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Buying a car is always always a harrowing experience. When I was thinking of this article I sat down and realized that I’ve done it 11 times. Since I’ve never bought a brand-new car (and usually bought from private sellers) it always feels like a roll of the dice.
If you are feeling super adventurous next time you decide to gamble on a “new” used car you can try eBay. While eBay has sold over 5,000,000 million vehicles on eBay Motors there are thousands of people who have been scammed out of 100% of their money and never see the tailpipe of a car.
So how do you avoid getting scammed on eBay Motors? Well, there are a few things that are enough to keep you and your money safe from the most common scams.
The Most Common eBay Motors Scam
eBay is quite vigilant about keeping scammers off of its platform. So it’s not surprising that the most common eBay Motors scam doesn’t actually take place on eBay. Rather, it uses eBay as a scapegoat.
It goes like this:
You’re shopping for a car on Craiglist or another used vehicle site. You come across a vehicle with an awesome price, usually $2-3,000.
The description either has one of two things: it asks you to contact them for more details or it includes a couple of paragraphs that follow this paragraph almost verbatim:
The car is stored with all the necessary paperwork in eBay warehouse number 18 in Salt Lake City, Utah in a container, sealed and ready for delivery. We prefer to make this transaction through eBay because they can protect both of us and offer a 10 day inspection period. You have 10 days to test/drive the car and decide whether you want to keep it or not. If the vehicle is not exactly as I decribed, I will pay to have it shipped back to me and eBay will give you a full refund. eBay will hold the funds until you confirm that you want the car, then they will release the funds to me. That way you can inspect the vehicle and be perfectly safe before commiting to the purchase.
If you are interested in this transaction via eBay, reply with your full name, delivery address, and phone number and eBay will contact you with further instructions.
When you respond, you get either a phone call from “eBay” or an invoice with the eBay logo on it. Neither of from eBay as they are never contacted. (not to mention the fact that eBay doesn’t have a warehouse).
The scammers request that you pay the invoice either via a wire transfer straight to their bank account or via gift cards. Neither of which are traceable.
Once you pay, the scammers disappear and you will never hear from them again, let alone see a car (which probably never existed).
You can’t get help from eBay as they had no part in the transaction. The only hope that people have is to work with their bank to get their money back.
But being smart about the potential scams you’ll face regarding eBay cars would have kept you safe from this scam (and dozens of others).
So let’s look at a new of the red flags that you can use to spot scams when trying to buy a car on eBay or elsewhere online.
5 Ways To Spot A Scam On eBay Motors
1. The Deal Is Too Good To Be True
The days of getting insane deals on eBay are mostly gone. While you can still snipe eBay bids at the last second, you probably aren’t going to get away with paying 1/2 of what a car is worth. There are simply too many buyers.
So, at the risk of sounding glib, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Scammers want you to act fast for fear of missing out on a deal before you can think through it and get suspicious.
2. The Seller Wants To Transact Outside Of eBay
As soon as a transaction moves off of the platform you lose any and all protection that eBay would offer. While many people try to avoid eBay fees by moving off of the platform, scammers do it to make sure that you have no recourse once you figure out what is going on.
3. The Buyer Offers To Handle All The Shipping
If you’re buying a car online, chances are you’ll either have to travel a significant distance to pick up the car or have it shipped to you.
If the person you’re buying from tells you that they will handle 100% of the shipping process, be suspicious. Many scammers offer to handle the shipping process so that nothing actually gets set up.
If they are setting up shipping for you, make sure that you get the name of the company and other specific details so that you can verify that such a shipping situation actually exists.
4. The Seller Is A Private Entity
There are tons of car dealerships that list their cars on eBay. Exotic car dealerships more or less use eBay as a promotion platform for their interesting cars. Buying from an established dealership on eBay is about as safe as possible (although there might be extra fees).
On the cheaper side of cars, however, there are far fewer dealerships. It simply isn’t worth it for dealerships to sell/ship low-value cars across the country.
As soon as you’re dealing with a private seller instead of a dealership you’ll have to work much harder to vet that they are actually a trustworthy entity. Your best bet is to look at their eBay sales history and feedback to get an idea of what types of things they’ve sold and how they do business.
If someone without feedback or a sales history is trying to sell you a car on eBay, don’t bite. No matter how good the deal is.
5. The Seller Requests Very Specific Methods Of Payment
Nearly every scammer requests payment via very specific methods. Typically you will get an invoice in an email that requires payment via gift cards or bank transfer. Both of those payment methods allow a scammer to skip away scot-free and leave you with no recourse.
Make sure that you are paying directly on eBay’s platform using traditional methods of payment. Paying through eBay gives you some level of protection, as does using a card or processing platform.
If you pay through eBay there will also be a record of who the money is going to which will, at least, allow you to pursue the person if they end up scamming you.
Two Main Ways To Stay Safe When Buying A Car Online
Whether you buying on eBay Motors or another online platform there are some things you can do that will keep you safe when buying a car.
- Get an inspection. Getting an inspection on a car means many things. First off, the car actually exists. Secondly, the car’s current owner is willing to let you see it. Thirdly, the mechanic who does the inspection will let you know of any significant issues the seller may or may not be aware of.
- Buy through a platform. Just wiring someone your money and hoping that a car shows up is a recipe for getting scammed. Using a platform such as eBay means that you can fight for a refund if something goes wrong.
Those two simple steps will cut through 99% of car scams that you find online.
Now, this article was kind of a downer but, in reality, how likely is it that you’ll be scammed on eBay Motors? Not very. Sure, it’s possible to be scammed on eBay Motors but millions of cars have been successfully sold and eBay, and there is enough protection in place in support of their buyers that, as long as you stay on the platform, you should be totally fine.
The number of bad actors is incredibly small compared to the overall number of transactions that take place. Just remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.