When my aunt bought a used BMW on eBay last year, I thought she was crazy. Buying a book or a pair of pants online isn't scary anymore, but do people really put down thousands on a big-ticket item like a car, truck or boat sight unseen? The answer is yes: for a growing number of car buyers, purchasing a car on eBay isn't crazy behavior at all it's an excellent way to get a good deal. Buyers purchased more than 300,000 vehicles in 2002 via eBay's newest online auction site, eBay Motors. Twice as many vehicles were sold in 2003, and buyer demand continues to outpace supply. Joseph Sinclair and Don Spillane, both longtime eBay gurus, teamed up to write eBay Motors the Smart Way to give both buyers and sellers tips on how to finance, what to test drive, and when to walk away. BookPage caught up with Sinclair to find out more about saving a bundle without getting stuck with a lemon.

You stress that buyers must do their homework before bidding. What do they need to do to be prepared? Understand what type of car they need and the price range in which they can purchase a car. The other part is looking up the value of the car on one of the online pricing services (e.g., Kelly Blue Book).

How can buyers avoid getting a lemon when buying a car in another state? They can buy an online car check for $5-$10, which lists the documented history of the vehicle (from public records such as the DMV).

They can also have a mechanic check the vehicle for $75-$100 to determine what kind of operating condition it's in. This is usually done as a contingency to the purchase when the buyer picks up the vehicle (or before).

Why do sellers stop auctions before the time is up? How can buyers avoid a cancelled auction? A seller can terminate an auction at any time prior to completion so long as no one has reached the Buy It Now price, if one exists. A buyer can stop an auction from being cancelled by bidding the Buy It Now price, if one exists.

The book covers car selling on eBay as if it were a negotiation rather than an auction. Why? First, the price of the vehicle is one element of the sale. If you buy from a used car dealer, there are several more elements to negotiate (e.g., financing). Second, many dealers remove the vehicle from an auction as soon as someone makes an acceptable offer. Often that someone is a person who sees the auction on eBay and makes an offer off eBay. Thus, the entire transaction is negotiated, and the auction is never completed.

Do bidding strategies work in car auctions? Bidding strategies are overrated. No matter how any of the bidders bid, the guy who is willing to bid the most usually wins. There are lots of bidding strategies, but they are all subject to the above statement. The best auction strategy is the same for both buyers and sellers. That's know the value.

Can you still find a great deal on eBay? Absolutely! Cadillac Devilles cost about $50,000 new. See what they sell for on eBay. There are over 200 available today. I just saw one six years old with about 40,000 miles for $9,000. That's hardly broken in. Don't get a black one, though, or everyone will think you're just the chauffeur as you drive it around town.

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