Volkswagen golf,Golf,Golf diesel, Golf mark v etc just in case.

You will see three types of Listing: Classified: Which is mostly professional car dealerships(increasingly car supermarkets and main franchise dealers) Listing their cars for the same price they have them listed on their forecourt.  They are using eBay as an advertising tool the same way they use Auto trader or Motors.

The Second category is: Buy it now: this is similar to the classifieds, it’s a car for sale at a fixed price.  If you scroll to the bottom of the listing and click on “contact info” you will see the name, address and VAT details of the listing business, again usually a car dealer.  This is not exclusive to businesses and you will see many private sellers here also.   Sometimes a listing will be  “Buy it now but with best offer”  this usually means if a car is £6000 the seller may take £5700 and most probably not £4000 but you can try ! It’s easy to up your bid but very hard to come back down.  Either of these listings should really be treated like a small ad,  don’t go pressing any buy it now buttons.   Go and inspect the car and use what you have learned from my buying used guide to help you get a better price.

The third type of selling and the only one I get a bit of fun out of is the actual auctions: These are usually 5 or 7 day listings.  They can be no reserve or with reserve. I think it’s a bit irrelevant how it is phrased.  Most of the time everything has a reserve of some description,  and the only cars I see genuinely going for no reserve are £300 sheds for spare parts.

Honest cars on eBay will make mostly what they are worth.  Whether that’s by actual bidding or the occasional safety marker bid being placed by the seller or friend of the seller (this is of course against eBay rules and strictly policed by them, however despite their best efforts I am led to believe this occasionally happens Ahem!)

Remember regardless of the starting price an auction is still an auction and it’s the final price you need to be interested in.  There is the other type of “no reserve” sale where a seller lists a £4000 car with no reserve but with a starting price of £4000 !

So that’s just me getting the facts out of the way.  Are there bargains?  Yes, generally you will buy a car on eBay cheaper than going through the small ads.

The sort of cheapies I have bought recently are from people getting rid of their private car because of a new company car.  Also employees  who have been able to purchase their own company car because of decent resale policies in their place of work.  I have bought cars off car traders and I have even bought the occasional car from large supermarket chains.

Like buying any car if you have established you are buying from a car dealer clarify what the terms are regarding warranty etc and proceed as usual.   If you are buying privately then find out everything you can about the car from the seller and follow my other buying guide.   If you have a read through a sellers feedback you may get a good Idea of what the seller buys and sells.   If it is cars do all their customers seem delighted?   eBay has a fair share of semi-retired gentlemen traders who sell some cars from home.  Some of these are great, they have good trade contacts and sell decent cars for small profit; their feedback should give you a good Idea.   eBay also has a fair share of  “amateur” traders.

I am quite happy to buy off these guys because I am a “professional” trader and enjoy engaging with the trade; some are good some are bad but in general if you suspect an amateur trader Not fully disclosing what they are about you should back off.   I recently had an interest in an Audi A4 tdi se that some guy was selling, until I read through his feedback and saw that in the past month he had purchased all the parts required to put an obviously stuffed A4 tdi back on the road !

When somebody lists their car for sale they should at least be prepared to take a good selection of photos,  some information about their ownership,  service history details etc.  If I see a listing with 2 pictures and a car for sale call Gary 012345678 I rarely follow it up.  It could be fine but I shouldn’t have to play detective.  It’s your car, you want to sell it tell me about it.

eBay also has a good contingent of the “max power massive innit posse”  There are some fine sports and performance cars being sold on eBay by reputable dealers. A genuine sports car enthusiast will bore you to death with internal/external photos and reams of paperwork supporting their love for their car.  You should never buy a performance car because it’s the cheapest or has the loudest exhaust, and really you would be better off going to the owners club for the marque you are after or .  Unless you have struck up a good understanding with somebody who appears to be 100% genuine.

Apart from that usual buying rules apply, do a hpi type check to make sure it’s not on an insurance register as a total loss, Stolen, or on finance.  As I always say get the cheapy £2.99 check it’s got all the info you need ,and don’t get a fright if it comes back showing finance owing. This happens a lot and can always be rectified before the car changes title.

When bidding you can play the sit in front of the computer for the last twenty minutes of the auction game, and put your bid in at the last second.   If you only buy on eBay occasionally it’s a bit of fun.   I am aware of some people who sit by the bid confirm button with a stopwatch!.   There is also software available called “snipe” which automatically throws a bid in for you 1/8th of a second before the auction ends.   Personally I stopped playing those games a long time ago.   Work out how much you want to pay place your bid sit back and see what happens.

After you have won a car arrange to go inspect and collect.  You are not under any obligation to buy a car that you are not happy with and you feel was mis-described.   And if you are not happy then walk away.   Personally I have always bought cars in good faith and only twice have I turned a car down.  Once when a car was fair to middling but not as nice as the description, and money that I had paid for it. Another time when I drove through some dump and could see my new machine looking like a farmer’s backside in the driveway I didn’t even stop to talk.

Some sellers have strict terms and conditions about wanting a £200 deposit by PayPal immediately after the sale.  This doesn’t seem unfair but it is rubbish, don’t part with any money until you are 100% happy with car.  I have no problem telling sellers that they will get paid when I arrive  “they are My terms”  but if you feel pressurised by such tactics read their terms and don’t bid if you are not happy.

Some sellers claim if you “mess them about and don’t complete the deal they will pursue you through the courts”.  Ehmm No they won’t!……so just to clarify that, No They Won’t. Let’s be honest, it’s always the messers that get messed about so if some muppet has this strapped on to their listing then think twice about whether you want to be dealing with them.

As somebody who occasionally sells the odd car from eBay (see my selling guide) If somebody came to collect a car off me and it was not 100% as described, and they were disappointed I would buy them lunch and give them petrol money.  Thoughts of pursuing them through the courts carter ruck style would be the furthest thing from my mind.

Okay I think that’s most things covered please read my buying private or buying used guides as they are all companion pieces.  I don’t want to repeat myself but please any money recently spent on the car unless it has added value is not something to be getting excited about and the “free personal plate worth £1200” that comes with the car has absolutely no monetary value at all unless your name is “ghdjfth56”.  Oh and if you buy any car with a model related number plate like a Bmw X5 with an “x5” reg then knock a few grand off because you will look like a tool.

As usual any questions or comments please feel free.

For those who have asked: I have added a more elaborate guide to vehicle inspection and you will find it in the INFO BANK section of the website, Thanks

Happy Ebaying!