The first and most important information you need to look at is the amount of feedback about the seller. You can see at a single glance if the feedback is overwhelmingly positive, neutral or negative. Take into account that while a sale may have been legitimate and without problems from the auction site's point of view, the seller may have become disgruntled for reasons outside the transaction and left bad feedback in order to erode the seller's reputation. Usually the seller has an opportunity to respond to any negative feedback, but you should take into account just plain old bad feelings possibly accounting for some negative or neutral ratings.
Feel free to contact other customers who have left feedback (be it negative, positive, or neutral) and ask what their experience was like with the seller - did he/she misrepresent the car in any way? Was the car's history accurate and reliable? Were there any problems in transferring ownership or mechanical surprises soon after the purchase? Most customers will respond to your queries, wanting to help or warn other potential buyers about this particular seller.
If you can visit the car itself before placing a bid, do so. Photographs are fine and the buyer may have a slew of them up on eBay, but the only way you can truly assess the condition of the car is to arrive at the seller's lot and kick the tires, as the saying goes. If you can't get to the site itself consider calling up a friend or relative and asking him/her to go and look the car over. If the buyer refuses to allow this, you may wish to reconsider placing a bid for this car at this time. Unfortunately there are always criminals placing imaginary items online for sale, disappearing with the money and never delivering a product. This is why checking feedback is one of the most important things you can do before placing a bid!
So you've seen the car (or sent a friend), you're convinced the car is a good deal and a great buy and you've checked out the seller and know the sale is as legal as it can be. Now, let's bid!
One of the oldest tricks on eBay is the sniper - he/she is a buyer who waits until literally the last few seconds to place a bid, usually snagging the item for sale out from under your nose. In order to avoid being sniped out of your car, be sure to monitor your auction for the last ten minutes at least, and be prepared to enter a counterbid as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately this is where a slow modem can make the difference between winning and losing. A cable modem or another fast communication system is almost a necessity when dealing with online auctions.
Remember that placing a bid on eBay is a legal commitment to purchase that item. While you will have the option to retract your bid if you make a mistake, eBay will frown on you if you make it a habit. As well, many sellers will either refuse to sell to you or complain to eBay, possibly leading to your membership being voided. Don't bid if you're not serious about buying it and don't bid what you can't afford!
So you've placed your bid and you've won your dream car! Now what do you do? Well, the first thing NOT to do is dash to the bank and withdraw your cash in small bills, stuffing it into a brown paper bag to deliver it to the seller.
First contact the seller through email and ask that either certified check or money order be used to make the exchange. Personal checks are fine if the buyer is prepared to take the risk of it bouncing, but most transactions should be done in a way that produces paperwork. This protects both you and the seller in case either of you have any disputes in the future regarding the amount exchanged or the ownership of the vehicle in question.
When you arrive at the seller's lot or house to pick up the car, make sure to get ALL of the proper documentation you will need to drive the car home. The State Trooper who stops you on the highway ten miles from your house may not know much about eBay, but he will know the law as it pertains to driving a car without insurance or the proper ownership papers. Remember, buying a car online is the same as if you went down to the local lot and bought it there - the documentation needs to meet the legal requirements of your state for the exchange of the car from one person to another.
Finally, if you are happy with the car and the transaction, please consider leaving positive feedback for the seller. He/she's only reputation on eBay is dependent on the opinions of others, and you will be influencing others who might be considering purchasing their next vehicle from this person. You don't have to leave a personal essay, but feel free to point out the best points about your purchase and why you would recommend this seller to others.
Purchasing a car on eBay can be a daunting experience, but knowing what to look for and what to do before placing a bid can lead to a rewarding and fun exchange. Now instead of being limited to the local papers and the used-car lots you can search across the entire State and the country, if you wish, to find the car of your dreams!
Buying a car on eBay
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7 June 2006
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