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Friday, August 03, 2007

Some Selling Problems Seem Worse on eBay Motors

A while back I did an experiment on Craigs List vs. Autotrader.com to see which fared better when selling economy vehicles. The experiment dragged on for about 6 months, so the vehicle was finally listed on eBay Motors to "wholesale" it. Six months of traditional online advertising with no sale, and then 7 days on eBay and it's gone. All good, right? Not necessarily.

The first problem with selling cars on eBay is that you shouldn't expect to get a high sale price unless it's a unique vehicle (classic, exotic, etc.). eBay says it themselves that their marketplace is intended to be a wholesale arena where dealers can sell cars that they would normally run back over the auction block. A dumping ground. That's what I used it for in my experiment so I didn't expect to make a lot of money on the sale. I say this is a problem because a lot of dealers expect to get retail price for their eBay units and it doesn't happen all the time. As long as you go into it knowing what to expect, it's really not a "problem" per se.

The main problem I've had on eBay is the buying customers. It's not too far off from the average customers walking onto a lot, but I do think it's a little worse. The vehicle I sold went for over $1000 below book price. I still made a little money on the deal, the buyer got a good price on the car, everyone was happy. Everyone was happy until a couple of days later, that is. The buyer of my vehicle flew in from about 5 hours away. I picked him up at the airport and drove him to where the car was located. He spent about an hour going over the vehicle inside and out and then was ready to make the deal. We took care of the paperwork, I got my money, and he drove the car 5 hours to his home.

A day or two later I received an email from the gentleman saying he wanted his money back plus travel/hotel expenses he paid to pick up the car. He said the car had been in an accident at some point even though the Carfax did not indicate this. Of course the Carfax does not guarantee that all accidents with a vehicle are reported and included on their reports. He said he bought the car for a 16-year-old nephew and the nephew didn't want a car that's been in an accident. The description I used when I listed the car on eBay Motors specifically said that according to carfax it had never been in an accident. I also made it clear that I was not the original owner of the car, so even though I did my best to accurately describe it, it was a used car and was being sold as-is.

It wasn't my fault for selling a car that has supposedly been in an accident. There are a lot of cars out there that have been, but it was never reported to anyone. Unless I took a much closer look at a few parts I wouldn't have been able to tell. It wasn't the buyer's fault for coming 5 hours to pick up a car that he thought was never in an accident. He did however purchase a vehicle "as-is" after inspecting it himself in person.

I got to thinking...would this situation be as bad if it wasn't an eBay buyer? The bottom line is that the buyer got a decent looking and running car for well below book value. He had the opportunity to check it out thoroughly (which he did) prior to purchase, and nobody forced him to purchase the vehicle. Would this same thing have happened on a walk-up customer? Personally I don't think so. I think a lot of shoppers on eBay are more picky than the average shopper. Part of it probably has to do with the reach of eBay. A lot of people aren't going to see a car in person because they shop outside their local area. Good for sellers, bad for buyers. No matter what you tell them, send them the photos of, etc., they still expect a new car when they arrive. I had the same thing happen years ago when I sold a '69 Mustang Mach 1. The buyer picked it up in person then called very upset the next day because he got it home and realized it didn't have disc brakes which he assumed it did. I don't know that there's anything that can be done in situations like these, but it's still one thing that I see selling cars on eBay more than on the other classified sites.

4 comments:

Design for MySpace said...

It is a credibility issue with eBay motors perhaps because of the security gateway issue.

Kazim said...

One way to protect both the seller and the buyer in cases where the buyer is not able to drive to inspest the vehicle, is to have a 3rd party inspection company provide a detailed inspection report, including accident check, the will take photos of any dents scratches and use a tool that can detect if any paintwork is present.

cost is around 99 dollars and well worth it!

There are many inspections offering this type of service, CarChex and SGS Inspection are both very good choices.

Anonymous said...

Lower value cars atttract more difficult customers.

Jeff Welsh said...

Wow you actually made a complete sale on eBay Motors? Twice now, I've had auctions end with no payment and unfortunately you can't leave negative feedback to a deadbeat bidder. You're only option is to open a case 4 days later and have the transaction cancelled. They refund you for the auction, but of course not for your time, with no apparent penalty to the bidder. It seems no one is held accountable on eBay Motors, which I don't think I will ever use again.