Buying a car on eBay without looking at it ! HOW TO

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Motors Buyer Checklist Different people will give you different advice about buying a car on eBay without looking at it, typicaly that advice falls into two camps, camp 1 - "hmmmm are you sure withiout actually seeing it, isn't that taking a bit of a risk?" ... and then camp 2 - "I bought one and it's fine".

Personally I've bought and sold many things using eBay and when it comes to cars (or many other things in fact) there's a few basics to cover to reduce that chances of doing an unsatisfactory deal on eBay, and this is as much about your expectations and you as it is the seller, here's a few pointers and hopefully you'll see what I mean and this will help, all based on my experience ...

1) when you're looking for a car it's a good idea to get what you want into your head first, eBay is a "here and now" and you don't want impulse getting in the way of your thought-out common sense, if you're looking for a diesel family estate then stick with search results that come up with them, don't sidetrack to other models that really aren't what you want.

2) read the description thoroughly, that includes the payment terms at the bottom! Then read it all again and if it looks like a fantastic car for the money then consider it might be too good to be true, leave it a few hours (or overnight) and read it all again.

3) If you think it might be the one for you look at the sellers feedback, is it 100% good, if not are any criticisims fair and answered? Is the seller private or a dealer (look at some of the past auctions when you look at the sellers feedback) wether you prefer private or dealer is up to you, I don't mind either as long as they show integrity.

4) Use the "Ask Seller a Question" feature and ask sensible questions, and be polite, don't forget to say "Hi" at the start and "Thanks" at the end! Questions should be like "Do you own the car??, "How long have you owned it?", "Do you have the V5 in your name?", "Is there a service history - dealer or just a garage?", "Has the car ever been in an accident", "Is the mileage genuine and is there history to prove?", "Are there any problems you are aware of, small or big or any that could deem the car unroadworthy?", some of these may seem basic but the next point makes sense of them more ...

5) Keep all emails and replies from the seller, and bookmark the Auction, these are your comeback on the event a problem surfaces after the auction and you and the seller get into dispute.

6) If you can go and look at a similar year/model/spec/condition car, either at a 2nd hand car sales or look at one advertised locally, it's worth it to see what you expect for the money and to make sure again that it's what you want.

7) GET HELP, ask your Dad, Brother, Mate (sensible ones...) to take a look, they might spot something or make you consider something you haven't.

8) Don't get hung-up on one Auction, check regularly if there are other sellers offering a similar car, then you may have more than one Auction choice should you not get the one ending soonest.

9) When you bid make it near to what you want to pay, you might want to save your final bid until the last few minutes (many do), set yourself a realistic limit and don't go over, just close the page and leave the computer, start lookimg again the next day.

10) If you win the Auction contact the seller by email straight away and then comply with any terms they set (e.g. deposit straight away by PayPal, collection within 5 days etc).

11) If you lose the auction don't worry and don't "panic bid" on anything else, more cars are listed almost every minute on ebay! Just search regularly and you'll probably see more chouices of what you want coning up for Auction.

12) If the buyer asks you to pay by PayPal check they are verified (on PayPal next to their user name), if not I prefer to send by other means or at least get and check their landline phone number and home address.

13) Go and pay the cash or bank draft (check with the seller) on collection and pick up your car ALWAYS from either their home address or business location if the're a dealer, beware laybay-deals and delivery offers (not all are bad of course!). CHECK the documents and numbers, even ask for the sellers driving licence if you want! Hopefully all will be well and you'll both be happy, so leave feedback to say so!

14) After the transaction if problems do arise contact the seller before you even think about negative feedback, bad sellers will only reciprocate and that doesn't help your feedback, polite nagging at them seems to work better than threats!

15) If the sellers un-cooperative contact eBay and (if you paid anything by) PayPal, tell them the facts in an email or with the dispute process, usually they help work it out and PayPal can also freeze any funds you paid to the sellers account until the dispute is resolved.

16) Finally if they ripped you off then you may be Ok and covered, get the car inspected asap by a reputable authority (e.g. AA or manufacturers dealership), send the seller a copy of the report with a simple and brief note stating the problems and what you want to resolve it (e.g. full refund, part refund, repair costs etc). If no joy then don't get personal and don't bother with an email fight, simply go to an online CCJ service (e.g. "" - there are others), once there read all the instructions and guidance, then carefully fill in the form with facts (not emotion) and away you go, the summons will go, with your supporting information, (this is where the sellers emails and your vehicle inspection etc come in to support your claim!), they need to defend and at some point a judgement will be made. THIS IS A REAL COUNTY COURT so do your bit carefully and hope for the right results, they typically refund plus recover your costs.

17) Learn from your mistakes, if you do a bad deal don't express that to other sellers and just move on, bad sellers almost always fall foul of the eBay codes and governance at some point.

18) if you can go and see the car before bidding do, otherwise buyer beware! Using these principles should help but I can't guarantee sensibility, even my own on occasion when it comes to car buying!

a) seller is at 'home' but doesn't go into house, not their house it's just one they know everyone is out at work so they use the drive, I challenged and they legged it, car was stolen.
b) only one key for the car and it wasn't a 'master' for the central locking, turned out the car was his brothers (hence he had ID) and he wasn't aware of the sale. Could have lost money if not discovered.
c) motorcycle frame number tampered with, engine number not matched, turned out to be more than one stolen bike made into a dodgy one.
d) van not as described with engine problem and sloppy gearbox, turned out he had bought the van Ok then swapped the engine and gearbox with his other van, hence the service history said it was low miles and well maintained but the engine that was looked after was long gone and the new one was high miles junk. Worth of a report to Trading Standards and the Police.
e) "Off-road" motorcycle or track bikes and cars with no ID becasue they were stolen.
f) fake MoT certificates and tax discs, seen a few and now I check with the station on the MoT and DVLA for the tax, always report to the Police as if discovered you could be in trouble for having them.

Happy bidding, do it with care and consideration and good buys to all of you!

Need more info? Try eBay's Motors Buyer Checklist where you can find out about HPI and other assurance checks.

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