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Homepage. This page: How to use eBay - a guide for new users who have not tried it before

Using online auctions to your advantage - Beginners' Guide.

Finding parts and information for your car on eBay.

Overview of eBay

MG in auction
If you've been online for any length of time, you're bound to have heard about eBay, the online auction system. Even if you're new to the internet, you may well have come across references to this online phenomenon in TV or magazine news articles. There are other online auctions of course, and much of the advice given here applies in principle to whichever internet auction company you look at. However for the purposes of this 'how to' guide, I'll stick with eBay, as thats the one most people will run in to.

Perhaps by now you're wondering what this has to do with the classic car hobby? surely all this techie-talk is best left to the computer bods out there? well yes and no! The backroom workings of eBay are best left to techie-minded people agreed, but as more and more people are finding out to their benefit, you don't need to know much about computing to really benefit from spending a few minutes getting genned up on how, and why, to give eBay a try.

After all, theres nothing to lose by having a look around on eBay, and registering to bid costs nothing either!.

Jaguar in auction
But back to the subject of cars, and what online auctions can do to further increase the enjoyment you get from your hobby. This applies to anyone who may be trying to rebuild a car, is researching the history of a particular marque, or simply collects anything and everything that relates to a particular vehicle. eBay, at any one time, has many tens of thousands if items listed for auction, spread across a mind-boggling variety of categories and subject areas. A few minutes of searching and you'll soon get the hang of tracking down items that suit your own car (or indeed motorcycle, truck, boat, pushbike, vintage lawnmower or whatever). The more obscure a subject, the more searching you may have to do, perhaps calling back on a regular basis to try again and find what you need. There are ways to make this less time-consuming than perhaps it sounds, but I'll go into that later.

Example of a motoring enthusiast using eBay

Ok, lets take a hypothetical case. Bob is restoring an Austin A35, and is looking for some parts to complete his rebuild. He regularly trawls around autojumbles, and does find some parts from time to time that he needs. However he has heard that eBay can help in this search, so decides to have a look. He does a search for Austin A35, and many auction items, that contain these words, come back. Below is a live snapshot of the first ten Austin A35 items that Bob would see, if he did this search, today, right at the moment you are reading this!

Click on one of the items highlighted in the box below, to see how items are displayed on eBay:

See the search box at the top right of the new eBay screen that has just appeared? give it a try, type in the make and model of car (or bus, motorbike etc) that interests you, and click the Search button. All the items that match your criteria will be displayed, any of which can be clicked on for more information etc.

Getting Registered
ebay homepage view

Next, you need to Register. Again, click on one of the Austin A35 eBay items above, to get you on to eBay. At the top left, click on the Home link. Just below, you will see an option to Register (the screenshot alongside shows you where this is). Click this and it brings up a form, which you fill in to complete your registration. To register as a buyer costs nothing, and will allow you to set up your favourite searches, and even ask eBay to email you when items that match your searches get listed! And all at no cost to yourself - how clever is that!!

Once you have registered, all you need to do is go to www.ebay.co.uk (or www.ebay.com if you're in the USA) and Sign In, using the details you have registered. You're now set up and ready to use eBay to help you find parts and information on your particular car, whether old or new.

Finding something

As you get familiar with eBay, you'll discover shortcuts and tricks to help you find exactly what you want. As we are interested in cars, from the homepage your first port of call should probably be eBay Motors. In here you will find many categories, for cars (both new and classic), parts, and so on. If you're particularly interested in classic cars, there is a category just for you. Go into there and all the old cars that are for sale by auction are available to view. You can choose to go through all makes and models, as on the screen currently, or else look at particular marques of car by selecting them from the lefthand menu.

With so many categories for eBay items available, it is wise to not restrict your searches just to the Motors section. For instance, within the Collectables category (again available from the homepage) there is a sub-category for Transportation - some sellers may have chosen to advertise memorabilia relating to your car in here as opposed to one of the sub-categories within the Motors area.

There can be no substitute for spending some time familiarising yourself with the layout of eBay, and the structure of how things get listed in there. There are some variations from country to country, but by and large the layouts are fairly similar.

As well as making your own way through categories looking for something, there is a powerful search tool available to use. To do a quick search, simply go to the homepage and type in your search query (eg Austin A35) into the search box, and click the Search button. This will return auction items that contains those words, in whatever order they appear. If you only want auctions to come back that have the words Austin, and A35, in that order, surround your search criteria with the " double quotes characters (above the 2 on your keyboard). A search for "Austin A35" will bring back only auctions that contain that search phrase. This will bring back a lot fewer auction listings to look at, and are usually more targeted to what you want to actually see. Again, experimentation is key here. Below the search box is a link to the Advanced Search. This allows you to further refine your search, something that is well worth tinkering with once you've got the hang of normal searches.

Bidding on something
Example screenshot of a typical ebay listing

Lets say you've found something that you want to bid on. Remember bids are legally binding, so only bid if you are willing to honour the bid you make, should you actually be the winning bidder. Firstly you'll need to be Signed In. Click on the auction listing that interests you, and read the conditions of sale carefully. On the screen you are able to read the description of the item in question, and find out a little more about the vendor, their feedback rating (of which more anon), how many previous sales they've been involved with, the methods of payment that they will accept, and the countries they will sell to. Scroll down the page a little way and you'll see the Ready to Bid area. This is where you enter your maximum bid, either equalling the opening bid (if no-one has bid yet) or somewhere above the current bid level, if someone has already started the bidding on this item. Once you've decided on the amount you wish to bid at, type it in and click the Place Bid button. You still have the option to back out if you change your mind at this point. A confirmation screen will come up, showing your bid amount and giving you the option to confirm this bid. Once confirmed, you're bid is made on the item. If you are the first to bid on that item, or have exceeded a previous bidders' maximum bid, you become High Bidder. It may be however that a previous bidder has set a maximum figure above you're top bid, in which case you are asked whether you'd like to make a further bid, in an attempt to exceed the other guy's maximum and become High Bidder yourself. You can choose to back out, or place another bid, it's up to you.

Monitoring your bids

Lets assume you are high bidder on one or more listings. You can keep an eye on these items in My Ebay, an option available to click on along the top of the screen. This allows you to keep track of items you are bidding on (plus those you may be selling, watching and have not yet bid on, or bid on but did not win). Periodically eBay will send you emails advising you of when auctions you've participated in, but are not currently winning, are due to close, in case you wish to make a last minute bid. You'll also receive confirmations of bids places, of items that you have been outbid on, and winning bidder notifications for those items that you have won the bid on.

Paying for something

If you win the bid on something, you'll receive an email from eBay shortly after auction-end, advising you of the amount you owe, and details of how to contact the vendor to arrange payment and delivery. Some sellers only deal in Paypal (a straightforward method of paying a seller online, Paypal now being owned by eBay), others however may only accept payments by cheque, cash, or some other method. Equally, arrangements for postage or collection vary by seller, so it pays to study both payment and delivery options outlined by the seller in a listing, prior to bidding. Its no use bidding on something, then not being willing to pay or collect in the manner quoted in the sellers item listing.


One of the key reasons that eBay works well for the most part, is the feedback mechanism. Sellers can leave feedback on the buyers for their items, and likewise the buyer can leave feedback on the seller. A genuine eBay user will be keen to keep a perfect record of feedback, a high 99/100% feedback rating usually being a good indication that this user is trustworthy and legit. You can leave positive, neutral, or negative feedback, the latter really only to be used if one party refuses to play by the rules, or badly misdescribes a product, or when a buyer bids for something, wins, then never contacts the seller to arrange payment or collection. A small percentage of eBay users to waste other peoples time by bidding on things they have no intention of buying, but fortunately these idiots are in the minority.

Selling on ebay

It costs nothing to look around at eBay, register, and bid for things. If you wish to sell stuff too, you need to upgrade your account and register a debit/credit card, from which eBay fees will be debited from time to time. You pay a fee when you list something (varies depending on the section you advertise in, and the options you select), plus an additional percentage fee if an item sells. If it doesn't receive a winning bid, you only pay the listing fee, and have the option to relist all over again. There are a few golden rules to successfully list things on eBay for sale. Wherever possible include good, clear, digital photographs of the item being displayed, and describe it in as great a detail as possible, highlighting both good and bad points about it. There is nothing worse than bidding for something that has not been accurately described, and all you will do is annoy bidders and perhaps earn negative feedback. Play it straight is the motto to remember. If it is an unusual item, search for similar listings to find the best category to list yours in - you can also list in more than one category at a time, useful if your item may be of interest to different types of audience. For example, if you're selling a vintage roadmap, it may be worth listing it in both an old motoring category, and antique books category. You'll attract two lots of listing fee however, so use this option cautiously.


In summary, spending some time getting the hang of eBay can be a real boon to anyone who likes cars, whether classics or moderns. There are literally thousands upon thousands of parts, books, manuals, brochures, tools, catalogues, poster, race programmes and items of automobilia listed at any one time, on top of several thousand actual cars, trucks, trailers, bikes and so on also advertised. Looking at eBay as a whole, there are virtually no types of item that never appear on eBay, bar illegal subject matter which gets blocked anyway. I've seen everything from full size Boeing 727s, an ex-Brazilian Navy battleship, homes, helicopters, submarines, and all sorts of unlikely things being listed (even a pair of Avro Vulcan bombers no less!!!), so it can be really good fun simply registering and looking around at all the unusual things that are actually out there and available to buy!! Addictive even!

This is a brief outline of how eBay works, and is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to eBay, more of an overview to someone new to online auctions, and eBay in particular. There are comprehensive guides and help documents all available at the eBay site, so I'd recommend having a look at them too in order to answer any questions that this simple tutorial may have raised.

If you want to take a look at the thousands of items up for sale on ebay right now, simply click here to get started !

Happy bidding!

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