You want to buy a car and you’re tired of the typical runaround at a used car dealership.  You hate the process of finding a car, haggling on the price, “checking in with the manager,” meeting the finance guy, and saying no to a dozen “add-ons.”  You need a car and you want the experience to be stress-free. So you go online.


Step 1: Search through cars

You hop on to some of the biggest names in car search hoping to find the car of the dreams.  Maybe you want a sedan?  No, a convertible. No, you should be practical, maybe a small SUV.  Finally, you see it.  The perfect car.  The photos look great, the exterior is unblemished, and the price is right.  You send an e-mail to the seller and hope that they respond.


Step 2: Buyer meet seller

The seller is great; he wants you to have the car as much as you do!  You find out that he’s moving out of town quickly and needs to get the car to you ASAP.  No worries though, he knows exactly how to expedite the transaction.


Step 3: Make it legit

The seller suggests that to make the process safer and faster, you should buy the car through eBay Motors.  You’ve eBay Motors and seems like a trusted source.  He says he’ll set it up and have eBay and send you a link.  Sure enough, within a few hours you see the e-mail sitting in your inbox.  It tells you to send your money to an official eBay Agent who will put the money in an escrow account.  This seems like a great way to make sure you’re not getting scammed, you’re sending money to eBay, not a random person online.  You must use Western Union to wire the money though.  Also, don’t tell Western Union that you’re wiring money for a car because they charge more for that service.

Step 4: Buying a lemon

Now you wait.  You wait for the car to arrive in the your driveway.  You wait to hear from the seller on any updates.  Then an e-mail appears. The eBay Agent tells you the car is stuck in transit and you need to wire more money to ensure the car’s delivery.  Now a red flag goes up in your head; it’s a scam.  You demand for your money back, but you get no response.


How the Scam Works

Chances are you didn’t find the car on an eBay Motors auction.  This scam has become so prevalent, that eBay has a website to alert users about the scam. eBay Motors does not use an “eBay Agent” who holds your money in an escrow account.  eBay Motors doesn’t even recommend that you use Western Union or any other cash wire transfer service when buying a car.  In fact, eBay has very little to do in the process of buying and selling a car on eBay Motors.  All eBay does is provide a marketplace for buyers and sellers.  If you do find a car listed on eBay Motors and used eBay for the purchase, you may actually be eligible for a “Vehicle Purchase Protection,” a program eBay offers for its users.  But as soon as you decide to wire money, you have no protection at all.  You can view the eBay Motors guide to buying a safe car by clicking here.

Tips for buying a car online

1.     Stay local.  Using online sites to find a car is a great time saver, but keep your searches local so you can meet the seller in person.  If you can kick the tires then you’ve taken some of the risk off the table.

2.     Complete the transaction at a bank.  Meet the seller at a bank with the cash or cashiers check you are buying the car with.  Print up a bill of sale and ask for it to be notarized, typically you can find a notary at your local bank.

3.     Check the title.  If you are worried about the legitimacy of the title, go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles with the seller and fill out a title transfer on the spot.

4.     Check  If something seems a little off about the process, check out to see if someone else has posted about a similar experience.  If someone did, then it’s probably a scam.  Then post your own experience to help the community out.

Those tips might not protect you from all the scams in the world, but it’s a great start.  Always look at the deal objectively; if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.  Finally, make sure you check on to stay ahead of the scammers.


See Also

10 Essential Tips to Avoid Used Car Salesman Scams
4 Car Repair Scams to Avoid
New eBay Buy-It-Now Scam Targets Sellers with Fake PayPal Email

About The Author

Scambook is an online complaint resolution platform dedicated to obtaining justice for victims of fraud with unprecedented speed and accuracy. By building communities and providing resources on the latest scams, Scambook arms consumers with the up-to-date information they need to stay on top of emerging schemes. Since its inception, Scambook has resolved over $10 million in reported consumer damages.

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One Response

  1. Jana

    Note on cars/motorcycles on Ebay. When I worked for DMV a Dad and son came in to put title of a motorcycle in their names. It had to be inspected first and that is when we found out it was Black Market. Was not made in US, did not meet qualifications for US and we could not and would not title it in US. ALL cars and bikes, etc have to meet certain standards in the US. Ask for vin number first so you can get a carfax on it BEFORE sending any money or credit card. Will save you lots of headaches.


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