Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | January 24, 2011

An eBay Experience

My experience with eBay began a number of years ago and has generally been a very satisfying one. I have spent many enjoyable hours looking for cars and car parts, or interesting things for the garage. My purchases have been as advertised and at very fair prices.

I have never been successful at buying a vintage car on eBay, although I was the high bidder on a couple. Unfortunately my bids did not exceed the seller’s reserves so the transaction never occurred.

My philosophy with a car purchase has always been that a vehicle should be seen before entering a bid. I know there are appraisers and other experts that can be retained to look at out of town cars, but I always felt most comfortable when I could see a vehicle myself. On two occasions I bid on cars after long discussions with the owners and numerous photos but no personal inspection. The bids were conservative, though, and eventually fell below the high bidder. My bids were made to leave room for unexpected costs should the vehicle not be exactly as represented.

I think to many, searching eBay for an old car may be the modern electronic version of looking for a “barn find.” The hope is to find a collectible car tucked away in an eBay listing that is sold at a price significantly lower than market value. Just like barn finds, such an ideal situation is difficult to discover. The old adage that says a car priced well below market value is probably not what it is represented to be is advice worth following.

With my own philosophy and old adages firmly implanted over years of looking on eBay and other sites, I decided to throw away any semblance of reason on a 1932 Chevy roadster. The photos of the roadster were beautiful and the bidding was low with no reserve.

I emailed the seller to get more detailed information and more photos. In the return email I was told by the seller that I could purchase the car now through eBay’s Buyer Protection Plan at its current bid. The email included a heart wrenching story about the seller and her son having been in an automobile accident that had taken her son’s life two years earlier. The mother was still upset by her loss, and since this was her son’s car, she wanted to sell it quickly to erase the memory. The price was way below market and my greed began exceeding reason.

In the meantime, having the owner’s last name and location from the email, my daughter and I began searching newspapers in her area for articles describing an automotible accident and the death of a young man. After looking at newspapers within a 150 mile radius of her home, we found nothing directly relating to what she had described.

I also checked out eBay’s Buyer Protection Plan and found it to sound very credible. In spite of some doubts, it was time to go back to the listing and get things rolling. Unfortunately, upon returning, I found the listing had been removed. Not knowing why, I emailed the seller again. Although not given a reason for the delisting, I was told that the seller was in an out-of-state physical rehabilitation facility recovering from the accident, but could be at the car’s location in tweny four hours to make it available for inspection and help load it up for shipping home. The roadster was over a thousand miles away so any trip would need a lot more assurance of success before I would make a visit.

Even in my state of greed, red flags were going up. So, I contacted eBay to ask about the circumstances of the delisting. I was told that the seller had violated eBay policies and that they would not recomment purchasing the car. I emailed the seller again to share my latest information. I was told there was a mix up with eBay and that the car could still be had by sending money to a third party “escrow” agent. Red flags now blocked the horizon. I was done with this electronic barn find.

Within a week of my eBay experience, I was looking through one of the sites I frequent that offers vintage cars for sale throughout the country. While scanning the Chevy section, I ran across the same listing that had appeared on eBay. The photos and the description (including a spelling error) were exactly the same as the eBay listing for the ’32 roadster. The car was offered by a dealer in Maryland at a price representing something much closer to its real value. I decided to give the dealer a call and tell him about the eBay listing.

When I called, the business owner answered and patiently listened while I explained what had happened. He proceeded to tell me that my sitiuation was not unusual. Scammers apparently take photos and descriptions from his web site and offer the cars as their own. He thanked me for calling, and further told me this normally happened a couple of times a month.

After I hung up, I had to laugh. How could a normally savy, reasonably intelligent person be caught up in such a scam? The answer, I suppose, is that I still aspire to the nearly impossible; the barn find.


  1. Hey Phil Great story it takes all kinds

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