While eBay isn’t quite as popular as it was a few years ago (remember all the eBay buzz when this commercial came out in 2007?), it’s  bigger than ever as far as car buyers are concerned. There are thousands of vehicles for sale on eBay every day, and many of them are being sold for less than market value. As a result, eBay can be a great place to find a deal on a new or used car.

Goggomobil Coupe
eBay is a great place to find rare and exotic vehicles like this 1962 Goggomobile coupe, but buying a car on eBay isn’t without risk.

However, eBay can also be a great place to get scammed. While eBay has gone to great lengths to combat criminals, there are still stories of bad checks, washed titles, and other scams plaguing eBay buyers and sellers.

What’s a car buyer to do? eBay can be a great place to find a deal, but it can also be risky. Here are the pros and cons of buying a car on eBay, as well as some advice on avoiding the most common problems.

PRO: eBay is a great place to find unique vehicles.

Are you looking for a classic car? A very specific vehicle color or feature? Something unique that won’t break the bank? If so, eBay is a great place to shop. Rare or unique car owners are most inclined to list their car on eBay, as these cars tend to sell for more money when they’re exposed to a national marketplace.

CON: Buying a car on eBay is more complicated.

If you find a car you like on eBay, you’ve got some work ahead of you:

  1. You’ve got to figure out what to bid on the car, even though you can’t see it in person to gauge it’s value.
  2. You’ve got to win the auction, which can be hard to do when other people are bidding against you.
  3. Once you win the auction, you’ve got to send payment to the seller.
  4. Once you’ve won and paid, you need to find an auto transport company to help you bring it home or fly to wherever it is and drive it back.

All of these steps require more effort than just buying what you find on your local dealer’s lot.

PRO: You can find a great deal.

While some eBay sellers are auctioning off a rare and potentially very valuable car, other eBay sellers are just trying to unload a car that no one in their local market wants. It’s not at all uncommon to see quality used cars sold on eBay for less than $1500, merely because the seller couldn’t find an interested party in their hometown.

CON: You can get ripped off.

While it’s rare for a car buyer to be ripped off on eBay (eBay offers a wide variety of protections to buyers that largely prevent this problem), it’s still technically possible to get taken advantage of. Less than 6 months ago, a UK couple lost almost $10,000 dollars after buying what turned out to be a stolen car on eBay.

Again, ripoffs are rare. Perhaps no more or less common than ripoffs on Craigslist or car dealer lots. However, because these ripoffs often occur across state lines, getting law enforcement involved is more complicated than a local problem.

Bottom Line

Should you buy a car on eBay? If the price is right, if the buyer is reputable, and if the car passes inspection, than the answer is yes.

However, if you find a deal that’s too good to be true offered by a seller that seems a little suspicious, pass. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Guest author Rick Vernick writes on behalf of National Transport, LLC, which works with eBay buyers and sellers to help transport vehicles across the USA. Visit their website to learn more.