Motor Market Mishegoss: Why I Stopped Selling Cars on EBay

Paul Grusche
by Paul Grusche

While at Concorso Italiano Friday, August 14th, a couple of eBay account reps were walking around asking opinions of their motor auction service. eBay was a sponsor of the event so it made sense to be doing market research. They’re walking my way . . . a little closer . . . I scootch conveniently into their path . . . . Hi, how are you? We are from eBay Motors and are asking people about our auction service. Do you use it to sell cars and parts? Where do I begin? It has lost all its luster for selling cars for me and I’ve really tried a range of different scenarios from reserve to no reserve, to Buy it Now, to having the vehicle inspected, etc. These are the reasons I’m not using it anymore.

1. The auctions only last 7 to 10 days

This is hardly enough time for someone to make any real decisions assuming they saw the post when it was fresh. With so many yahoos bending the truth about their car, the only way to really know if it is worth the bid, is to go see. Trying to book a flight inside of two weeks gets costly. Trying to figure it out with pictures and phone calls gets frustrating. If you are lucky enough to be close, arranging the time and/or inspections can be a hassle.

Solution: Call someone in the associated car club to look at it for you. Independent inspections are good if you can get it done. As I told eBay, have longer auctions. The forums, Craiglist and Autotrader can run lifetime ads (with Craiglist you have to relist it).

2. People bid up the auction with a dummy account to see your reserve

After you’ve gone through weeks of preparation: cleaning and shooting the car, summarizing service history, doing the writeup and building the ad, the relief you start to feel as the auction comes to a close verges on overwhelming. You are finally going to sell your baby. Then, the good-for-nothing jackass toys with your emotions and sticks it to you with a dummy account. He has zero or one feedback and nobody actually buys the car. Worse yet, you paid the listing fee.

Solution: Lock out bidders with no or negative feedback. eBay now lets you list for free, you pay when it sells.

3. You have to be brutally honest; or do you?

I had a heavily modified 1989 BMW 535i. I put it up on eBay at no reserve. The car was old with 180,000 miles but it was still loved and looked terrific. I sold it for $2,300. Two years later I happened to see my car listed on eBay by the guy who bought it from me. Cosmic forces in play for sure. The write up said he did all the modifications to the car, lied about other things plus had 220,000 miles on it now. His starting bid was $3000 and he got it.

Solution: I don’t have one. What line do you draw between your truth and the other guys slimy sales person spin? Receiving eBay negative feedback on such a big ticket item as a car is not good, especially for someone who likes to trade them. I have been working on my 100% positive feedback since 2000 and I wanted to build a trustworthy car trading reputation.

4. Deals often happen after the auction ends

I’ve had several cars on eBay, from BMWs to a Toyota FJ-40 to an Infiniti G35 coupe. A lot of people called me as soon as the auction was over and wanted to make a deal. “Saw the car didn’t make reserve, what do you want for it?” eBay then becomes an expensive way to advertise. And if the deal is done outside of the auction, you don’t get the positive feedback to build your ID.

Solution: Use a the “Best Offer” option. I’ve never used it but it sounded like a plan.

5. People tie up the car after winning the bid trying to resell it

I had one guy buy the car, pay the NON-refundable $1000 deposit but then drag the closing for almost six weeks. He was in constant communication but never came to get the car. My guess is that he was trying to flip it to some perspective client. I was so tired after the experience, I sat on the car for months before trying to sell it again.

I went on and on to these reps but since I hadn’t tried to sell a car since last year, I didn’t know they modified the listing fees. Now, the Insertion Fee is free for the first four cars within one year. The Successful Listing Fee (sold) is a flat $125 for cars with a $7 reserve. The fifth car, and those after, are charged $20 insertion and $100 success. To eBay’s credit they have made some good updates and attempted to address a lot of my concerns.

However, if they took anything away from our conversation, eBay has been more of a hassle than it’s worth and I’m burned out on it. I’m most likely not going back since the other sell sites I mentioned work well. As a side note, I am still a big fan of eBay Motors for selling parts and looking for cars. But when it comes time to sell my 1991 M5, I’ll probably give Bring a Trailer a whirl. People can call me if interested, arrange for a visit and I don’t have to put up with the intense anxiety of an auction to add to the anxiety I already have about selling the car.

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  • Capdeblu Capdeblu on Aug 27, 2009

    I know two guys who bought cars on Ebay and were very disappointed. They were both Mustangs. One was a 1960's model and the photos put on Ebay were outdated by many years. The other was a newish model convertable that turned out to have structural damage. And the top leaked. My own experience was one of identity theft. Someone in Miami opened a "company" in my name and started purchasing items on Ebay on my credit card and having them shiped to FL. (I live in another state) Ebay was no help at all. I could never get any customer service. My credit card company was great (Discover)and promptly shut the card down and the charges were reversed.

  • E85_STi E85_STi on Aug 28, 2010 I was the "winner" of this eBay auction. What I bought was a 4-owner, stolen, damaged, auctioned-by-the-insurance-company-because-the-1st-owner-didn't-want-it-back-vehicle. eBay's "Gilbert" in response tells me that eBay won't honor their promise against fraudulent misrepresentation/stolen vehicle/etc because my Department of Motor Vehicles has only "discouraged" me from titling the car. Gilbert? eBay's service department is a real-live Dilbert cartoon. Hello? The thieves pried off all the VIN plates. Replacement identification numbers were not properly notified with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and my local sheriff was doing his job by refusing to approve the title. I was lucky that the sheriff was in a good mood and didn't arrest me for a previous owner's negligence in reporting an A-class felony. I paid for a 1 owner mint 300SD. Instead, I get smoke and mirrors.

  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.
  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?