RealTime IT News

eBay Becomes Official Online Car Dealer

In the market to buy a car? Just last month you could have walked away with a lemon after bidding on eBay for that perfect red Nissan or silver Mercedes. Today, due in part to the debut of eBay's new Assurance Program on eBaymotors.com, car buyers and sellers are now protected by a slew of assurance features designed to secure their money, both incoming and outgoing, and ensure that the buyer and seller got what they bargained for.

In eBay's new capacity as online car dealership, the great unknown of bidding for a car online just got safer, more convenient, and according to eBay officials, subject to all the same features you would encounter at an offline dealership, including limited warranty, payment protection, purchase insurance, and vehicle inspection.

When eBay was conceived in 1995, selling cars alongside Pez dispensers and doll accessories was not in the business plan. But prior to April 2000, car sellers kept sneaking their car ads into the miscellaneous and collectibles sections of the popular auction site. eBay eventually got wise to public demand and created eBaymotors.com where the sale of cars and car parts could be more centralized and accessible.

eBaymotors.com clocked a record 4.78 million visitors in December 2001 alone, either looking to buy or sell a car, car-related accessories, motorcycles, or auto memorabilia.

"There was a need, a want, and a desire for breaking cars out into a separate category," said Kurt Apen, senior marketing manager for eBay Motors. "The genesis for the Assurance Program came from surveying our user community and finding out what their likes and dislikes were about the process of buying a car."

Still in a category by itself as the Internet's most powerful auction site, the security features implemented by eBay are certainly no different from the glut of other online car dealers including CarsDirect, Cars.com, and AutoTrader, to name just a few. Although according to Apen, the company's car protection services differ in that they are designed to benefit both buyer and seller respectively and are generally free of charge.

The four main features in eBay's newly launched Assurance Program include the granddaddy of all car sales securities, warranty. Administered by 1SourceAutoWarranty.com, an online warranty provider, buyers get site-unseen limited warranty coverage on eBay-approved cars for one month after purchase, or a thousand miles, whichever comes first. Not the most extensive warranty policy, but better than no warranty at all, and according to Apen, a site-unseen warranty policy is so far unheard of in the online dealership community.

However, eBay will only provide warranty coverage for cars that were manufactured during or prior to 1992 and with a maximum odometer reading of 125,000 miles.

Plans to extend the warranty period for cars that meet these criteria are not yet in the picture, according to Apen, but buyers have the option of extending their individual warranty policies through 1SourceAuto Warranty.com.

Another feature in the newly implemented program is Purchase Insurance, intended to protect buyers against fraud or misrepresentation on listed eBay cars for up to $20,000, with a $500 deductible. The chance of this type of fraud occurring is vastly reduced by the program's Mobile Vehicle Inspection service performed by a professional inspector on site at the seller's home or office. The inspection report is then posted online for the buyer to view. The inspection can be initiated by either the seller or buyer for a relatively nominal fee.

And to ensure that no one gets stiffed, eBay's Payment Protection program facilitates the exchange of funds after the bidding war ends and the auction closes through Escrow.com, securing a down payment from the buyer to the seller, and securing transfer of payment-in-full to the buyer before the car is shipped.

"We're very excited about the program," said Apen. "We hope it will help bring our product to a new group of buyers and sellers and continue to solidify our reputation as one of the only online venues where a seller can list their product online and be equally protected as the buyer."