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Guide to Buying a Car on Ebay

The term “guide” above is used very loosely… 🙂 Anyway, thus far I’ve purchased two cars in my life – both were off Ebay and both were resounding successes. The first was a low-mileage 2000 Acura Integra and the second was a low-mileage 2003 Toyota Celica, both were off Ebay, and both were shipped to my location. I’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of buying Ebay along with some simple to understand strategies or informational tidbits so that those of you considering buying on Ebay will understand a bit of what you expect.

Using Ebay
You’ll run into two types of sellers on Ebay: Dealers (or their representatives) and private parties. Whereas Kelley Blue Book will list two different prices depending on who you’re buying from (dealer being higher), this difference doesn’t exist on Ebay – you will pay what the market will bear, which is typically lower than both KBB values. You are afforded no additional benefits or warranties by purchasing through a seller who is a dealer (just like in real life).

Ebay Protection Programs [3] – Due to the risky nature of buying a car, sight-unseen, Ebay will protect you (like any other auction) as long as you purchase it through them. The main part of the program is Vehicle Purchase Protection, free, which will protect you up to $20,000 or the value of the car.

Benefits of Ebay:

  1. Information: Use it as part of your research process in figuring out how much the car is truly worth. Ebay will always bring in the lowest price because of the large market and the low number of buyers willing to purchase via Ebay. Remember to add in about $600 to $1000 for shipping, depending on where you are and whether you want covered or uncovered transportation.
  2. Price: As mentioned before, Ebay will probably always be the cheapest price.
  3. Low Mileage: Not always but Ebay cars tend to have lower mileage because of the exponentially greater risk in buying a car with higher mileage without a test drive, this is especially true with manual/standard transmission cars. Would you buy a 50,000 mile manual vehicle?

Drawbacks of Ebay:

  1. Sight-Unseen: You can always get an inspection on the vehicle but you will never be able to test-drive it, unless it’s a local seller. I cannot stress this enough – get the monthly membership to CarFax and pull up the information on every car you see.
  2. Shipping: Unless it’s local, you’re going to have to ship it and it could cost up to, if not more than, a thousand bucks.
  3. Registration, Titling, Taxes: You would also deal with this as a private party sale, but if you were to purchase a car from a dealer you would probably be able to avoid going to the DMV to register, title, and pay the tax on your car.
  4. Beware Salvage Titles: The listing should have this information (or you should walk away) or otherwise CarFax definitely will. They typically aren’t trying to deceive you because if they don’t list it and the title comes back as salvage, Ebay protects you, but you need to read it carefully. Most states have much stricter rules for registering salvaged cars.

Strategies to Use on Ebay:

I would say that buying a car on Ebay is as safe as buying from a private party, except you can’t test drive the car. You can still get an inspection if you want, so that option is still available and Ebay still protects you up to the value of the car or $20,000. If you have any questions about my personal experience, feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer promptly.