How To Buy and Sell a Car Online The Safe Way

Guides  /   /  By Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®

If you wanted to buy or sell a car more than a decade ago, you’d turn to the local classifieds — circling reviews that enticed to you take a test drive or paying for a few lines pushing all options and condition.

Or you would drive to the local car lots and see what they had to offer.

Today, it’s more about tapping into the online marketplace, where photos, even videos, accompany listings that can offer you a daily driver or just view those dream cars.

But, online convenience can brings some risks if you don’t follow the rules. After all, the Internet introduces strangers — in cyberspace and eventually in person when cars and keys change hands.

The BBB research shows eight of 10 top scams in 2011 were Internet-related; and when potential buyers and sellers meet, they may encounter someone out to steal a vehicle on a test drive, rob them of other personal property — or worse.

To protect yourself, use eBay Motors Safe Harbor and these tips:

  • Cyber crime and ID theft
  • Personal safety
  • Transaction fraud

Avoiding Cyber Crime and ID Theft

Follow these common-sense practices to ward off online fraudsters, whether you’re buying, selling or shopping around.

For Everyone

  • Don’t share personal information
  • Don’t use your address or other data in online ads or in responding to them
  • Do not make deals outside of eBay Motors, we even suggests creating a dedicated email address for online business dealings
  • Avoid clicking links in emails from strangers. The wrong click can send you to a fraudulent site or install a virus on your computer

For Buyers

Authenticate a listing. Do a Google image search for the featured make and model to see if the exact same image pops up elsewhere. If it does, that should raise red flags about whether the image has been copied from another site.

Likewise, buyers can search for a listing’s phone number by putting it in quotation marks in the each field. They’ll find any other place online where the number has been used it could belong to a different business or another true eBay seller.

Test a listing’s legitimacy by looking for recently closed listings and feedback comments and information. Scammers who take copied car listings from other dealers can get posted and eBay will remove fraudulent postings.

Sadly, naive buyers who send money for a car outside of eBay may never see the car or their money returned.

Maintaining Personal Safety

For Everyone

Never arrange to meet at a residence — yours or someone else’s

For Buyers

Make the deal in public. Meet in a very public, well-lit place, such as a parking lot at a mall or supermarket — even a police station.

Take someone with you, we always take a friend to meet potential buyers. You don’t know people; they may come with a handful of cash — or with a weapon.

For Sellers

If an eBay listing is local or you are going to drive to check it our in person yourself, consider having eBay Motors inspect the car for you. When it comes to meeting for test drives, take steps to avoid putting yourself at risk.

Beware of tagalong “friends. Our industry experts warn of unscrupulous “buyers” who have other agendas, such as bringing friends who may break into your house for electronics while the potential buyer is out with you for a “test drive.”

Use your best judgment about whether to go on the test drive with a stranger. We recommend the ride-along, lest you never see car again.

But we warn against driving with someone whose driving record and habits you don’t know. Others recommend asking for some kind of collateral – the keys to the car they drove, for instance – before letting a potential buyer go for a solo drive.

Avoid Transaction Fraud

For Buyers

Always test drive the car. It’s risky to buy sight-unseen, without an inspection. Even if it’s a collector’s car located in a neighboring state, it’s worth the drive there to pick it up.

For used cars, ask for a vehicle identification number and purchase the CARFAX® Vehicle History Report to see if it’s been stolen or damaged. Not every car makes it into the CARFAX database, so it’s best to have a trusted ASE certified mechanic check out the vehicle completely before you buy.

Ask for a copy of the title to the car. Make sure the car you’re buying is the one being sold. And if the seller can’t produce it, walk away.

Research the value of the car to ensure the asking price is fair.

Be suspicious of low-mileage claims. If an ad touts 30,000 miles on a 5-year-old car, ask the seller to take a picture of the odometer and email it to you. If they balk, you’ve spotted a scam. This should be a part of their eBay listing photos.

For Sellers

Always use eBay for the transaction. Never wire money back to buyers for overpayment before their check clears. The BBB hears tales of scammers who send a check for too much money and then ask the seller to wire the difference.

When the original check fails to clear, the seller is out the money he wired — and perhaps the car.

Independently verify a cashier’s check by calling the issuing bank. Use a phone number you find on the bank’s website — not the one printed on the check itself; in case the check itself is a fake.

Hold on to the title and keys until the check clears.

Craft a complete bill of sale that includes the phrases “sold in ‘as-is’ condition” and “no warranties expressed or implied”.

Final Tip

Don’t forget to view the buyer and seller scores. These scores are affected by doing bad and good business with other eBayers.

This feedback system makes it easier for you to see if you want to do business with the seller or complete the sale. These scores are really important to a quality eBay patron because they can affect their business in the future on eBay.

Take a few minutes and understand what the numbers and stars mean, you’ll find it easier to evaluate a member’s reputation.

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About Lauren Fix
Lauren’s passion is to empower and educate female drivers across America. Her many speaking engagements, news appearances and radio hits reinforce the controversial message that women are the driving force behind what America drives!

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