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

Christian Cawley 21-06-2016

Over 1,000 cars are sold daily on, the sort of figure that car dealers can only dream about. You can find just about any kind of 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 7 Security Reasons Why You Should Avoid eBay In the last few years, eBay has been hit with seemingly endless hacks, data breaches, and security flaws, which they've struggled to deal with. Are eBay trustworthy, or should you avoid shopping with them? Read More ?


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 to only 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 around 33% 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 to get started, and enter the manufacturer and model of the vehicle you hope to buy.



Once you’ve hit the Search Cars & Trucks button, you’ll see an initial page of results. Use this, or modify your search further 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 5 Critical eBay Online Shopping Tips You Must Know eBay is different from Amazon and other shopping sites. Here are the critical eBay shopping tips you must know to succeed. Read More , 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 and how the vehicle can be shipped or where it needs to be picked up.

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 Here, enter the manufacturer and model of your car and the name of the spare part (or its related system) you’re looking for.


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 (you can diagnose automotive issues via the OBD II port What Is the OBD-II Port and What Is It Used For? If you purchased a car after 1996, it probably has an OBD-II port. But what is it for, and how do you diagnose errors with it? Read More ).


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 that’s what you want, it’s best to visit a local auto supply store.

It’s Always Best to See the Merchandise

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t physically evaluate the car you’re planning to buy on eBay. If it is local, or within traveling distance, giving it the once-over and a test drive can be useful, especially if doing so is likely to avoid problems later on.

Depending on the seller, you may have to commit to buy in order to see the vehicle. Alternatively, they may let you take a look at it in advance of the listing ending. 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’re unable to travel, consider contacting the seller to arrange a Skype or Google Hangouts video conference How To Invite Someone To a Video Conference Over Email Lots of us use video conferencing, either to catch up with friends, or when being interviewed for a job. But how do you invite people to a video conference over email? Read More , where they can show you what you want to see via their smartphone camera.

Don’t Pay Until You’re Happy

In buying a car, you’re embarking on a major financial investment, so it’s a good idea to only pay when until 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, and our own experience of the service would back that up.

Certainly don’t use a third party escrow. These can be unreliable How I Nearly Got Conned Via A Western Union Transfer Scam Here's a little story about the latest "Nigerian scam", which is all too obvious in hindsight and yet so believable when you're on the hook. Read More , or even completely fake, and leave you with an empty pocket and an empty driveway. Find out more about using at eBay’s help page.

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  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 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 which 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.

Have you run into problems buying a car on eBay? Perhaps it was the best thing you ever did? Tell us about it in the comments.

Image Credit: Billion Photos via, Denis Rozhnovsky via

Related topics: Automotive Technology, Buying Tips, eBay.

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  1. Beverly Barnes
    April 8, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    I just sant some money for a vehicle and didn't received it

    • Christian Cawley
      April 11, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      Sorry to hear that -- make sure you take it up with the seller. Hope you paid via a secure method that can be reclaimed!

  2. Cheryl
    June 21, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    I bought my Toyota Avalon on eBay. It was slightly used, only as a rental, and was the current year. The dealer was right here in Florida, had 100% positive feedback, and had won several eBay "Dealer of the Year" awards. The dealer, himself, was available by phone so we were able to hash out a deal right away. I got the best price I could have possibly gotten anywhere and the dealer offered to deliver my car free of charge (from West Palm Beach, FL to New Port Richey, FL). I wired the money from my bank and my car was delivered the next day. In fact, the driver who delivered my car paid me cash for my Ford Escort which I was going to have to sell. I was going to ask $2,500 for it and the driver offered me $2,000 cash which I was more than happy to jump on. Then instead of having to rent a car to drive back to West Palm, he drove my Escort back instead. While this is a very unique experience, I passed up several other eBay car dealers largely because of their feedback. I also Googled the dealer and dealership and found even more positive reviews. It pays to do due diligence when you're parting with $20K+ for a car no matter who you buy it from.