Guide to purchasing a car on eBay

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You can buy all sorts of things on eBay, but a car? Would you really want to buy a car online?

Well, it turns out that eBay is a popular place to look for a new set of wheels – there is even a dedicated motors section. But buying a used car is risky, so anyone thinking of making the purchase through an online shopping site such as eBay should take care.

Here are some simple tips that could help you to make a successful and safe purchase.

1. Don’t make the car your first ever purchase on eBay. You should be comfortable with the bidding system before you buy a car, so try some smaller items first to familiarise yourself with the process.

2. When you are ready to start looking for a car, narrow down your search criteria. If not, you could be completely overwhelmed and end up bidding for something unsuitable.

3. Don’t browse outside your region. You would be crazy to buy a car without first seeing the vehicle, so don’t make life difficult by bidding on a car in Scotland when you live in Cornwall.

4. Set your maximum price at the outset – and do not waver. You can get a good idea of a realistic price for a used car by looking at advertisements for similar makes and models, or by consulting car magazines or Parkers guide. Also, bid when there is only a minute left. If you bid early, there is a strong chance that you will increase your price to win the deal.

5. Check out the seller. eBay allows buyers to give feedback on sellers and you can learn a lot from other people’s experiences.

6. Find out about tax and insurance. If you decide to buy the car, you will normally have to drive it home. So you need to make sure you are covered as it is illegal to drive without the appropriate car insurance. The same goes for the tax disc.

7. Inspect and test drive the car. Don’t hand over any money until you have seen the car and taken it for a spin. Otherwise, you could fall victim to any number of internet scams, including buying a ‘phantom’ car that doesn’t actually exist.

8. Is the paperwork genuine? You should verify that the seller is the registered owner of the vehicle and that the log book, or V5 certificate, is kosher. The website www.gov.uk has more information and tells you how to make a vehicle enquiry. The description of the car should also be accurate.

9. Consider paying for a vehicle check. A number of organisations such as the AA and HPI run data checks on used cars to confirm their identity, their accident history and their mileage. They can also find out if there is any outstanding finance on the vehicle. The service is not free, but it can buy peace of mind.

10. If you decide to buy the car, makes sure you pay by PayPal or with a credit card. PayPal is a secure payment system, so the seller does not see your financial details. If you pay buy credit card, you also benefit from some consumer protection. PayPal offers purchase protection in some cases, but it does not apply to cars – and neither does eBay’s own buyer protection.

You have been warned!

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