Doc's Classic eBay Motors Sucks Blog

Internet Car Buying And Selling Tips

The most informative in depth article ever written about internet vehicle buying and selling. Published by a retired internet car dealer who knows this business well.


Internet Car Buying Tips

Don’t Get Suckered! Always inspect the vehicle first before purchasing online!

Chances are you found this article on the net looking for advice how to buy a used car on the Internet without getting a raw deal.

I am a previous licensed Florida used car dealer with over 40 years in the business. 10 plus of those years was selling used cars online and exporting cars worldwide.

I have since retired but are happy to assist you get a great deal on your next automobile!

Since those early days online things have changed a lot – and not necessarily for the better. Pay close attention to this article – and i’ll show you what to avoid so you don’t get suckered! :cry:

There are indeed some real good deals on the Internet. Unfortunately that good deal is usually several states away. And like it usually is – if that price seems really low chances are there is a good reason for it. Don’t get taken advantage of!

Update 05/11/2015: Fraud Alert! NICB Exposes Major Craigslist Car Buying Forged Cashier’s Check Scam! Car sellers are accepting genuine looking cashiers checks for their car that sold on Craigslist. A week later when the check bounces the victim is out their car. See our article about this fraud here.

Update 01/28/2015: Due to the robbery and murder of a Georgia Couple. Elrey “Bud” Runion and his wife, June E. Runion. My sincerest condolences go out to the Runion’s family. May god bless you and your parents soles.

Folks if you are online car shopping and plan to meet someone to buy a car (or other item) it’s best to meet in a public place during daylight hours only. A busy mall parking lot, at a local police station parking lot, etc.

Please do not take unnecessary risks your life may depend on it!

Back in the mid 90’s AOL was a BBS (Bulletin Board System) that offered Internet Access. And slowly more and more people were finding a use for those free floppy disks that were mass mailed to everyone, (other than re-formatting and using for other things). eBay was just getting started and was all about trust and community. Most of the the sellers were honest and contributed to the principles that the site was founded on. If a bad seller got into the circle of trust the company booted them real fast! You could buy a car several states away or in another country and be assured the vehicle was what it was represented to be. Internet car sales was born and it was great!

Lets go fast forward from those early days to today. Trust is nothing but a five letter word with little meaning. A smart buyer will do a lot of homework researching a vehicle he/she is interested in purchasing.

Have the vehicle inspected! The odds are if a vehicle is priced really cheap It could be a fraudulent advertisement out to steal your money, or is a major problem vehicle. Older northern vehicles with undisclosed frame rust, flood damaged vehicles, accident damaged vehicles with undisclosed salvage titles, just to name a few. Not counting curbstoners (unlicensed dealers) flipping cars with open titles, that might not be transferable into the new buyers name. Do your homework folks! :wink:

Curbstoner Flipping Open Title Cars

Curbstoner Flipping Open Title Cars

Buying a car from a private seller. Beware of private sellers that buy and sell vehicles with out being licensed. Flipping cars from one owner to another. The curbstoner buys a car from a little old lady in a newspaper. Instead of going to his local DMV and transferring that title into his name, he resells the car to Buyer B who prints his name in on the back of the title, but does not go to the DVM and pay the taxes and transfer it into his name. Instead he might have made a few repairs and clean it up, then decides to sell it. So buyer B becomes seller B and sells the car to Buyer C who is in another state. Seller B crosses his name out on the back of the title and writes Buyer C’s name in above his name that he just crossed out. Seller B then hands the title to Buyer C who takes it to his tag office to pay the Taxes and purchase a license plate. The title clerk takes one look at that crossed out name and rejects the title for transfer.

Now here is where the mess starts. Buyer C’s DMV tells him/her to contact the person who’s name is printed on the front of the title. Buyer A would be required to transfer this title into his/her name, pay any taxes due, yada, yada, yada, then sign the new title they receive over to Buyer B who would repeat this process and sign the title over to Buyer C. Only problem is.. the little old lady that sold the car has no idea who she sold the car to. Buyer A just paid her cash and had her sign off as the seller. By law this car is Legally Still Titled in Her Name. If it is used in a crime or involved in an accident, the police will be coming to her! It’s a real paperwork nightmare! Often it’s easier to get the registered owner to file for a duplicate title, and then sign it over to the person trying to title it in their name. Though a DMV official will not tell anyone this because it’s considered illegal. Any way you look at it, it’s an absolute nightmare getting a non-transferable title!

TIP: To avoid a non-transferable title situation. Vehicles are referred to as “Titled Property.” By law a motor vehicle can only be legally sold by it’s registered owner. Licensed dealers excluded. To cover your butt. I advise anyone that’s buying a car long distance on the Internet from a private seller to request a fax, or scan and email attach “both sides of the title, along with a copy of the sellers photo ID or drivers license to prove the vehicle is titled in their name. This is the best proof of ownership a car buyer can get. If the car the individual is selling is not titled in his/her name, it’s not their car to sell period! If both the buyer and seller are in the same state, insist on going with the seller to the motor vehicle bureau (DMV) to do the title transfer. And do not hand over the cash until the title clerk says the title is OK to transfer.

An audio clip from Doc explaining why buyer should ask seller for photo ID.

Curbstoning got so bad on the venue that their Vehicle Purchase Protection program (VPP) excludes buying a car and receiving a title, but not being able to transfer it (The Curbstoner Exclusion.) If you end up like this you will be stuck like Chuck, and the only solution would be to have the registered owner apply for a duplicate title and sign it over to you. Or file suit against the seller. Attorneys are not cheap, and even if you manage to get a judgment it may be impossible to collect it. And attorneys fees and court costs, could exceed the value of the vehicle. So Just Beware!

Old Collector Cars are common for having open titles. Lots of these cars are either not running, or was a project someone started to restore but never completed, or for parts. Others are restored but never titled in the owners name either because the owner bought the car as an investment and didn’t want to pay the taxes and registration fees, or otherwise don’t drive it. It’s not uncommon to see a collector car go through a half dozen owners without a title transfer. The problem with this is, if that title is lost it can be a nightmare getting a duplicate issued.

Buying a car from a licensed dealer. While a dealer most likely will want more for a car than a private seller, it’s a safe bet that the title will be proper and should be no problem to transfer. Dealers are licensed and also bonded in most states. But it’s still advisable to verify the dealer has a physical location. If so it’s a safe bet that you will not drive up to an abandoned building or vacant lot somewhere after sending payment for a car. It’s also very common to have wholesalers working off of a dealers license. The wholesaler usually pays a draft fee to use the dealers funding and to gain auction access to source their cars. Lots of dealer cars are offered by wholesalers on the Internet. The wholesaler can issue temporary tags and deliver a car as a dealers agent. Plus the dealer is ultimately responsible for his agent’s actions, so this kind of seller is a safe bet to deal with on a long distance transaction.

Licensed Dealers Bidding At Auction

Licensed Auto Dealers Bidding At Auction ~ Red Light = AS IS!

Independent Dealers buy most of their cars at Dealer Auctions. These days the greatest majority of Franchised Dealers send all their trades to auction. This accomplishes two things. It keeps their used car managers from taking Grease (money under the table) and selling trades to their friends at a reduced price. It also ensures the dealership will get top dollar for a nice trade in unit. Vehicles are also sold as repossessions by banks and finance companies. Wholesalers selling made up cars. And non franchised dealers swapping the units they can’t sell among each other.

The older cars are mostly sold on the “red light” AS-IS with No Warranty! The dealers sell them the same way they buy them, AS-IS! When the auctioneers gavel falls and he hollers SOLD someone is the proud owner of that unit with any and all faults it may have. If it don’t have a reverse that’s too bad. There is no crying to the office about it. Lots of these kind of vehicles end up for sale on the Internet! This is where an Inspection can be worth it’s weight in gold!

Becoming a new dealer is an experience some may want to forget all about. There is nothing like the experience a newbie dealer will gain by going to the “Unofficial Car Dealer School – The Dealer Auction.” Here they will learn all about bidding against the coke machine. Among other things that are unofficial trade secrets of the car business.

Newbie car dealers also learn the hard way about buying a set up car. They usually pay every nickel for that (set up to sell) unit. Next day the air is hot. A week later that nice shiny finish fades away to reveal the painted panels and other things that were not noticed when the car ran through the auction. It sits around for a couple of months and does not sell. Newbie dealer takes it back to the auction to try and dump it but unfortunately the regular sellers get the good early run numbers, and newbie dealer ends up running at the end of the sale when most everyone has went home. The only way to get rid of a turd like this is to put it on the Internet and hope someone from another state buys it sight unseen without an inspection!

Buying a late model car, truck, van, etc. Lots of late model cars have an advertised “Factory Warranty” Or the balance of a factory warranty remaining. But it is advisable to check to be sure it’s correct yourself. Don’t just assume the seller is telling the truth, get the vehicles VIN (ID Number) and call your local dealer and inquire what warranty is remaining on that vehicle. Lots of situations can void a factory warranty. Accidents, Modifications, Abuse, Commercial Usage, Etc. Remember it’s your obligation to verify every detail about a vehicle you are interested in purchasing.

TIP: Once again Trust Nobody! Can you imagine being stuck making payments for 36 months or even longer on some falsely advertised late model vehicle? Didn’t think so! The more money you are investing, the greater chance is of getting taken by a bad seller in another state or country. Do your homework folks!

Vehicle History Reports. These can be worth their weight in gold if you find out that car you are planning on buying has Major Accident or Salvage History, Flood Damage, Odometer Discrepancy, Etc. CarFax is without a doubt the leading authority in vehicle history reports. Be advised that vehicle history reports are only available for 1981 and newer Passenger Vehicles with the standard 17 Character VIN Number. CarFax often includes major service history on vehicles that others do not. So if your looking at a car and have serious thoughts about buying it, do yourself a favor spend the money and purchase a CarFax report on it! Remember these history reports are only displaying the data their companies purchase! They should only be considered as a GUIDE to a vehicles history!

National Insurance Crime Bureau VIN Check

National Insurance Crime Bureau VIN Check

Another Good Vehicle VIN Check is the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). This database is FREE and a must check to see if an insurance payoff was ever made on a vehicle.

I recently read a discussion on an automotive forum where a buyer had won an auction for a late model Mazda Rx8. Auto Check didn’t show any discrepancies and even CarFax was clean. But the NICB Database showed a total loss in 01/2008! Further investigation revealed that the cars owner was paid an insurance settlement, so it never was reported to the history companies.

The private seller was deceitful and the buyer walked away. Once again it was a “Bargain Buggy” that turned out to not be not such a bargain after all. This buyer was SMART and did his homework before paying for the car.

The old saying is often true, you get what you pay for! Lets face it, if you are looking into buying at a car in another state, chances are it’s the price that got your attention. Especially on auctions where the bidding is at 1/2 of book value or less.

If your buying an older car. My example of older means the car is usually 8-10 years old or older, and with an odometer reading well over 100k miles. Don’t expect a perfect showroom condition car regardless what the advertisement claims. An old car can run perfect today and puke an engine or transmission the next day. It’s just the nature of old used cars.

While technology has improved the modern automobile. All this high tech stuff is real expensive to fix when the vehicle gets old. An engine or a transmission can easily exceed the value of a older vehicle. Some sellers advertise vehicles as being perfect but are blatant lies. The seller hopes someone far away will buy the car and have it shipped home!

Don’t fall for a car that has been “set up for photos” that might look good but has hidden mechanical problems or undisclosed undercarriage rust or other damages. Also beware that certain cars when they get old have their own faults and failures. For instance older Cadillac’s with the early NorthStar V8 are prone to head gasket failures which having to fix can exceed the value of the car. It’s the buyers responsibility to either check the vehicle out in person. Or if that’s not possible have an inspection company check it out. There are many Mobile Inspection Services that will inspect a car you are planning on buying. If you buy a car sight unseen and it’s not as described you will be stuck like Chuck!

Odometer Tampering Is Fraud

Odometer Tampering Is Fraud Including Exempt

Odometer Tampering Fraud. This is another thing anyone that’s buying a car should be aware of. The LAW says that a vehicles odometer will not be tampered with. It’s real clear on the subject of rolling back an odometer, replacing an odometer with another showing lower mileage, etc. This includes exempt status vehicles. The law makes no exception to altering an exempt (10 years old or older) vehicles odometer.

If a vehicles odometer has been replaced or repaired it must be disclosed when the vehicle is sold. Franchised dealerships repair techs that replace an odometer as a rule put a notification sticker in a cars door jamb showing the date and mileage (if known) that an odometer was replaced at. New odometers from the dealer usually start off at 0 mileage (analog).

Shady used car dealers and scamming private individuals may alter (roll back) an analog odometer to deceive a buyer. Often a CarFax Report will show a vehicles mileage history, but it has been my experience others may not. It’s a good investment to purchase a CarFax Report on any vehicle 1981 or newer to check the mileage readings. Also state DMV records, inspection stations, etc, record a vehicles mileage in the state database. If you suspect a vehicle you have bought may not be displaying the proper mileage check with the state DMV to see what their recorded mileage is on that vehicle. That information should be public record, but you might have to pay them to get a printout.

A vehicle may have been into a franchised dealer for warranty service. Calling any franchised dealer and giving the service manager the last 8 of the vin could reveal any odometer discrepancies. It’s also advisable to do a visual inspection. Check for wear on the brake pedal, steering wheel, how easily the drivers door opens and closes, any visible signs that the mileage might be higher than the vehicle odometer is showing. There is also software on the market that will alter a digital odometers mileage reading. So if the odometer is a digital one, don’t rely on it being accurate. Do your homework and investigate for possible odometer fraud. It’s better to find out before purchasing a car that has been clocked than after the fact.

Odometer Exempt Vehicles. Any vehicle that is 10 years old or older is considered Exempt on Odometer Disclosure by Federal Law. Most dealer auctions will sell these age vehicles as “Odometer Exempt”. Chances are if a title transfer was done on an older car it will probably say Exempt on the title where the mileage would normally appear. Once a vehicle has been exempted it will stay that way. An older vehicle may still be registered as “Actual Miles” in most states as long as it’s supporting title and odometer reading/statement reflect this actual miles.

Old 5 Digit Odometers. I see so many older cars with 5 digit analog odometers where a seller is advertising the car as having the actual or correct mileage. This is mostly observed on old collector cars from the 50’s 60’s 70’s. The clock (odometer) has probably rolled over at least twice.

There are no history reports on any car older than 1981 when the current 17 character VIN became standard. So the best and probably only way to document the mileage on a collector or antique car is with service receipts. An old log book that reflects dates and mileage reading of service work and oil changes etc. A log book would have to look old to convince me it is legit. It’s too easy to use a computer to document dates and mileage and then print it out.

If you buy an older car and the title states “Actual Mileage” be sure to get the seller to sign an odometer statement that the mileage IS ACTUAL and when registering the vehicle be sure to request the DMV record the mileage as actual. You have to Request This as they will record it as Exempt if you don’t request it! This is real important to keep the market value up on an older car with actual miles. Transferring the title as Except will kill the cars market value!

Vehicle Sales Taxes and Out Of State Car Sales. Most states are reciprocal as far as collecting their taxes goes. It’s best to check with the dealer you are buying from about any tax liability. It is also recommended to call your states DMV to find out if any taxes are due when you register the vehicle. Every state is different. Also be advised not all dealers follow the law and collect the proper taxes. If the dealer does not collect tax, you can usually pay it at your DMV when transferring the title. Be prepared to produce a Bill Of Sale to prove what you paid for the vehicle.

Making Safe Payment. If you have done your homework and are ready to purchase your internet car, use a safe payment method. 1st off NEVER Use Western Union or any other Cash Transfer Service. Beware of Fake Escrow Services that will steal your money! WU is the Scammers Choice for receiving payments because a payment can be picked up in any country, all the scammer needs is the MTU number!

My payment choice if i was doing an internet vehicle transaction would be to send it by a bank wire transfer. If buying from a Licensed Dealer the dealer could provide you with the company’s bank wire transfer instructions via email or by fax. This is good if you will be getting the vehicle shipped home and want to be sure the dealer receives your payment. Another option is to pay by a Cashiers Check and mail it using USPS Priority or Express Mail with Signature Conformation. This is important so you know they signed for it.

When i was selling cars on the Internet i would send the title and paperwork this way to be sure it didn’t get lost in the mail. If a cashiers check is lost in the mail, the issuing bank most likely would require you to put up a bond before replacing it. Don’t take the risk of getting stuck like Chuck because you were too cheap to properly mail the check!!

If you are picking the vehicle up in person, paying cash on delivery is OK too. I would be sure the seller had the title and would be handing it over to you on delivery. Be sure to have followed my advise earlier in this article and did your title/ownership homework. Along with any vehicle inspection etc. Nothing worse than flying to a long way from home location with a ONE WAY TICKET and find out the vehicle was a POS because you didn’t have it inspected. Be a SMART EDUCATED BUYER!

The Internet IS INFESTED with Fraudsters who offer a vehicle for sale at an incredibly low price. If a vehicles price seems “unrealistically low to you” STOP and ask yourself, what’s wrong with this car? Been wrecked? Been in a Flood? Salvage title? Is this a fraudulent listing?

Lots of times these fraudulent advertisements will be found on,, Craigslist, eBay Motors, and many other online publications and venues. Fraudsters are also advertising in conventional print publications like Newspapers and Magazines. Don’t Get Phished!

Fraudulent Invoice For Internet Vehicle Purchase. Watch this video as i show you how vehicle bank wire deposit phishing scams are operated in great detail. Don’t swallow the Sucker Bait!

Updated 06/07/2014: Fraudsters are now using Green Dot Moneypak to defraud car shoppers. See my article and video that was published today for further details.

Those ads you see are sucker bait! And are intended to lure a prospective buyer to email the scammer, who is most likely in Europe somewhere operating out of an internet cafe or wireless broadband connection.

Internet fraudsters are pros at what they do! Steal money from gullible people thinking such an unrealistically low price is legit! Don’t Get Phished Out Of Your Money!

ebay motors fraudulent vehicle invoice

eBay Motors VPP Scam That Will Steal Your Money AND Phish Your Identity At The Same Time!

Fraudsters will offer to process the transaction through Amazon Payments, eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection Program, Google Checkout, and other venues. They claim that a 3rd party holds the money until the vehicle is received and approved by the buyer. The documents the seller will send look authentic but are fraudulent! eBay does not guarantee Craigslist or any other venues transactions. Here is the Authentic eBay Motors VPP Overview Page.

If you fall for one of these phishing scams your money will be gone! Sorry to be blunt, but it’s like taking your money and throwing it in the trash!

Just remember – there is NO FREE LUNCH! Someone somewhere is always paying for it! And there is no BARGAIN CAR coming to you with FREE SHIPPING Either!

Also be aware of MONEY MULES that get suckered into taking payment for a VEHICLE as a SELLERS AGENT. Scammers contact people searching for jobs online and offers them a job as an agent. The scammer has his victim wire the money to the agent who takes 10-20% of the sale proceeds as their commission. The agent (money mule) then wires the balance on to someone else.

Scammers will “RINSE” their dirty money several times in an attempt to hide their tracks. If you fall for this one you could wind up in prison for “money laundering” and “grand theft” it’s your ass that will be up the creek when the feds come knocking! So if someone contacts you about working for them as a sellers agent collecting payments RUN!

Also of major importance. If you have emailed a scammer, there is a good chance they could have slipped a key logger or some other virus onto your computer. Be sure to do a full virus scan of your machine. Then go online and change any banking or other online accounts passwords. These scammers are pros at doing what they do best, steal suckers money!

If you need a good free antivirus program try Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows. It works excellent and auto updates it’s definitions just like Norton or other paid software.

Doc’s Best Advice For Internet Vehicle Sellers

If you are selling your car it’s best to put your terms of sale in your ad. Be sure to specify how you want to be paid. Cash on delivery is ok. If doing an internet transaction i would insist the buyer use a bank wire transfer to send your payment.

Also it’s always best to tell prospective buyers in writing that your car is sold AS-IS with no warranty. I used to say “if it breaks in half you own both halves” that pretty much sums it up. Even if your car has a the balance of it’s factory warranty remaining, It should still be sold AS-IS but worded that it does have it’s remaining balance of factory warranty that follows the vehicle.

NEVER Accept PayPal for a vehicle’s full purchase price. PayPal is good if you are looking for a quick way to collect a vehicle deposit. I suggest no more than $200-300. But beware a credit card funded chargeback could cost you that deposit money as a seller.

Even though PayPal Buyer Protection does not cover “Vehicles or Vehicle Deposits” I have read that some PayPal customer support reps do not know this, and will let a buyer reverse a vehicle purchase. If you have sold your car truck boat or whatever is considered a vehicle you could wind up stuck like chuck.

Also it is possible to charge back a credit card if one was used to fund a vehicle purchase. However a vehicle is what is considered “Titled Property” and as a rule credit card companies will not charge back on titled property. BUT the buyer could tell a tall tale to his credit card provider and say he bought something other than a vehicle.

If PayPal gets notification of a chargeback they take the money back from your account. If your account is empty they give you a minus balance and take anything that comes in from that point on. PayPal will eventually turn the uncollected balance over to collections. Or even file suit if the balance owed is large enough. If you have something to attach and good credit you will be stuck paying them. Here is a Good Example why not to Accept PayPal for a vehicle

Please Note: This website is not the place to peddle your ride! Any for sale comments will be moderated. Need advice? Comment below :wink:

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Doc - Admin and Publisher. Over a Decade Supporting Internet Automobile Buying and Selling Consumers.

Internet Car Scams were born on eBay Motors back in the early 2000's and have since spread all over the net. Be a smart vehicle buyer. Do your homework FIRST before buying. Otherwise you might loose your money - or be upset with the car you receive! Read my Internet car buying tips article link above. The ASS you save might wind up being your own!

Have questions? Comment below!


  1. Scott Krenytzky

    I put my junk Accord on Craigslist for $500 and found a buyer in CA. He wants to send a check for the car plus extra money to pay the transport service to pick up the car. I am supposed to contact him when the cashiers check clears and he will arrange for pickup. Do you think this is legit? What about the signing of the title and notarization? Thanks.

  2. Abby Bennett

    Hi! I’m supposed to go look at a car Thursday that I found on Craigslist. This dealer also sells cars on eBay, so I looked up his ratings as well as the same car he has listed on there (link removed by moderator) eBay Item 331660804721 – 2015 Toyota Prius. He has a 100% seller rating and the VIN (JTDKDTB34F1578269) checks out in auto check. I am still a little hesitant because the car is priced below what it is worth ($13,900)…. Any advice? I am going to look at it in person.

    1. Doc

      Do the words sucker bait make sense? A 2015 Prius C is booking out at $28,895 according to As we often say in the car business, there’s an ass for every seat. Don’t swallow the sucker bait!

      The current $1,025 bid on eBay Motors is such a joke. And the seller has a nice presentation with lots of good photos too.

  3. AlwaysPathfinders

    Hey ed

    I’m supposed to go look at a couple cars tonight that I found via Craigslist. The one seems pretty legit. Gonna go meet the person and be says he has service records for it. Seems like a normal deal so far but the guy is asking a bit much for a privately sold car.

    The other one… He says he has it stored at a friend’s/ mechanics garage, but then later says it’s parked on the street there, and then tells me it’s not actually his car. It’s his brother in laws car. He said it was recently inspected but that he hasn’t driven it much since the inspection in July (2 months ago). He also said he doesn’t have any service records for it, but it’s an older car so I figured that could happen.

    I’m feeling uneasy. One car is priced a little high. The other is priced right but the guy seems fishy. Any suggestions of what to be on the lookout for?


    1. Doc

      Well for starters, I don’t suggest looking at cars at nighttime. Good way to get robbed or even killed. Besides it’s hard to look a vehicle over well at night. If your not a dealer and not a mechanic have the car inspected. Be sure the vehicle is titled in the sellers name. If you make a deal i suggest calling the local police and have them run the VIN to be sure it’s not stolen or fraudulently obtained.

      Best wishes, Doc.

  4. Rip Poe

    Thanks for sharing this useful post with us. Great study of this article and lots of tips in it to buy the new one vehicle. Thanks for this post.

  5. Tom Steele

    I just purchased a 1967 El Camino on the internet site unseen, except for photos stating purchase as is. The vehicle just arrived yesterday and is way worse then the photos!! Is there anything I can do to have car sent back and receive a refund on this purchase?? Very disappointed!!! And angry…

    1. Doc

      Sorry to hear about that. I always advise consumers to have a vehicle inspected before committing to purchase.

      Trust is little more than a five letter word with no meaning these days. AS-IS generally means just that. Attorneys are not cheap especially if another state is involved. It really sucks to be lied to about a vehicles condition!

  6. knubby

    Hey Ed, I am selling a vehicle online and received texts from a interested buyer, he wants to send a check via USPS 2 day, with extra to cover shipping it to him. He says i can hold the vehicle till the check clears. Not sure if its a scam, sounds like one. also its a GA phone number and im in WI.

    1. Doc

      I suggest making voice contact with your prospective buyer and feel him out. As long as the buyer does not ask for you to send the extra shipping money to his agent of shipper, it could be for real. I would strongly recommend a bank wire transfer for payment. Otherwise I’d give any check a minimum 10 days to clear before releasing the car and title.

      Good luck with your sale.

  7. Net Auto

    Interesting post, we must always be very careful when selling anything on the internet but especially large purchases like a car.

  8. manaman

    Hey Ed, Im in Bradenton FL and i found a vehicle that is hard to come by a 83 VW Vanagon , the van has sat for a year, I checked the vin and its not stolen but the seller has told me that the title is in the previous owners name still, that he didnt transfer it over because he was going to fix it up but it never happen, I still want the van because its a hard one to find, what should i do when i go meet him on Sunday , I havent seen the title, dont know if he has signed his name or not and if the transfer section is still attached, what would be the best solution? i dont know if he knows the owner he bought it from or not, plus it has no tags or registration, Please help

    1. Doc

      Since you both are in Florida, and assuming the vanagon has a Florida title i suggest both of you go to the DMV and try transferring it. I wouldn’t hand over the doe until i knew it was transferrable. If the vanagon does NOT have a Florida title it will have to either be driven or transported to the DMV for a VIN verification.

      Open titles are quite a common situation with old cars. The only problem would be not able to transfer the title, which could be a paperwork nightmare to remedy.

      1. manaman

        But his name is not on the title, how would going to DMV help

        1. Doc

          I’d just hand it to the title clerk and say i want to title it. Can’t hurt, all they can say is yes or no. And if no give you a reason why not and what you need to correct to make it transferable.

  9. Tahoegrrl

    HI Ed, glad I found you! Here’s something I haven’t seen much of yet – my husband has been looking for a ’69 Camaro and found one on a “craigslist like” site. The car from the pics is gorgeous, and way under priced. Initially we thought it was in Iowa because of the site we found it on, but after he contacted the guy, he said he is in The Netherlands, but the car is registered in the states, says he wants to sell it to avoid registering overseas. Of course all kinds of alarms went off in my head! Then he comes back stating he would pay to ship it, send it COD, and allow us 2 days to inspect/drive it. If we don’t want to keep it, he would have it shipped back. I know, sounds too good to be true, right? But hubby wants to pursue further. We have the serial #, but have not seen copy of the title. I’m thinking walk away and fast. We have not given him any of our info (except email address) and we won’t. How could/would this work? I’m not comfortable at all

    1. Doc

      This deal has phishing scam written all over it, especially the free shipping and inspection period. Probably trying to phish your husband out of a deposit type of scam.

      As usual it’s the lure of an unbelievably good deal that snares internet car buyers. Best bet is to forget about it.

      Best wishes, Doc.

  10. Singh

    Hi Ed,

    Thanks for the article. It is very informative. I have one question. I am looking to buy a luxury sedan from dealer only auto auction. I spoke with one person from a different state who has dealers licence and buy vehicles for people from auctions for a flat fee. I am planning on taking an auto loan from my credit union, which offered to give me a check with a maximum limit where I can fill in the actual amount for the car and give it to the dealer. I am trying to understand what is the best way to pay for this transaction so that I am covered in case things do not go as planned. Essentially what I understood is that this person will bid for the car on my behalf. After a bid is won, he needs to pay for the vehicle within a day or so. He will give me an invoice for the car cost, transportation cost, plus his fee, once I pay him the amount he will give me the bill of sale and transport the car.
    What I am wondering is what is the safest mode of payment for this transaction such that the payment can be stopped or reversed in case there is a problem.
    Thanks in advance

    1. Doc

      From my experiences at dealer auctions a premium low mileage unit will bring close to retail book value. Add to the winning bid, auction, dealer, and transport fees will put you close to what you could buy that unit locally. In my opinion it’s a lot of risk taking to possibly save only a small amount. Probably not worth it.

      It’s common for credit unions to fund dealers after their lien has been
      applied. That’s the basic procedure, though other arrangements could possibly be arranged.

      As for reversing payment on titled property, that could be a criminal matter. Dealers usually sell used cars AS-IS with no warranty implied. A possible exception could be factory warranty remaining, but that is between the manufacturer and the cars owner. Has nothing to do with a selling dealer.

      Try to find a car locally by a private owner. Negotiate your best price, then take it to the dealership to be inspected (if factory warranty remains.) Factory warranty can be voided for many reasons. It’s up to you the buyer to verify all the details.

      Hope this helps, Ed

  11. George Allen

    Thanks for the advice. I’m purchasing a classic car across state lines and then have it shipped. I’m asking for the seller to send me a copy of the title, both sides. Then when I’m ready to pay I thought I would ask him to hold the car, but send me the title. When I receive the title i will wire him the money, and he can release the car to the transport company when the wire clears. Does this sound reasonable to you?

    1. Doc

      I strongly suggest you have the vehicle inspected before sending payment. If your seller is a private party I would request a photo ID along with copies of the title to ensure the vehicle is his or hers to sell. Otherwise your questions sounds OK to me.

      Best wishes for a smooth successful purchase.

  12. Tyler

    When buying a car on ebaymotors, does the buyer typically send $ first or the seller send the title first? Is it title, $, then car or $, title, then car? I am the buyer. Have a scanned copy of the title showing seller has clear title.

    1. Doc

      That would be up to the seller. When i sold cars online i required payment in full before releasing the vehicle and title.

      A quick suggestion. If buying out of state or town and plan on having the vehicle shipped home, have it inspected first to be sure it’s in the condition that the seller says. Good job checking the title!

      Best wishes for a successful transaction, Doc

      1. Tyler

        Thank you, Doc!

  13. Brandon

    I just put a down payment on a vehicle that was listed on EBay, but I finalized the transaction off eBay. I had an inspector check the vehicle and it looks great. I want to have it shipped for $750. The dealer wants me to wire the remaining money before it is shipped. How do I make sure I am protected?

    1. Doc

      Have you inspected the title to be sure it is the seller’s name? Or are you buying from a licensed dealer? Bank wire transfer is an approved payment method for eBay Motors vehicle transactions. If it were me i would want to be paid in full before allowing the shipper to pick the car up.

      Sounds like you have done your homework. Just make sure the seller is not peddling an open title. Open titles can wind up being unable to transfer into your name. Be sure to get a bill of sale. And if the car is under 10 years old get an odometer statement as well.

      Best wishes for a smooth successful transaction, Doc

  14. Wendy Miller

    Hi Doc, need your advice. My husband bought a van over the internet and had it transported to us on the other side of the US. It arrived with no title. Now the seller won’t answer any calls. All we have is a handwritten bill of sale (more like scribbled) and a copy of the cashed check (my husband is obviously a very trusting person). What do you recommend as course of action? My dad said send a certified letter for a bill of sale, but I bet he won’t answer that either (he’s about 24 years old).

    1. Doc

      Hi Wendy, please create a help topic in our forum so we can get more info: Where was the vehicle advertised for sale. What state is the seller in. What state are you in. Do you have a link to the vehicles ad. Please post this info in our help forum only.

      Regards, Doc

  15. Doc

    Friends, Please do not place ads to sell your ride here. This website is not intended as a place to peddle stuff. If you need advice buying or selling vehicles feel free to ask questions.

    Thanks for understanding.

    Regards, Ed

  16. Brian Kelley

    Thank you for posting this article. I think it’s important to only deal with customers willing to pay cash for your used car. Too often people end up in small claims court because of the variety of people on craigslist, etc. Great tips all around. Great article.

    1. Doc

      Brian, thanks for your comment. Yes cash is king just have to make sure it’s not counterfeit. The net is a rough place to do business. I long for the good old days where trust and community values ruled.

  17. Tony

    I live in Ohio and recently purchased a vehicle from a used car dealer in Florida. It has been two months since I paid for it, and just received the vehicle two weeks ago. Besides it being a POS ,even though it has low mileage, I still have not yet received the title. The dealer keeps using others as an excuse to why it hasnt been sent yet, but in the meantime has sold dozens of cars on ebay with positive feedback in those two months. So obviously others are receiving their titles. He has also sold well over 500 cars with only a few negatives, so he does have many satisfied customers. Ive been as polite and patient as possible, but im done with that. What would be the best way to proceed from here? Thankyou

    1. Doc

      If it’s a late model car chances are it had a lien on it. Standard procedure is for the trading dealer to send a payoff to the lender to receive title. I have seen titles back in a week and as long as two months. Now that most states have gone paperless titles if a car is sold to a buyer in another state a paper title must be ordered. I’d give it a little more time. But on the other hand, don’t delay past your vpp filing deadline. If you end up filing a protection complaint and the title arrives you can cancel it after getting your vehicle registered.

      Updated 02/25/2015: I missed your two months ago statement above. In that case you should file a complaint with the Florida DMV Dealer Licensing Division. Here it the form url in pdf format:

      Regards and best wishes, Doc.

  18. JTW

    i am buying a vehicle in Indiana and I live in South Carolina. The Carfax came back great. I will have the car shipped to my home in South Carolina. The seller wants me to wire him money and then the car will be shipped. How do I protect myself in this transaction?

    1. Doc

      If you did your homework as i suggested in this article you should be OK. I assume you have contracted with the shipper? It would also be a good idea to check out the shippers reputation online.

      Sorry for the late reply, i did not get notification of your comment. Best wishes, Doc

  19. jon

    Yes, I agree. I really can’t thank you enough for your help on this. I don’t know if I will recover the 2k but I’m definitely going to stay away from this one and limit my losses. And I just want to say, in an era of scammers and crooks, you are providing an amazing public service. Thanks so much Doc, you’re awesome!!!

    1. Doc (Post author)

      Thanks for the kind words. If i can be of any further assistance let me know. We can continue this dialog in my help forum. Regards, Doc.

  20. jon

    Hi Doc,

    I like your blog. Thank you. So, my situation: I just purchased a vehicle on eBay and think I may be dealing with a curbstoner, though I’m not sure. I’ve put a very significant deposit down on the vehicle and also purchased a flight two states away. But now I am concerned. Red flag #1 After some prodding the seller says the vehicle is not in his name, but his wife’s name. That she will sign if over. Oh, and his wife’s name is suspiciously spelled very similarly to his own name. Wife’s name. Major red flag. The story is he tells me is that the car was given to her from her grandmother who is/was the real title holder but it’s o.k. since his wife’s name is the second name in the title she can sign it over to me. He says this is better for me since it will show only one owner. Red flag #2 The vehicle is not at his house but at a covered garage/parking lot where we’re supposed to meet. Red flag #3 I’ve asked him what his name is and the spelling of his name and his wife’s name changes slightly from email to email. Also, his name, his wife’s name, his phone number don’t show up in any online search. More red flags: Despite this being a ‘one owner’ California vehicle 24 yrs old, he speaks English with great difficulty as does his wife. He keeps asking me to bring cash, and how much cash am I bringing. He doesn’t seem forthcoming and got angry at me for asking so many questions when I asked him if there were any liens or loans on the car. I’m supposed to fly down in just a few days but am very concerned at this point that I am being scammed in some fashion. I feel like perhaps I should cut my losses right now, but not sure how. If I do so I will be in all likelihood losing my 2k deposit and flight money per eBay rules concerning deposits. Your advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Doc (Post author)

      Have you requested a copy of both sides of the title and his wife’s photo ID? If they are truly husband and wife, many states have joint property laws, so he could list her car for sale. BUT from your wording it seems something is hokey. The whole idea is to request documentation and a possible inspection BEFORE putting down a deposit, and making travel arrangements. I assume PayPal was used for the deposit? If so PayPal does not cover vehicles or vehicle deposits, so you could wind up loosing your deposit depending how your payment was funded.

      Best wishes, I hope it works out well for you. Doc.

  21. carson

    Hi there,

    I have a quick question for you. I just sold a car on Ebay, received full payment via paypal and the buyer is wanting me to send him a photo of the free and clear title. Is this okay/dangerous to do?

    1. Doc (Post author)

      Well for starters i wouldn’t take PayPal for more than a few hundred dollar deposit. Have the buyer bank wire the balance into your account, that’s the safest way to get paid for a vehicle sold online.

      Yes i would be glad to prove it’s my vehicle for sale. A smart buyer will verify it’s your car to sell. If the person also wants a copy of your drivers license to prove the title is in your name, if it were me, i would make a photo copy then cross out your dob and drivers license number. The whole idea here is to prove it’s your car to sell, and titled in your name. Vehicles are titled property and may only be sold by the registered owner, licensed dealers excluded of course.

      I would also have a bill of sale (AS-IS) signed by your buyer, and also an odometer statement. You can get these online at your motor vehicle department. Cover your ass when dealing with someone you don’t know.

      Best wishes for a successful transaction, Doc.

  22. Roy McCullough

    I like your blog and agree with most of warnings the part about curbstoners crossing out their buyers names off a title is a bit unheard of for me but something to watch out for. For sure!

    My name is Roy McCullough I like cars and various vehicles
    I am always keeping an eye out for good deals on vehicles and just like so many other people if I think I can get it cheap and resell it to make 100 bucks I might do it so technically that makes me a curbstoner? Lol Usually if it’s cheap than its got something wrong with it I am a decent mechanic , so by fixing it myself I can save big and pass that savings on to someone who needs a cheap car due to financial limitations.

    but anyway I started a website I want it to be a nice free resource for people buying and selling cars would you check it out and tell me of any features or anything that you think a site like this should have? I want it to be Free, easy to use, as spam free as possible, We are working on making a smartphone app that will be linked to it so dealers can walk around their lot with a cell phone taking pictures of cars and posting them super quick. and deleting them just as quick when they sell.

    1. Doc (Post author)

      Hi Roy, thanks for your comment. I wish you success in your new business venture. But please do not use this blog to solicit others. It exists to provide good advice for the consumer that’s shopping online for a car. Regards, Doc.

  23. Roger Grimes

    Very up front article with the facts internet car buyers need. I recommend reading this article if your car shopping online.

  24. Abe

    This is a good car buying tips article. It covers all the basics and so much more. Working those scammers with that deposit SUV scam is a very informative video. Any prospective car buyer should watch it.


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