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Buying a used car on eBay: Is it worth it?

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Last updated: 01/04/2022 | Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Buying a new car is never easy. Whilst purchasing a new car online isn’t always recommended, using eBay motors can be a lot more straightforward and safer than you might think. eBay Motors offers a huge variety of cars, and a helpful set of tools to aid you in finding the car that’s right for you.

Our guide runs through the best ways to find the car you want, how to make sure it’s in working order, and the safety features eBay motors offers. If you’re concerned about affording your next car, there’s also a brief section on the kinds of car finance you can get.

In This Guide:

Top tips for finding a car on eBay

eBay Motors makes it very easy to search for the exact car you’re looking for. You can specify the make, model, colour and price, or look more generally at categories such as classic cars, SUVs, hybrids or minivans.

Here are a few tips for making sure the car you get is up to scratch:

  • Compare prices: If you find the car you want on eBay, rather than submitting a bid straight away you should take the time to check other marketplaces to see if you can get a better deal elsewhere. See if the model you want is available at your nearest car dealership, or look on alternative used car websites such as Auto Trader.
  • Check user reviews: As well as doing research on the car itself, you should look at the seller’s eBay feedback score. This will give you an insight into whether the person selling the car is trustworthy, hopefully preventing you to falling victim to any scam.
  • Check out the car in person: In the age of digital shopping, people seem to forget that when you buy things, you are completely entitled to go and look first. This is particularly important with something as expensive and essential as a car. It’s as easy as calling up and arranging a viewing. If they don’t let you see the car, then there’s most likely something wrong with it. There are also issues concerning ‘phantom’ cars - listings that don’t even exist - so getting a look in person may save you thousands. If you’re not confident in your knowledge of cars, it might be worth asking a more experienced friend to come with you.
  • Take the car for a test drive: There’s only so much you can tell by looking at a car. Any internal problems might be revealed by taking the car out on the road. You must remember to check whether the owner’s car insurance covers you to take the car for a drive. Some cover this as standard but many don’t.
  • Get a vehicle check: There are lots of checks you can do online for free or for a small cost. These can reveal whether there is outstanding finance on the car, or whether it has previously been written off or stolen.

Is eBay a safe place to purchase a car?

Understandably, a lot of people have concerns when buying a car online. There are always risks when purchasing a car. Even with the seller’s best intention to advertise accurately, they may well have missed something that doesn’t become apparent until some time into your ownership of the car. Whilst these problems can be unavoidable, eBay Motors arguably offers the safest online car purchase experience there is.

Whilst competitors to online car shopping (such as Craiglist and Facebook) may be far faster and more convenient, they are a lot less safe due to the lack of monitoring and regulation. eBay outdoes them in terms of safety due to a number of handy features such as secure payment (as opposed to the cash often requested elsewhere), Vehicle Purchase Protection (see below for more details) and user feedback.

User feedback can be a very helpful way of determining who it’s safe to buy from. You’ll want to make sure they have a 100%, or very nearly 100%, positive feedback rating. It’s worth noting that this can be accumulated from acting as a buyer and a seller. It’s much easier to get good feedback as a buyer – all you have to do is pay on time. So, look for their feedback as a seller to guide you more carefully. You’ll also want to make sure they’re established selling cars, that they have more than a handful of ratings, and that they’ve been continuously active over recent years.

Is it worth buying a car on eBay?

Buying a used car from eBay is certainly an option, especially for those looking to cut costs. But is it really worth it when compared to the more traditional routes of purchasing a vehicle?

This depends on a number of factors, not least the type of car you’re after. For example, if you want an old classic car from the 1960s then you’ll likely find better deals and more choice on eBay than your local car dealership, but if you’re after the latest models then you might be somewhat restricted.

You should also be aware of scams when buying a car from eBay, just like you should be when purchasing anything online. Just because it’s a well-known international brand doesn’t mean that fraudsters won’t use it to try and target unsuspecting victims.

To help you make the decision of where to buy your next car, we’ve compiled a list of pros and cons of going down the eBay route:


  • You can find great deals on both auctions and Buy Now offers
  • Easier to find unique, customised, or classic cars
  • Easier to compare prices online than in dealerships


  • Buying process is more complicated and takes longer on eBay
  • Potential to be scammed or ripped off
  • Harder to arrange for a test drive before buying

Secure payment on eBay

As mentioned above, two of the safety precautions provided by eBay Motors are the secure payment methods and Vehicle Purchase Protection.

eBay Motors requires that you use PayPal to purchase your car. You’ll often be required to give the seller a deposit and a time limit in which you can pay the balance and see the car in person. eBay can also help you secure car finance (see below) and will manage your repayments.

Vehicle Purchase Protection covers losses that buyers incur as a result of sellers’ fraud. For example, this will cover you for things such as never receiving the vehicle, receiving stolen or written-off vehicles, or those with issues that you weren’t told about.  It will award you damages of up to £100,000 or the value of the car you tried to purchase (whichever is less). Remember that this will only work if you’ve paid through eBay. If you try the car in person, which is definitely a good idea, remember that you should still pay through eBay if you want to be covered by Vehicle Purchase Protection. Also keep an eye out for scammers on other sites that lie about having eBay protection.

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