Buying and Maintaining a Car
Tips for Selling a Car on eBay

Format for Printing

Format for printing

Request Reprints


By Marxtacy
April 14, 2003

Posts selected for this feature rarely stand alone. They are usually a part of an ongoing thread, and are out of context when presented here. The material should be read in that light. How are these posts selected? Click here to find out and nominate a post yourself!

In response to a recent thread I thought I would share my tips/experiences for selling a car on eBay. In the first part of this post I will offer some general advice for selling a car on eBay. In the second part I will summarize my own experience.

Part I.

1. It would be a good idea to already have some experience selling on eBay, but I admit that it isn't completely necessary. By the time I sold a car on eBay I had already sold a few dozen items on eBay and was comfortable with the basic process. (If you need more general advice about selling on eBay just email me.)

2. A lot of people on eBay don't realize that you can determine who bids on your auctions (and who can't). Deadbeat bidders are a pain on eBay, and they are prevalent on the auto auctions. So, you have a few options: 1. You could let anybody bid on the car without screening them. I think this is the best way to attract deadbeat bidders. 2. You could only allow people to bid that have already emailed you. After they email you to confirm their interest you would go to eBay's site and add them to the list of people allowed to bid on the item. 3. Similar to #2, you can limit the potential bidders to people who have actually inspected the car in person. Obviously, this would limit the potential pool of bidders. Whichever you choose, you should make it clear in your description. You don't want an honest bidder to try and bid at the last minute only to discover that the bid won't go through.

3. You need pictures...great ones...and a lot of them. The more the better. Don't forget to photograph the engine compartment, the VIN, inside the trunk, and the spare tire and jack (if you have one). You should also get a good photo of the tire tread...I suggest putting a ruler (or a penny) between the treads. Of course, you should wash and detail the car. Remember, some people are going to be judging the car almost entirely on the way it looks. (Instead of spending a fortune on film and film processing I used the situation as an excuse to buy a digital camera.)

4. See if you can find some way to host additional info and pictures off of eBay. I think many of the automobile listings are either too sparse or too cluttered. I suggest putting the best pictures, the most important parts of the description, and your terms of conditions on the EBay listing. At the top and the bottom of your listing you can put prominent links to your own Webpage. On that page you can put all of your photos and more details about the condition of the car. You can also scan in the repair invoices and a Carfax report and post them on your homepage as well. DO NOT PUT ANY IMPORTANT TERMS OR CONDITIONS OF THE SALE ON YOUR OWN WEBSITE THAT AREN'T ALSO INCLUDED ON THE ACTUAL EBAY LISTING. I doubt you could hold the high bidder to any terms that were not included on the actual eBay listing.

5. Unless the policy has changed, a less detailed "AutoTrader Online" listing is included in the price of the eBay listing and contains a link to your eBay listing. If I remember correctly, the "Autotrader Online" listing is automatically generated. The guy who ended up buying my car initially saw it on the "AutoTrader Online" website and then followed the link to the eBay listing.

6. You want the listing to be attractive, so it is a good idea to use basic HTML codes to vary the font, colors, italics, etc. The easiest way to do this is to create your listing using Webpage software (e.g., Microsoft Frontpage or Netscape Composer). Save the listing, and then choose "view" and then "source". You can then copy this code into the "description" text box when you are actually creating the listing on eBay.

7. You need to be clear about the forms of payment you will accept. You also need to clearly state how long the buyer has to make a deposit, and then how long they have to pay the balance and pick up the car. It is common on eBay to allow the buyer one business week to pay the deposit. You could also specify how many days they have to pay the balance and pick up the car. Some sellers even charge a daily "storage fee" based on the number of days beyond your deadline. You will also need to decide (and state on your listing) whether you are willing to help arrange delivery of the vehicle. Some sellers will deliver the car if it is within a certain radius. Other sellers (for an additional fee) will do the legwork necessary to have the car shipped by a professional auto transport service. Basically, as long as you are within the parameters of eBay policy and state laws, you can specify just about any terms you want. Just be clear on the listing.

8. After the auction is closed you will be able to access the listing for a month or two. If things go wrong and drag on, you need to make sure you save the page onto your own computer.

9. I suggest browsing through lots of the auto listings to see what terminology is commonly used and any additional details that you would want to include. Many people include a clause along the lines of "we have done our best to describe the auto..."


I sold a 1993 Probe GT with 130,000 miles on eBay. I created an attractive, organized, and detailed listing like I described above. Likewise, I included links to my own Webpage that included additional photos, a more detailed description, scans of repair invoices, and a Carfax report. In all, I think I had 25 photos of the car. The guy who ended up buying the car made a point to tell me that he thought it was great that I had so many pictures. Many sellers only include one or two photos.

I decided to state on my listing that potential bidders had to email me before they bid. As long as they emailed me I added their eBay username to the list of approved bidders for that listing. I also stated that I reserved the right to cancel any bids from eBay users with excessive negative feedback.

I required a deposit of 250 dollars within one week of the close of the auction. The balance was due within two weeks from the close of the auction. I indicated that I would not ship the car, but I would be willing to deliver it (or meet) up to 50 miles away.

I think the auction was set to last for 7 days. I started the price at 800 dollars, which was the absolute minimum I was willing to accept for the car. In other words, if anybody bid I would have to sell the car. I didn't get any emails for the first 3 days. I received an email late on the third day indicating interest in the car. I was sort of nervous about this bidder because he didn't ask any additional questions and he was about 500 miles away. But, I added him to the approved bidder list and gave him my phone number if he had any questions. By the next morning he had placed his bid. I was happy that the car was supposed to sell, but I was hoping the price would go up some more.

The next day I received another email from another potential bidder. I added him to the approved bidder list, and he outbid the first bidder with a bid of 950 dollars. However, the first bidder bid again a few hours later and outbid the second bidder. The current bid went up to 1000 dollars and the first bidder was again the high bidder.

On the 6th day two things happened. First, the high bidder called me up and said he was going to retract his bids because he bought a different car. (Some people just don't realize these bids are binding!) There wasn't much I could do (other than sue him) so I said "ok". He retracted his bid, so the current bid went back down to the minimum 800 dollars and the second bidder was now the high bidder. I'm sure he was thrilled.

The second thing that happened on the sixth day was an email from a guy in my city who was interested in looking at the car. I said "great" and he was there checking out the car that evening. He took the car for a test drive and obviously knew a lot about cars. We got back to my house and he said he would pay cash the day after the auction (if he won). I was hoping he would win because he was the only person to actually look the car over and I wouldn't have to worry about dealing with somebody out-of-town.

To make an already long story a little shorter, he ended up winning the auction for 1200 dollars. He showed up the next day with cash and we went to the DMV to transfer the title and that was that.

Seven days after listing the car I had the dough and the car was gone. I think my total fee from eBay was around 70 dollars.


Become a Complete Fool
Join the best community on the web! Becoming a full member of the Fool Community is easy, takes just a minute, and is very inexpensive.