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Buying a Classic Car on eBay

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If you are considering purchasing your classic car on eBay Motors, or on one of the other web auction sites, you are not alone. eBay is now considered to be the dominant force in classic car and part sales. In 2006, eBay reported:

  • One car is sold on eBay motors every minute.
  • More cars are sold on eBay before 9:00am than an average
  • dealership sells in a year.
  • ebay Motors was ranked the #1 automotive website.
  • There are approximately 1 million parts available on eBay at any given time.

As great as those statistics sound, it can be as expensive as it is exciting unless you prepare for the purchase properly. There is much to learn in order to effectively buy a beauty instead of a beast on eBay Motors, even if you are a veteran "eBayer".

We recommend a reliable high speed computer and a high speed network connection. You can use dial up, but for those crucial last minute bids you will find yourself out-maneuvered by the competition.

Register as an eBay member if you haven't already done so. The advantages of registering before you start searching through eBay's listings include:
  • The ability to watch auctions without bidding and request email notification for your watched items.
  • Saving your favorite searches will activate eBay to email you new search results as they become listed.
  • Researching completed listings to make informed buying and selling decisions.
If you haven't bought or sold on eBay before, it’s best to consider practicing bidding and buy low value items that you may need. That way if you do make a mistake, it is not an expensive one. If the pictures and description of the items look good, I would still recommend an e-mail exchange with questions to the seller for experience using this tool. Do this within the eBay site by sending a message to the seller, or requesting more detailed description and photographs. This will ensure that your computer will be able to accept photos and display them for viewing.

Browse or search through the inventory of cars that might interest you. Use the intuitive buttons to navigate the pages using the listings and headlines to go further into the inventory of all the makes, models or years of production that you could possibly want. As you view the listing, there are many terms that need to be understood, such as:
  • Reserve: That is the minimum price the seller will accept for the item. If you place a bid below the reserve, the listing will show that the reserve has not been met.
  • Buy it Now: That is the price that the buyer will accept and finish the auction with you as the winner. This price is not always a good indication of the reserve price.
  • Best Offer: A listing feature that lets a buyer make an offer to the seller for them to either accept or decline.
  • Meet the Seller: Read the feedback comments and always try to deal with sellers that have a high number of positive feedbacks. These comments are gathered voluntarily on the performance of buyers and sellers in the auction process and are recorded for you to see.
  • Buy Safely: Review the Vehicle Purchase Protection; it’s an excellent and necessary protection against fraud or misrepresentation of up to $20,000 per vehicle.
Once you find a vehicle that you are interested in purchasing you should obtain information about the item's history, features and current condition. Read the description of the vehicle thoroughly. The seller should elaborate on all the details of the car, such as the condition, terms of sale, any guarantee and so forth. There should also be a good number of pictures of the vehicle including the engine compartment, trunk, interior, exterior and undercarriage. If the seller has disclosed any blemishes, close up pictures should be included. Understand the title status of the vehicle and any issues with liens or lack of documentation that would hinder registering the vehicle. If you have a question that isn't addressed in the description, contact the seller by clicking the "Ask seller a question" link at the top of the listing. Don't wait until the end of the auction.

There are some "red flags" to look for in the listing that should alert you to investigate the seller and the vehicle carefully. While buying a vehicle through online auction sites is a good way to purchase one, buyers should exercise the same cautions as when they buy anything else on the Internet. Unfortunately there are some scam artists that use this medium to take your money, but it could also be an experienced eBay seller that has little knowledge of classic cars. This is what we look for:
  • Ask the seller if you can see the vehicle in person. Someone who doesn't actually have the vehicle in his or her possession will almost certainly refuse. Even if you have no intention of paying a visit, just asking to see it could be useful.
  • Watch out for auctions that feature what looks like stock photos or photos from brochures. Anyone with a real car to sell should be able to take a picture of it.
  • Beware of any seller who will only accept a wire transfer for payment. It can be a seller who will offer a vehicle for sale that they don't really have; they often just post a photo they found somewhere. The sellers often indicate that they are located in Europe and insist on a wire transfer, such as Western Union, for payment. Once the buyer sends the money, the seller vanishes, never to be heard from again.
  • Beware of a seller who says the vehicle is in another country but offers to pay the shipping to the United States. This is a tactic used by scammers in other countries.
  • Watch out for a vehicle that is offered at a price that seems too inexpensive for that make and model. Statistically, cars sold over Internet auctions will go for about 10% less than through a dealership, but a $20,000 that car is offered for $10,000 should set off bells in your head. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
  • Check the seller's transaction history to see if they have a positive feedback record of actually selling classic cars, especially in the make and model they’ve listed. If the seller is listing a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe, but has a history of only buying or selling computer products, you may want to look elsewhere.

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