What to Consider When Buying a Car Tow Bar on eBay

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What to Consider When Buying a Car Tow Bar on eBay

Choosing to buy a car tow bar on eBay is a great way to save time and money when adding this valuable accessory to a vehicle. Indeed, the benefits of a tow bar are immense when one considers the gas mileage savings that come from towing on long distance trips. However, buying a car tow bar on eBay is more complex than simply searching for tow bars; instead a buyer must understand a variety of additional facts surrounding the use, fittings, and specifications of a car tow bar in the European Union.

This process of education begins with a basic review of what a car tow bar does, the options for purchase, as well as a careful consideration of EU directives surrounding the installation and use of a car tow bar. Next, the buyer must learn how to properly fit a car tow bar on the vehicle, especially since he or she is purchasing the item online through eBay. Only after these considerations can one begin with the eBay shopping process which has some important specifications itself. Ultimately, however, this small bit of preparation can save a buyer both time and money in the long term.

Car Tow Bar Basics

Sometimes referred to as a tow hitch, a tow bar is a device which is attached to a vehicle's chassis and used for towing. A tow bar can be used either to tow a vehicle or be used in order to make it easier for the vehicle to be towed. The specifications of each of these two types of car tow bars are obviously quite different and should be reviewed and understood before going to buy a car tow bar on eBay. In addition, there are specific requirements that car tow bars in the EU must meet that are of important note.

Types of Car Tow Bars

The two basic types of car tow bars differ in the job that they perform. While the term tow bar can be used interchangeably between the two types, it is more commonly used to indicate bars used to tow a car behind another vehicle rather than bars used by a car to tow another vehicle. Knowing the difference between these 'types' of tow bars makes the eBay search process easier since a buyer can use this knowledge to generate more targeted search results.

Car Tow Bars Used to Tow: Tow Hitches

To help differentiate the two types of car tow bars, those used to tow other vehicles are commonly referred to as tow hitches or receivers. These tow bars generally consist of a steel bar which is welded or bolted to the frame of the vehicle which will be doing the towing. There is a square hole in the steel bar which is used to receive what is known as the drawbar of the vehicle being towed. This draw bar is subsequently attached to a ball hitch.

The tow hitch and its associated drawbar are separate, interchangeable parts. This makes it so that a tow hitch can receive any drawbar as long as the two parts match one another. The most common sizes for tow receivers and drawbars are either 5 centimetres or 3.175 centimetres. Smaller systems are only able to tow small trailers or other lightweight items such as storage and bicycle racks.

Car Tow Bars Used to Be Towed

The other type of car tow bar is that which is attached to the vehicle which is being towed, sometimes labelled as the drawbar, as in the description above. These tow bars can either be bolted to the vehicle, a process known as coach mounting, or bolted to the vehicle's front end, which is called car mounting.

In both cases, the tow bar is used to connect the towing vehicle and the vehicle that is being towed. It allows for the towed vehicle to swivel, leaving open the opportunity for independent movement over bumps in the road and thereby increasing safety. Also for safety, the way in which a car tow bar is connected is redundant. This means that the primary connection, the ball and socket, is reinforced with safeguards. These safeguards are usually towing chains.

EU Car Tow Bar Requirements

The European Union requires all car tow bars and tow hitches to meet standards set in European Union directive 94/20/EC, which took effect on 1 August 1998. This directive states the the ISO standard towball has a 50-millimetre (5-centimetre) diameter and meets BS AU 113b standards, the same standards which exist throughout the world, with the exception of North America.

Within this standard, there are two categories of ISO towballs. The first is a flange fitting and the next is known as a swan-neck fitting. The latter has an extended neck which fits into the tow bracket and is removable. This helps drivers avoid the inconvenience of a towball which protrudes from the vehicle when not in use. In response to this directive, manufacturers are developing retractable towballs which are stored underneath the car when not in use.

Fitting a Car Tow Bar

After reviewing the types of car tow bars available and the requirements for installing them in the EU, the next step is fitting one's car for a tow bar. Especially when the plan is buying a car tow bar online through eBay, taking time to properly measure one's car and making sure that the product fits is extremely important.

A buyer should begin this process by checking the car's owner's manual. This should explicitly state whether there are specific instructions for the fitting of a tow bar on that vehicle as well as the maximum weight that the car is able to tow, if applicable. Next, the consumer needs to research the types of tow bars available for that specific make and model of car. Generally, there are two options, and they include tow bars manufactured specifically for that car, also called custom tow bars, and what are known as 'universal fit' tow bars which are made to fit most vehicles. The buyer needs to decide on which of these two to purchase, noting the following pros and cons of each.

Type of Car Tow Bar



Custom Tow Bar

Less expensive

Made for the car in question; possibly increases safety and effectiveness

A better choice for the buyer who wants to routinely tow

Must be professionally installed

Cannot be transferred to a new vehicle unless it is of the same make and model

Universal Fit Tow Bar

Can be used on many types of cars, making it transferable if a new car is purchased

Attaches in as little as 15 minutes and requires little automotive knowledge

More expensive

Made for the car owner who only tows occasionally

The type of tow bar one wants to install and the limitations for its installation is the final consideration before moving onto the eBay purchasing process. There are clear pros and cons to both types of tow bars, customised and universal, which makes this final consideration one of the most important.

Buying a Car Tow Bar on eBay

Once a buyer is confident in the type of tow bar he or she wishes to purchase and is comfortable meeting the requirements of the EU in that regard, the actual eBay buying process can begin. To start, the buyer must either register for an account or sign in to an existing eBay account. From there, the buying process depends entirely on one's ability to properly search for tow bars.

eBay searching, like most web searching, depends on a buyer's ability to properly frame the keywords he or she uses to find the items desired. When it comes to a car tow bar, this generally means being exact in terms of the make and model of car onto which the tow bar is going to be attached. For example, consider using terms such as "Ford tow bar", rather than "tow bar" on its own.

After generating a set of results, the buyer alternately has the option of narrowing the results even further. This can be accomplished using a number of limiters such as price and brand of tow bar as well as the location of the seller. Local sellers are always a great choice for an individual looking to save on postage costs.


There are several points to consider when buying a tow bar on eBay. The process is not as simple as finding something that fits. Indeed, beginning with the two major functional types of tow bars, a buyer must ask several questions. First, he or she must determine if he or she wants to tow or be towed, and then make sure that the tow bar being considered conforms to EU directives in place since 1998.

Even after making a decision as to the function of one's car tow bar, there are additional points to consider. Namely, this includes determining whether it is beneficial to buy a universal tow bar, which fits onto numerous vehicles or whether to buy a customised tow bar fitted to one's vehicle's exact specifications. This tow bar fitting process largely determines the final stage of the purchasing process, which takes place on eBay itself.

Buying a car tow bar on eBay is simple once an individual knows how to search for one properly. This includes using exact search terms as well as limiting the search results once they appear. Using these tactics usually saves time and money, getting the buyer the car tow bar he or she needs quickly and efficiently.

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