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How to Buy a Car on eBay Safely, Securely, and Without Losing Money

Key Takeaways

  • eBay Motors offers a wide range of vehicles, including new and used cars, motorcycles, and specialist vehicles, providing buyers with more options than traditional showrooms.
  • Price and choice are driving factors for using eBay, with buyers able to find competitive prices and import vehicles from other countries, avoiding higher costs in their own country.
  • When purchasing a car on eBay, it is important to thoroughly research the listing, check the vehicle description, look at photos, review the Vehicle History Report, and understand shipping and payment options before making a final decision. Consider using an escrow service for added protection.


Over 1,000 cars are sold daily on eBay.com, the sort of figure that car dealers can only dream about. You can find almost any vehicle you could want, from motor scooters to supercars. But should you buy a car from eBay? What risks and benefits does this approach have? And can you really trust eBay these days?

I’ve bought and sold several cars on eBay, and I’m going to show you how to buy your new car safely, securely, and without losing money, all from the comfort of your home.


Why Buy a Car on eBay?

If you’re planning on buying a new car, you might prefer to do it at a brick-and-mortar showroom. But is this really the best place to start? After all, showrooms tend only to supply the newest cars from a particular manufacturer, thanks to dealership arrangements. This can limit you in terms of budget and flexibility in choice.

Meanwhile, second-hand/used car showrooms offer a far more eclectic selection of vehicles, but these can have long-standing mechanical issues. Specialist cars, bikes, vans, and campers are also rare in these places.

eBay unifies both the used and the new car markets under one virtual roof, with specialist vehicles also included. In short, every motoring option you could be looking for can be found on eBay.

But choice isn’t the only reason. Price is also a strong driving force. Take the United Kingdom, where cars are more expensive than mainland Europe. Here, many car buyers purchase new vehicles from mainland Europe and have them shipped over by ferry.

So, price and choice are factors for using eBay. Mobility issues, too, may necessitate shopping for your new car on the internet’s most popular auction site. No matter the reason you have for wanting an alternative to the regular car-buying process, eBay can help you out.

Find the Car You’re Looking for on eBay

eBay’s search tool will help you find what you’re looking for. Head to eBay Motors to get started, and scroll down to the Find a Vehicle section. You can either use the dropdown menus to search for the vehicle you are looking for or shop by category. The former is best for when you have a make and model in mind.

Find a vehicle on eBay

Once you’ve hit the Find Vehicle button, you’ll see an initial results page. Use this, or modify your search using the Year From/To and Distance fields (the latter will help you find vehicles nearby).

Once you’ve found the car you’re looking for, check its description, as you would for any eBay listing, taking particular care to note the price, sale type (auction or Buy It Now), the condition, whether any work is required, and so on. Take the time to look at the photos in their full resolution, and check the eBay-provided item specifics to ensure the vehicle is the one you’re expecting and suits your needs.

With so many car models and variations, this is a particularly important step!

After looking into the details of the posting, check the Vehicle History Report to get an idea of how many owners it’s had and what repairs have been made. Finally, view the Shipping and Payments tab to observe what options are available for payment, how the vehicle can be shipped, or where it needs to be picked up.

Vehicle history report eBay

If you are having a hard time deciding what to buy, there are several websites that can help you purchase your next vehicle.

You Can Buy Parts, Too

We’ve spoken mainly about vehicles so far, but eBay Motors also offers a superb parts and accessories search tool, also available via eBay Motors. In the Shop by Category section, scroll down to find different parts and accessories for sale.

You can find all sorts of parts here, from replacement wing mirrors to servos, sensors, and pedals—pretty much everything. Even new engine control units, the computers that run your car (for instance, the OBD-II Port to diagnose automotive issues), are available.

Buying vehicle parts in eBay

Buying parts isn’t like buying a car, however. Rather, this is a more traditional eBay purchase, rarely requiring you to view or assess the item physically before you buy. If this does not suit you, visiting a local auto supply store nearby is best to find what you need.

It’s Always Best to See the Merchandise

Buying a car online can be risky. If you have selected a car within traveling distance, giving it the once-over and a test drive can be useful, especially if doing so will likely avoid problems later on.

Depending on the seller, you may have to commit to buying to see the vehicle. Alternatively, they may let you take a look at it before the listing ends. However, while you should check out the car as you would any other, don’t suggest ending the auction early to the seller or buying privately, as this ends any protection on offer to both parties from eBay, PayPal, and the chosen escrow service.

If seeing the car is an absolute must, but you are unable travel, consider contacting the seller to arrange a Skype or Google Hangouts video conference, where they can show you what you want to see via their smartphone camera. Moreover, consider exploring car buying guides for valuable insights to save money and make informed decisions.

Don’t Pay Until You’re Happy

Man paying through a debit card

In buying a car, you’re embarking on a major financial investment, so it’s a good idea to only pay when you’re happy with the deal. As with any other eBay purchase, you might not get what you were expecting; perhaps the car you’ve observed doesn’t match the description in the listing, for example.

The way to manage this sort of scenario is to employ an escrow service, which will only release funds once both parties are happy with the transaction. eBay recommends you only use Escrow.com, and our own experience of the service would back that up.

We don’t advise using a third-party escrow. These can be unreliable, or even completely fake, and leave you with an empty pocket and an empty driveway. Find out more about using Escrow.com at eBay’s Help Page for buying motor vehicles on the site.

Drive Away, or Auto Transport Broker?

How are you going to get your car home? If you’ve seen it in person, this probably won’t be a problem (unless you’ve bought a wreck for spares and repairs), but if you’re making a purchase of a vehicle you haven’t seen yourself, you’ll need to arrange an auto transport broker to deliver it.

This is often the responsibility of the buyer—you will almost always find the words “Buyer is responsible for vehicle pickup or shipping” in a listing.

Put simply, an Auto Transport Broker provides a service to buyers of automobiles on eBay.com. These buyers would use the brokering service to have their car, truck, motorbike, quad, or any other vehicle shipped from, say, Tampa, FL to Dallas, TX. They would pay the broker a fee that books their new purchase onto an auto transporter and have it delivered in the condition it was sold in.

While you can arrange your own transport, or the seller may (in some rare cases) provide transport for your new purchase, there’s a chance that the listing will feature a default eBay option for transport brokerage. If not, you’ll almost certainly find a link to uShip, a marketplace for independent car carriers and transport brokers, where you can quickly get matched up with a suitable car transport provider. Transport services are worth using, as they offer high-tech features, such as an online tracking service that allows the auto transporter to be tracked via satellite.

Buy Safely, and Don’t End Up with a Banger!

Buying a car or motorbike is difficult at the best of times. eBay can make it simpler, but unless you’re paying attention, things can become even more complicated.

As with any expensive purchase, we suggest that you do your research, examine the vehicle you plan to buy, and stick to the approved escrow service. If you’re looking at a deal on eBay, buy through eBay to take advantage of buyer protection and ensure that you’re informed and realistic about the purchase throughout.

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