Ok, So I am a self-confessed ex-vehicle trader and to this day I still get amazed at some of the poop I see in the used-vehicle section here on a daily basis.
Just a few pointers about buying second hand vehicles on eBay from the perspective of someone who has seen many fools come and go:
- Where possible avoid buying cars on the other side of the country. Its more than devastating when you do a 200 mile trip to find out your new pride and joy is not actually worth being proud and joyful about.
- View your sellers rating. Even good ratings that are accumulated solely from buying, doesn't necessarily make your seller an honest and trustworthy guy. Aim for sellers with good feedback that has been accumulated from a lot of selling, probe around the auction links on his feedback page, if you can find a few cars the fella has sold that have resulted in positive feedback, thats a bonus!
- Remember that when your buying a used motor vehicle on eBay, that it is on an auction, BE CAREFUL, most car traders refuse to buy from ACTUAL auction because plenty of the cars are there for the "Sold As Seen/No Comeback" clause.
- Buying from a seller in Scotland when your in Devon is only asking for trouble. You could go pick up your nice new car, get all the way home and something serious happens, you call up your seller whose grinning from ear to ear when he knows your not going to drive 300 miles to "see" if he's at home.
- Realise that warranty's offered on some vehicles have more holes and get out clauses than you could ever imagine, ask to see a copy of the warranty BEFORE bidding. When you buy your car in Timbucktoo, and the clutch dies, you call him up and he quotes his warranty; "Arrange for the car to be returned to me and I'll arrange the repair". Paying £400 to have the car recovered back to the seller when the clutch is only £250 to repair at your local clutch clinic is usually a no brainer. The problem being that most warrantys issued on eBay tend to have a clause that says "We only guarantee our own work, if another mechanic so much as touches the vehicle then your warranty that encouraged you to bid the extra few hundred quid for is VOID!"
- Most used cars have a history, after all your not owner number one. A car without history is certainly something worth being weary of. A car with a recent cambelt is a big MUST, don't trust a seller who knows your not going to take off the cam-belt cover and see for yourself. These people want to make money out of you, they WILL stinge on maintenance. When someone gives you a big wedge of service history, take the time to CHECK that the vehicle reg e.t.c. matches the details of the vehicle your buying!
- If a seller doesn't accomodate you asking for a quick look over the vehicle and possibly a brief test drive, BEWARE, there is NOTHING wrong with looking over a vehicle to check it is as described. In these circumstances look EXTRA closely at the car. Don't feel pressured to part with your cash before having a good look at the vehicle.
- Take someone knowledgeable about cars with you when you go to pick up your vehicle. Ensure you both act DUMB, some sellers will hang themselves trying to make excuses and detract your attention from things you've spotted. Sometimes it's better to listen than to talk!
- If the car is warm when you get to it, ask why. An engine thats so hot you can cook sausages on it that's apparently only been moved off the drive is NOT normal.
- Jetwashed engines are always something to be weary of in my opinion. Some sellers just like to have a car valeted extensively, others like to wash off oil & fluid leaks so you can't see where they've come from.
- Never pay for a car in full before picking it up. Infact, where possible, don't part with any cash until you've been to verify that the vehicle your buying IS as described.
- Beware of top quality pictures. I can take a picture of my scraggy cat and make it look appealing, the truth is its one hell of a mangey moggy! :o)
- On pictures, look on the floor next to the car, water over the car means its just been washed, look for oil stains on the floor, you can tell a LOT from a picture if you study it closely.
- NEVER go and look at a car in the dark or in heavy rain. Trust me on this one. Cinderella by night is a wench in the morning.
- Numberplates are a big give-away! If one numberplate has a dealers address or logo on it and the other doesn't match, its more than possible that one of the plates has been changed, inspect that part of the car very closely, usually this is the primary indication that your car has had a tap! Be sure in these circumstances to go around the shutlines. If this then rings alarm bells, call a HPI company and do a check over the phone. £8 well spent on a telephone check could save you hundreds when you come to sell the vehicle on.
- BEWARE of sellers who brag about how fast the car it is, these are NOT people you want to deal with. If a seller states "I've had this car 140mph PLUS", then hesitate bidding unless its a ferrari!
- Finally the basics;
Gearbox's especially automatics require a decent test-drive to verify their functionality.
Beware of car's that smoke more than Grandpa Joe!
Test the biting point of your clutch. When driving your car down the road, the rev-counter should ascend evenly with the speedometer.
Check the header tank for any oil, check the oil filler cap and run your finger along the top of the cams and take a good look at the state of the oil! Remember, creamy mixtures are NOT good.
When car's running pull out the dipstick, if you can see blue smoke coming out this is an indication that the rings are worn.
Know the difference between condensation and smoke. Accelerate hard and get a friend to watch the fumes exiting the exhaust. Smoke = Bad (You can tell this because it lingers). Condensation does NOT linger.
Tread patterns on your tyres and un-even wear can certainly constitute big bills down the line!
Hold your hand over the tailpipe whilst the car is running, pressure should build up on your hand, if it doesn't, listen for where the gas is escaping!
A BIG problem with ebay cars is MISFIRES and PINKING! Avoid sellers who seem very knowledgeable about cars that state "A set of sparkies will rectify the problem", truth is, they probably already tried that, and the smallest misfire can result in a costly job!
There are a FEW of the basics, don't be fooled there are some HONEST car traders on ebay, but the old saying goes, "Never trust a trader!". Don't be confident just because they are. Seek your own source of confidence. eBay can be a great place for a bargain, it can also be a good source for a con!