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Buying Cars on Ebay: Feedback & Contacting The Seller

Posted By Jim On 01/05/2006 @ 11:37 am In Cars | 1 Comment

As I mentioned earlier, the feedback system is a little less valuable for purchasing vehicles simply because private party sellers oftentimes don’t sell a lot of cars and representatives of dealers, who do sell a lot of cars, will rely on the dealership’s name and not their own feedback. That being said, feedback still plays an important role in assessing the risk of a particular seller.

Also, with this and any other high dollar item, you will need to contact the seller. Most, if not all, vehicle sellers will list a phone number and, hopefully, their name. You have to talk to the seller at least once.

Feedback System:

With both private sellers and dealers, a high feedback score is always a good thing since it is evidence that the seller is familiar with Ebay and the inner workings of its system. A feedback of 0 is always risky just because there is no history to work with. Read their feedback and scrutinize the negatives. Was the seller unresponsive to email and phone calls? You want to see if they have bad tendencies that could drag out the transaction (remember, Ebay’s fraud protection lasts only 35 days). A lot of positives is not a reason to let your guard down though.

With dealers, it’s more important to be sure the seller really is affiliated with that dealership. Practically all dealers now have a web sales representative, which typically will be the seller listing the vehicle, so look up the phone number (independently of the dealership) and call to see if they really do list vehicles on the internet. Nothing prevents a fraud from putting up a picture of a dealership storefront and saying they’re Toyota of City XYZ.

Contacting The Seller:

You must always talk to the seller on the phone at least once, preferably more, prior to bidding/agreeing to purchase the car. Ask probing questions, the seller will not mind. If the seller doesn’t want to answer them, find another car. Talk to the seller for a few minutes and get a feel for him or her, if you get a bad vibe then thank them for their time and hang up. This is your personal feedback system, the one that you relied on before Ebay made green and red smiley faces.

Ask questions like how often they drove it, what they drove it for, how come their selling, was it garaged or parked outside, how often it snows or has inclement weather, etc. Don’t try to trick them by asking why they’re selling it three different ways to try to slip them up, I don’t think that’s polite, but to each their own. It’s your money and there are a lot of places to buy used cars.

When I talked to the guy who owned the Celica I purchased I found out he was a retired police officer, his wife ran a purse or shoe-selling service on Ebay, and he bought the car as a fun ride but found himself not driving it lately and not wanting to make the insurance payments. Could it all have been a lie? Certainly, but he sounded genuine and was very polite and nice to me. After talking to him twice on the phone, I felt with relatively certainty that I was dealing with an above-board individual and he gave me no reason to distrust him. That’s the feeling you want to walk away with.

Your own instincts are more valuable than any feedback system in the world, be sure to give them the opportunity to work.


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