Buying cars on ebay is exciting and you can get yourself a real bargain. However, as with all used car purchases, you need to be very careful. Here are some top tips based on my exprience:
- Try to get a clear picture of the identity of the seller. Good sellers only sell good cars. They know its the secret of a sustainable business.
- As with all ebay purchases, you should look at the seller's feedback rating. In particular, look at what the buyers are saying. Good ebay sellers will also have a "Me" page which tells you more about them. Do they look credible? Are they trying to follow ebay's code of practice?
- If they are a trader, try to establish where they get their cars from. Can be difficult, as rogue dealers will tell fibs at this point.
- Good sellers will be respectable dealers or normal people who have owned the car for a reasonable period (at least 1 year). However, be careful. Even ethical people can tell fibs when selling used cars and dealers may use auctions to get rid of cars no one wants. If a private sale, look for a reason for the timing of the sale - a major problem with the car or an expensive service coming up soon.
- Contact the seller by email to make sure they are responsive to questions. People who want to give a good service to buyers will always respond quickly to emails.
- Make sure you know the full details of the car - ownership and service history, HPI status, condition, mileage, specific problems (see my guide to the used car market). Get clear pictures of all sides of the car.
- When bidding, place a realistic bid before the very end if you don't want to play the last minute bidding game. Use a price guide to get a feel for the value of the car (e.g. Parkers) or go to the following websites - parkers.co.uk or whatcar.co.uk. Another good tip is to look on the Autotrader website to get a feel for prices in your area. Don't bid above a private sale price - some sellers use friends to bid up their auctions. There's no need to pay high prices on ebay.
- If you win the auction, try to communicate with the seller in the first couple of days. Speak by telephone to arrange pick-up of the vehicle. Pay cash on collection so you can check the vehicle is as described in the auction and the documentation is correct.
- Take someone with you - it's much easier to stay calm and follow a rational course of action when someone is with you. Get them to tell you if they have reservations about the deal. Don't be afraid to walk away.
- Remember, if the vehicle is not as desribed in the auction, you do no have to buy it. Make sure you can get home again if you find the car is not acceptable! Sometimes it's hard to walk away when you think of the train journey home! Good sellers will avoid poor description at all costs, so it shouldn't happen.
- Take your time to check all the documentation before you leave with the car. Also, do a quick safety check before driving off (check tax, tyres, oil, water and lights). Also check the steering and brakes are okay before going too fast. Don't put petrol in a diesel engine! Yes been there. Actually, they will run okay as long as you have plenty of diesel too!
As someone who specialises in selling cars on ebay, clearly I think it's a great buying tool. You can look for exactly the car you want and the price should be slightly below the equivalent private sale price. Also, sellers can operate with very low overheads and buyers can find out much more about the peole they are buying from. Remember, if in doubt, don't bid. There's plenty more cars out there. Happy bidding!