Doc’s Internet Used Car Buying And Selling Guide

This Internet used car buying/selling guide is the most informative in-depth article ever published about motor vehicle buying and selling. I wrote this car buying and selling guide back in 2004 and have kept up with the fraudster’s tactics. It’s a long article, so to avoid being conned, read it before going online to shop for cars!

Internet Car Buying Selling Guide

Be sure to read this guide before buying or selling automobiles online! 😉

Table of contents: Avoiding Fraud | Private Party Purchases | Purchasing From Dealers | Buying From Wholesalers | eBay Motors Vehicle Purchase Protection Program (VPP) | Newbie Car Dealers | Rebuilt and Salvage Title Vehicles | Vehicle History Reports | Vehicle Warranty | Vehicle Inspection | Buying Older Automobiles | Odometer Fraud | Vehicle Sales Tax | Making Safe Vehicle Payment | Advice For Sellers.

Buying a car from a private seller: Beware of private sellers that buy and sell vehicles without being licensed. Flipping vehicles from one owner to another. This kind of seller is an unlicensed used car dealer, AKA the Curbstoner. Example of a curbstoner. Buyer A the curbstoner buys a car from a little old lady in a local newspaper. Instead of going to the DMV and transferring that title into his name, the curbstoner resells the car to Buyer B.

Curbstoner (unlicensed car dealer) Selling Open Title Car
Unlicensed Dealer Selling Open Title Car

Buyer B prints his name on the back of the title but does not go to the DVM and transfer the title into his name. Instead, buyer B has done a few repairs and cleaned the car. then decides to sell it.

In this situation, buyer B becomes Seller B and sells the car to Buyer C, who is in another state. Seller B crosses his name on the back of the title and writes Buyer C’s name over his crossed-out name.

Seller B then hands the title to Buyer C, who takes it to his tag office to transfer the title. The title clerk looks at that crossed-out name and rejects the title for transfer.

Here is where the paperwork nightmare begins for used car buyer C. Buyer C’s motor vehicle bureau tells him to contact the previous owner whose name is printed on the title. Buyer A would be required to transfer this title into his/her name, pay any taxes due, yadda, yadda, yadda, then sign the new title they receive over to Buyer B, who would repeat this process and sign the title over to Buyer C.

The problem is the little old lady who sold the car has no idea to who she sold the car to. Buyer A paid her cash and had her sign off as the seller. By law, this car is still legally Titled in her name. If that car is used in a crime or involved in an accident, the police will come to her. It’s an absolute paperwork nightmare. Often, it’s easier to get the registered owner to file for a duplicate title. Then, sign it over to the person trying to title it in their name. However, a motor vehicle bureau official will not tell anyone this because it’s considered illegal. Any way you look at it, it’s buyer C’s absolute nightmare getting a 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 or a licensed dealer.

Doc advises anyone who is buying a used car long distance on the Internet from a private seller to request title documentation. Ask for a fax or email attach of “both sides of the title, along with a copy of the sellers drivers license or photo ID.” This is the best proof a long distance buyer can get proving the vehicle is titled in the sellers name. If the person selling the vehicle is not the registered owner – it’s not his car to sell!

If the buyer and seller are in the same state go with the seller to the motor vehicle bureau (DMV) to  transfer the title. 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 eBay Motors that the auction house modified its Vehicle Purchase Protection Program (VPP) coverage to exclude curbstoners rather than set sale limits on private vehicle sellers. This means “buying a car and receiving title – but not being able to transfer it” (The Curbstoner Exclusion.) If you end up with a curbstoner car, you might be stuck with a vehicle with a nontransferable title.

The only possible solution would be to locate the registered owner.  Have that person apply for a duplicate title and sign it over to you. Or file a suit against the seller. Attorneys are not cheap, and even if you manage to get a judgment, it may be impossible to collect it. Add attorneys’ fees and court costs, which could exceed the vehicle’s value. So Beware!

Old Collector Cars are common for having open titles. Lots of these cars are either for parts or non-running. Or was a project someone started to restore but never completed? Others are restored but never titled in the owner’s name.  The car’s buyer bought it as an investment and didn’t want to pay the taxes and registration fees. It’s common to see a collector car go through a half dozen owners without a title transfer. If a collector car’s title has an error or gets lost, getting a duplicate issued can be a nightmare.

Buying a Car on eBay Motors: eBay offers up to $100,000 Vehicle Purchase Protection (VPP) on covered vehicles purchased from their Motors Venue. VPP is worth its weight in Gold for certain coverages, such as. Buying a car that is stolen. Buying a car with an undisclosed lien. However, It only covers vehicles up to 10 years old. Covers buyers in the U.S.A. and Canada only. And has a ton of exclusions. Anyone considering buying a car on eBay Motors should read the coverage and exclusions fine print. VPP is not a substitute for good old common sense. Buyers should contact sellers and ask whatever questions they have. Buyers should also have the vehicle inspected before bidding or purchasing.

Buying a car from a licensed dealer: 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.

Buying cars from Wholesalers: It’s common in the car business to have wholesalers working off another dealer’s license. The wholesaler usually pays a draft fee to use the dealer’s 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 dealer’s agent. Plus, the dealer is responsible for his agent’s actions. So, buying from a wholesaler is a safe bet for a long-distance transaction.

Licensed Used Car Dealers Bidding At Auto Auction
Licensed Car Dealers Bidding At Auctions

Independent Dealers buy most of their cars at Dealer Auctions. These days, most franchised dealers send all their trade-ins to the auction.

This accomplishes two things. It keeps their used car managers from taking money under the table and selling trades to their friends at a reduced price. Auctions also ensure 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. Non-franchised dealers swap the units they can’t sell among each other.

Older cars are mostly sold on the “red light” AS-IS with No Warranty. Dealers sell online lists the same way they buy them – AS-IS! When the auctioneer’s gavel falls, he hollers SOLD! Someone is the proud owner of that unit with any faults it may have. If it doesn’t have a reverse, that’s too bad. There is no crying in the office about it. Lots of these kinds of vehicles end up for sale on the Internet! This is where a vehicle Inspection can be worth its weight in gold!

Becoming a new used car dealer: This is an experience some newbie car dealers may want to forget about. The newbie dealer will gain nothing like the experience by attending the “Unofficial Car Dealer School – The Dealer Auction.” Here, they will learn all about bidding against the coke machine, among other unofficial trade secrets of the used car business.

Newbie car dealers also learn the hard way about buying a set-up car at auction. They usually pay every nickel for that (set up to sell) unit. The next day, the air is hot. A week later, that nice shiny finish faded 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. The newbie dealer returns it to the auction to try and dump it. Unfortunately, the regular sellers get good early run numbers. A newbie used car dealer runs at the sale’s end when almost everyone has gone 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!

Rebuilt and Salvage Title Vehicles: Most car buyers have no idea what the words “Rebuilt Title” or “Salvage Title” mean. When a car is severely damaged by an “Accident, Flood, Fire, or other damage which exceeds 2/3 of its book value, an insurer may declare it a total loss. Soon afterward, a total loss vehicle’s title is canceled by its issuing state. Someone buys that total loss vehicle at auction or elsewhere. At that time, the vehicle could be used for parts. Or its prior damage is repaired to become street-legal again. Most states require that repaired vehicles be inspected by the State Division Of Motor Vehicles (DMV.) When the car passes inspection, it is issued a Rebuilt Title. Different states have similar wording for the rebuilt titles; we are using the state of Florida as our example.

Certificate Of Destruction means just what it says. Vehicles with a certificate of destruction labeling can never be issued a rebuilt title. Certificate of destruction vehicles may only be used for parts. This vehicle will never be street-legal again, though another state may issue a title.

Rebuilt title used cars should be bought for around 30% of book value. Vehicles with rebuilt titles also may not be insurable. If considering purchasing a rebuilt title automobile contact your insurance company.

Rebuilt title older automobiles can be reliable cheap transportation as an example. An older vehicle is involved in a minor front-end collision that deploys its airbags (SRS) and is declared a total loss. Acquiring used airbags, control modules,s, etc from a salvage yard and repairing them would make a good daily driver if it’s bought cheap enough. Inspect rebuilt title vehicles yourself or hire someone who can before purchasing.

Factory warranty remaining vehicles: Many late-model used cars have an advertised “Factory Warranty” Or the balance of a factory warranty remaining. It is advisable to check to ensure the advertised warranty is correct. Don’t just assume the seller is telling the truth. Get the vehicle’s Identification Number (VIN) call your local dealer, and inquire about what warranty is remaining on that vehicle. Many situations will void a factory warranty. Accidents, Modifications, Abuse, Commercial Usage, Etc. Remember, you must verify every detail about the vehicle you want.

TIP: Once again, Trust Nobody! Can you imagine being stuck making payments for several years on some falsely advertised late-model used car? The more money you invest, the greater the chance of getting taken advantage of by a bad seller in another state or country. Do your homework, folks!

Vehicle History Reports: A CarFax report can be worth its weight in gold if you find out the car you plan on buying has undisclosed problems. Major accidents or salvage history, flood damage, odometer discrepancy, etc. CarFax is without a doubt the leading authority in vehicle history reports. Vehicle history reports are only available for 1981 and newer passenger vehicles with the standard 17-character VIN Number.

CarFax often includes significant service history on vehicles that others do not. So if you looking at a car online and have serious thoughts about buying it. We are a wise buyer and purchase a CarFax report on it. Remember, these history reports only display the data on their companies’ purchases. They should only be considered a GUIDE to a motor vehicle’s 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 look for insurance payoffs or other major vehicle damage.

Doc once read a forum discussion where a buyer had won an auction for a late-model Mazda Rx8. Experian Auto Check didn’t show any discrepancies. Even the car’s Carfax report was clean. But the NICB Database showed a total loss. Further investigation revealed that the car’s owner was paid an insurance settlement and kept the car, so that settlement was never reported to the history report companies. The private seller was deceitful, and the buyer walked away. Once again, a “Bargain Buggy” was not such a bargain. 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! If you are looking into buying a used car in another state. Chances are the low price got your attention, especially on auctions where the bidding can be at half the book value or less initially.

Buying older vehicles: Doc’s example of older means the used car is usually 8-10 years old or older. It has an odometer reading well over 100k miles. Regardless of the advertisement’s claims, don’t expect a car in perfect showroom condition. An old car can run perfectly 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 costly to fix when the vehicle gets old or out of factory warranty. An engine or a transmission can easily exceed the value of an older vehicle.

Some sellers advertise vehicles as being perfect but are far from it. The seller is banking on someone far away who will buy the car and have it shipped home without an inspection. Don’t get taken by a sleazy seller and buy without an inspection!

Vehicle Inspection
When buying a used car SUV van truck, etc. online, inspecting it is a must-have service!.

Don’t fall for a car that has been “set up for photos.” The car might look good online but has hidden mechanical problems. This includes undisclosed frame damage or undercarriage rust. And many other undisclosed problems.

Certain cars when they get old have their faults and failures. For instance, older Cadillacs with the early NorthStar V8 are prone to head gasket failures. Repairs such as this example can exceed the value of the car. It’s the buyer’s responsibility to check the vehicle out in person. Or if that’s not possible, have an inspection company check it out. Many Mobile Inspection Services will inspect a car in another state. If you buy a car sight unseen and it’s not as described, you will be stuck like Chuck!

Odometer Tampering Fraud
Odometer Tampering Fraud – Including Exempt

Odometer Tampering Fraud: This is another situation anyone buying a car should be aware of. The LAW says that a vehicle’s odometer will not be tampered with. It’s very clear on the subject of rolling back an odometer. Or replacing an odometer with another shows lower mileage. This includes exempt status vehicles. The law makes no exception to altering an exempt vehicle’s odometer. Any vehicle 10 years old or older is exempt from odometer recording.

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

Shady-used car dealers and scamming private individuals may alter (rollback) an analog odometer to deceive a buyer. Often, a CarFax Report will show a vehicle’s mileage history. 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 vehicle’s mileage in the state database. If you suspect a vehicle you are considering buying displays the wrong mileage. Check the registered state DMV to see the recorded mileage on that vehicle. That information should be a public record, but you might have to pay them for 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. Check how easily the driver’s door opens and closes. Look for any visible signs that the mileage might be higher than the vehicle’s odometer. Also, software on the market will alter a digital odometer’s mileage reading. So if the odometer is digital, 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: Federal law considers any vehicle 10 years old or older exempt from odometer recording. 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 typically appear. Once a vehicle has been exempted, it will stay that way.

An exempt qualifying older vehicle may possibly be registered as “Actual Miles” in most states as long as its supporting title and odometer reading/statement reflect this actual mile. Buying a 10-year plus automobile with an actual mile title? Get an actual miles odometer statement from the seller. Odometer statements can be downloaded on the net.

Old 5 Digit Odometers. Doc has seen many older cars with 5-digit analog odometers for sale. The car seller is advertising the car as actual mileage. This is mostly observed on old collector cars from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. The odometer (clock) has probably rolled over at least twice. In older cars, the vehicle’s condition is more critical than low mileage.

There are no history reports on cars older than 1981, when the current 17-character VIN became standard. So, the only sure way to document the mileage on a collector or antique car is with service receipts. An old logbook that reflects dates and mileage reading of service work and oil changes etc. A logbook would have to look old to convince me it is legit. Don’t fall for a printed-out document with dates and mileage.

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. When registering the vehicle, 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 important to keep the market value of an older car with actual miles. Transferring the title to Except might affect the car’s market value!

Vehicle Sales Taxes Affecting Out-of-State Car Sales: Most states are reciprocal regarding collecting their taxes. It’s best to check with the dealer you are buying from about any tax liability. It is also recommended to call your state’s DMV to find out if any taxes are due when you register the vehicle. Every state is different. Also, 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 Vehicle Payment: If you have done your homework and are ready to purchase your internet car use a safe payment method. NEVER use Western Union or any other Cash Transfer Service. Beware of Fake Escrow Services that will steal your money! WU is the Scammer’s Choice for receiving payments because a payment can be picked up in any country. All the fraudster needs is the money transfer number.

Beware of sellers who request payment by gift or prepaid debit cards. This type of fraud often uses PayPal and Amazon gift cards. The fraudster will request the card’s redemption codes by email. Beware of smartphone apps such as OfferUp and Letgo that are being used to defraud buyers and sellers.

Doc’s payment choice for online internet vehicle transactions 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 especially good if you will get the vehicle shipped home and want to be sure the dealer receives your payment. Another option is to pay by a cashier’s Check and mail it using USPS Priority or Express Mail with Signature Confirmation. This is important so you know they signed for it.

When Doc was selling cars on the Internet, he would send the title and paperwork requiring a signature. Good insurance for ensuring the title wasn’t lost in the mail. If a cashier’s check is lost in the mail, the issuing bank most likely would require you to put up a bond before replacing it. Don’t risk getting stuck like Chuck because you were too cheap to correctly mail the check!!

If you pick the vehicle up in person, paying cash on delivery is OK, too. I would be sure the seller had the title and hand it over to the buyer on delivery. Be sure to have followed my advice earlier in this article and done your title ownership homework along with any vehicle inspection, etc. There’s nothing worse than flying long distances with a ONE-WAY TICKET and finding out the vehicle was a POS because you didn’t have it inspected.

Avoiding Internet Vehicle Fraud and Phishing Brand Scams: The Net IS INFESTED with Fraudsters who offer a vehicle for sale at an incredibly low price.

Don’t be a victim of Internet phishing scams!

If a vehicle’s price seems “unrealistically low” STOP and asks yourself. Is this a scam listing? What’s wrong with this car? Has it been in an accident? Was this car in a flood? Does this car have a rebuilt or salvage title? Don’t be defrauded!

Sellers Agent Vehicle Brand Fraud started on eBay Motors over a decade ago. We honestly believe eBay could have stopped fraud by educating their community. But obviously, corporate profits were more important than their member’s security. Many fell victim to car scams on fraudulent listings, while eBay claimed fraud was minuscule or denied its existence.

FBI Investigates Vehicle Purchase Protection Fraud
FBI Investigates vpp scams on consumers.

eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection (VPP) Brand Fraud claimed so many victims in 2011 that the FBI investigated brand fraud.

The Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI) filed this report on August 15, 2011, advising consumers not to fall for vehicle scam advertisements.

Many fraudulent advertisements are found on,, Craigslist, eBay Motors, and other online publications and smartphone apps.

Fraudsters also advertise in conventional print publications like newspapers and magazines. Don’t lose your money to internet fraud!

Those ads you see are phishing sucker bait! They are intended to lure a prospective buyer to email the fraudster. The fraudster is most likely operating out of an internet cafe or wireless broadband connection in Europe or another country.

Internet fraudsters are pros at what they do! Steal money from gullible people thinking such an unrealistically low price is legit! Don’t Be a Victim of Internet Fraud!

Scammers are using Amazon’s Brand Name to defraud consumers. This counterfeit website is registered in Beijing, China. It’s part of a confidence scam setting up non-existent used car shipping. Don’t be a schmuck and lose your money to brand fraud!

Counterfeit Brands Website Domain Name
The counterfeit website was used in a vehicle shipping confidence scam. Registered in Beijing, China.

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

These retirees were murdered and robbed when meeting a stranger to purchase a 1966 Mustang. Criminals answering ads on local smartphone apps such as OfferUp and Letgo. Then make arrangements to meet and do business, but instead, sellers are killed and their merchandise was stolen.

Do not take unnecessary risks; your life may depend on it!

fraudulent vehicle invoice
Confidence scam that will steal your money and identity

If you fall for one of these used car phishing scams, your money will be gone in the blink of an eye. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s like throwing your money in the trash!

Also, be aware of MONEY MULES that get suckered into taking payment for a VEHICLE as a SELLER AGENT. Fraudsters contact people searching for jobs online and offer them jobs as agents. 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 to someone else.

Scammers will often “RINSE” their dirty money several times to hide their tracks. If a person falls for a work-at-home scam, they could wind up in prison for “money laundering or grand theft.” The so-called agent will be up the creek without a paddle when the feds knock! So if someone contacts you about working for them as a seller’s 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 computer or smartphone. Then, go online and change any banking or other online account passwords. Internet scammers are pros at doing what they do best stealing sucker’s money!

If you need a good free antivirus program, try Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows. It works excellently and auto-updates its definitions like Norton or other paid software.

Doc’s Best Advice For Internet Vehicle Sellers:

If you are selling your used 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, 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 used car is sold AS-IS with no warranty. Doc used to say “if this car breaks in half you own both halves” which pretty much sums it up. Put this verbiage in writing. Even if your car has the balance of its factory warranty remaining, It should still be sold AS-IS but worded that it does have its remaining balance of factory warranty that follows the vehicle, not the owner. An example is here.

Here is a short audio snippet explaining why the used car AS-IS Sale is best!

NEVER Accept PayPal for a used car full purchase price. PayPal is good if you want a quick way to collect a vehicle deposit. The doctor suggests no more than $200-300. Be aware a credit card-funded chargeback could cost you that deposit money as a seller. Chargebacks are the number one reason not to accept full payment for an automobile by PayPal.

PayPal Buyer Protection does not cover “Vehicles or Vehicle Deposits.” Doc has read horror stories online where some PayPal customer support reps did not know Vehicle-specific rules and 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-funded used car purchase. However, a motor vehicle is considered a property. Usually, credit card companies will not charge back on the titled property. However, buyers have been known to lie to their credit card provider, saying something other than a vehicle was purchased.

If PayPal gets a chargeback notification, they take the money back from your account. If your account is empty, they give you a minus balance and take anything received from that point on. PayPal will eventually turn the uncollected balance over to collections. And will surely 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 of why PayPal should not be accepted for a motor vehicle.

Have questions? Comment below 😊

69 Thoughts to “Doc’s Internet Used Car Buying And Selling Guide”

  1. Anonymous

    You picked a car with a rebuilt title. You can see repaired front grill. you never stated that a average with a rebuilt title is only worth 1/2 of it’s normal value. I would say this very possiable is priced correct. Thanks Ken

  2. Marc

    What about buying a brand new car with 24 miles on it form a Chrysler dealer with just looking at pictures?

    1. Doc

      Buying new cars online from a franchised dealer is becoming more popular by savvy consumers avoiding all the usual showroom bullshit. Google the dealers name see if anything negative pops up. I’d also invest in a CarFax report, though a new car with an MSO shouldn’t have any history yet.

  3. dan lapping

    Sold a 62 jag roadster no title as is condition to a jag dealer in Calif. Said they’d bank transfer upon delivery shipped car out.I accepted the 65,000 offer was asking 150.000 anyway the unpackaged the car every box and package all was inventoried. Then they held up the driver for half a day and sent a check back for 30k. They guaranteed me via conversation and private e mail full payment now the buyer intervene accept my calls texts or emails what recourse do I have.

    1. Doc

      Sold a 1962 Jaguar in several boxes of parts for $30k and the buyer paid you by check. What are you complaining about?? LOL!

  4. Tony

    Hi I’m Tony, this is my first time buying out of state without seeing the vehicle which is not a big deal to me in the vehicle because i plan to do a overhaul if need be, but the dealership is a Kia and all there credibility seems to check out as being a location, licensed dealer and all.

    My next step in this transaction is to make a wire bank transfer for a used vehicle for 12000 dollars. What are the calculated steps I need to take that I might be missing to make sure this ends well in regards to the money transfer? Thanks for your time.

    1. Doc

      Spending 12000 on a car long distance, i recommend having the vehicle inspected.

  5. Stacy Hoch

    Doc, Thanks for a very informative article! I found an Acura that was listed for sale by a private party (link removed by admin). However, after some digging and corresponding, they are not a private party but actually an auto auction group here in Indianapolis.

    They say they bought the car at auction in Ohio. This info matches the carfax. I’ve used the VIN and not found any major loss, accidents, salvage, or anything. The carfax says it was a personal lease vehicle in Pennsylvania for a couple of years. The mileage looks legit. But two things are bothering me. This car is subject to the Takata airbag recall and the airbags have not been fixed.

    They claim that the owner of the auction business drove it for 6 mos. Why would someone drive it without having the airbag recall fixed. I called a local Acura dealership and they have the airbags on hand. And why would an auto auctioneer want to represent themselves as a private party? I may just abandon this particular deal and go to a dealership. Thoughts?

    1. Doc

      Stacy, thanks for your comment. It’s a good looking car, obviously a lease turn in. Lease units get swapped around at wholesale dealer auctions frequently.

      Car Gurus is taking a good sized listing bite out of the big boys (Auto Trader and Cars-com) these days. The basic listing is free so many dealers sign up as private sellers, been doing that for years even before the internet came along. The car sitting in an auction lane without license tags is a dead giveaway it’s a dealers car.

      The Air Bag recall is no big deal if the dealer has the part in stock. I suggest if your interested in purchasing the car have an inspector check the car out. If it gets a clean bill of health by the inspector have the dealer take the car in to have the open recall done.


      1. Anonymous

        Thanks so much for the information, Doc! This will help us move forward with confidence whether or not we end up actually buying this car. What a wealth of knowledge you are.


  6. Huzefa Bharma

    Thank for sharing such great list of car buying tips. As there are many things that should be kept in mind while going for purchasing new or old car. Mostly many people get cheated. Proper information about the dealer and the car owner must be done before buying.

    1. Doc

      Yep.. Folks you should cover your ass buying a car sight unseen on the internet.

  7. Kdl

    Doc, I am considering buying a car from the U.K. and having it shipped to NY. Can you recommend a shipping company (door to door) and an escrow agent? Thanks

    1. Doc

      Might try searching for a freight forwarding service in your area. Be advised a foreign vehicle will have to clear U.S. customs upon arrival, do your homework on that aspect of the deal. Sorry but no suggestions for Escrow service.

  8. Karsten Olsen

    Hey, finally a place where I can find some answers to questions about buying on eBay motor. I’m looking at a Ford Mustang from 1967. Am I protect eBay vpp. If I pay by bank two banking account. If all the details done on the eBay site?

    1. Doc

      eBay vpp may be excluded due to vehicle age. If your out of the USA there is no coverage. I’d read the protection plan coverage details, there’s a link on our sidebar. I suggest having the vehicle inspected, be sure the seller is the registered owner, and make sure vin matches the title.

  9. Jayshree Makadia

    Great article and found very useful tips, within 6 months I am planning to buy used car. Will implement the points mentioned in the article. Thanks!

  10. Vic

    Hi there! Great tips. We’re looking to buy a classic (old) fire truck to bring to Puerto Rico. When buying a vehicle from an out of state seller does the buyer need to pick it up in person to sign the title transfer? I’m assuming thats a yes because the shipping company requires the title in your name.

    1. Doc

      Are you buying from an individual or dealer? As a rule the title can be reassigned to the new buyer to be transferred in another state. Considering Puerto Rico is a us territory I would think that would apply.

  11. David

    Doc. I listed a Corvette on Ebay, the auction ended with a winning bider in IL and I’m in FL. he wants the car shipped. I spoke to him on the phone. He agreed to a wire transfer but he requested a copy of the clear title to be emailed to him and he said he’s sending a signed bill of sale with he wants me to sign and email back before I receive the funds by wire. Im hesitant sending a scanned copy of the title and send back a signed bill of sale. How would you handle this sale? Thanks, David

    1. Doc

      Your buyer is obviously doing his homework. If i were buying a car online i would do the same thing, and i’d also request a copy of your driver’s license to be sure the car is legally titled in your name.

      As for the bill of sale, since you are in Florida, a state approved bill of sale is recommended: . I would write on the bill of sale the car is sold as-is with no warranty. Be sure to state the current vehicle’s mileage.

      Best wishes, Doc

  12. Mark

    Doc I’m looking to buy a 2nd hand luxury car, I have found a private owned vehicle in FL (I’m in VA). The car was auctioned on Ebay without a bid, I have been in contact with the seller who tells me it has a lien on it. I have also checked with the manufactured who have confirmed service details and the existence of a warranty. I want to have the car checked by a 3rd party, the lien paid out and then the car shipped to me. Is there a reliable service that will do this for me that i can trust? Thanks

    1. Doc

      Hi Mark, I used CarChex back in the old days, don’t know if they are still in business. Otherwise possibly try Googling vehicle inspection and the zip code where the car is.

      As for the payoff the lender should be able give you the amount. Possibly issue two cashiers checks (after the inspection), one for the seller and another to send yourself to the lender. Stipulate the title be sent to you directly. Florida is an electronic title state so there may be a fee for a paper title.

      Best wishes, Doc

  13. Nidhish

    Helpful article with facts online car buyers need. I recommend reading this article if your car shopping online.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. Net Auto

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

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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:

  31. 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

  32. 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

      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.

  33. 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

      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.

  34. 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

      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.

  35. 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

      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.

  36. Roger Grimes

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

  37. 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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