Here are just a few tips and guidelines I think may help when buying used car parts on Ebay.
As you are probably aware buying and fitting used parts is not the same as using brand new ones, although they are many times cheaper, sometimes as much as ten fold, they invariably do not come with fitting instructions or manufacturers warranties etc so a little knowledge is sometimes useful if you intend to fit them yourself, and as the name implies they are USED so may not have the same life span either, that said you can get excellent service from most items and as I said the price difference can be ridiculous, I recently sold a bank of switches from a Toyota for £20, the price new was £150 ! You have to allow also for the odd blemish and imperfection so check the listing description for this, most sellers if they have any sense will identify any faults clearly, also check that the part has been fully tested beforehand.
I would advise you to look for a straightforward return policy, because used parts occasionally refuse to work or fit for no apparent reason the seller should be offering a simple and easy return and refund deal, there really is no reason not too as parts can be invisibly marked to prevent swap scams (where a buyer returns his original faulty part and keeps the good working one ! ) and a good seller will allow for a small percentage of returns.
If you have limited experience of car repairs avoid buying a part just to see if it will fix your problem, for example your car has lost power and wont accelerate so you buy a carburettor in the hope it will fix it, this is an expensive way of diagnosing faults, it is far more economical to have a fault identified by some one with knowledge first. Also take great care when fitting items associated with safety such as brake systems, steering, airbags etc. etc. if in any doubt get an expert to fit them or buy brand new instead.
Another top tip is to read the descriptions carefully and compare your original with the picture if possible, car manufacturers have a nasty habit of fitting different parts to identical models and years ! part numbers are a big help but not always available, of course dont forget to ask the seller any questions. A lot of parts are interchangeable with different models and years, especially engine parts but if you or the seller are not 100% sure about compatibility I would advise buying only parts that match the exact year, model and engine specification. Saloon, hatchback or estate rear lights are an obvious example of non interchangeble parts even though the maker, year and engine size etc are identical.
Postage or delivery costs is another issue, most sellers are sensible about this and remember you are not just paying for the actual cost of the stamps but the sellers time and packing materials etc. but always check it out and add it to the asking price to gauge how cheap that part is, then offset that against your time and costs going to a main dealer, perhaps several miles away, and you should have a fair idea of the true cost of your part
To summarise -
1. Remember allthough very cheap they are USED parts
2. Check listing description carefully, identify any faults, has it been tested
3. Has the seller got a good return policy.
4. Dont buy and hope, make sure you know what the fault is.
5. Is it the right part, matching models and years is best, part numbers are usefull
6. Are the postage costs fair, what would it cost you to go and get it.
Finally dont get carried away, if your main dealer has quoted a price of say £100 for a new part and you see the used one at around £50 this may seem a bargain but remember it will invariably have no or limited warranty and may not last as long either so I would say the final price you pay should be considerably less than £50.
I Nearly forgot the most vital bit of advice that really goes without saying for all Ebay transactions-ALWAYS ALWAYS check and READ the sellers feedback and reputation before bidding, a lot of people are reluctant to leave negative feedback for fear of retaliatory negatives being left for them so they may leave a positive but warn other users by comments such as "ok but not as described" or "completed but postage costs high" dont just rely on the % score either, have a look at the actual recent transactions and what has actually been bought and sold and at what price, a favourite scam thats rife on Ebay just now and used to build false reputations are multiple 1p transactions, if your seller has loads of these then beware and ask yourself why he needs a good score fast !.
Thanks for looking, Alan