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Internet Car Sales: Safe or Not?

Updated on August 24, 2010

I think so, most of the time.

Having bought three autos via the Internet, without ever seeing them personally, it is an act of faith 100%, so if you feel you cannot trust the seller, avoid it. The usual places one finds the cars is either on Ebay, Craigslist. Of the two, Ebay, is more reputable. At least there some safeguards, but the bottom line is TRUST. 

Trust that the info and pictures\video you see from the seller is for real, trust that, after you send the money, the car will be sent. Of course, with all the scams out there, the seller is wary of buyers on the Internet also. One scam is that seller uses Ebay as an escrow account for the buyer. This way, the buyer feels secure. So, the money is sent to a phony account which looks legit, in reality, the money has gone to the scammer! The car is never sent because there was never a car. The big clue about this scam is the seller will tell you that you will have several days to inspect the car or it is shipped free and the money is safe because Ebay has it and if you do not like it, the money is refunded. Bullshit. Ebay has no such Auto buyer protection service, no escrow for holding money.

I stumbled onto one of these just the other day. The car ad said it was in Michigan, it was a great deal. I responded to the email and someone claiming to be in NJ, at a air force base, responded. He said the car was with him. The email in the ad and who responded to me were different. He refused to answer questions about how the car would be shipped etc.

Finding a car on Craigslist is easy via jaxed. com. This site will scan all craigslist and ebay sellers by State or Region for the specific car you want and then displays them. I use it all the time.

The people selling cars on Craiglist are a lazy bunch. It is like, they do not want to sell the car. The provide little detail about the car, many use a sentence to sell it and tells you nothing. They include pictures that do not help or none at all! Then, when you ask, they either never respond, respond with little detail, or act like they are not willing to talk about the car when you call them. Often, I ask, do you really want to sell it? Getting info out of some sellers is a real pain and I just move on. Many think, my ad will sell the car and they just want to get rid of it but are not willing to "sell" it. Stupid!

But, there are those that do want to sell and do it. I have bought two cars from Craiglist and one from Ebay. The two from Craigslist were from private parties. The cars were from  Colorado and Michigan. The transaction went well, I sent the money and the car was picked up by the shipper. The cars were as represented upon arrival. Piece of cake. The ebay purchase as from a dealer in Illinois, paid $14K for a Subie Outback. Same deal, it arrived in 7 days and was fine. Shipping costs Vary, so shop on the Internet. Generally, shipping a car from Florida to CA is $12-1500, from Nebraska, $600, from Ohio, $850. 

Shippers usually require no money down to pick up the car and full payment is made upon delivery and after you inspect the car. The costs involve the route and distance. Less traveled routes cost more.

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