This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. Follow Baker on Twitter @ManVsDebt or connect with him on Facebook.

Over the last few months, I’ve spent countless hours researching the process of selling items online for a large project I’ve been compiling. It’s taught me that as much as I thought I knew about selling online, there’s so much more that I have no clue about!

For example, a family member recently asked for my help selling an unneeded car on the internet. “Sure!” was my first thought. “Heck, maybe I’ll even use this as a case study!” However, there’s one major problem with this situation: I’m completely ignorant when it comes to cars.

Actually, I shouldn’t say completely ignorant. That’s not correct. I’m inexcusably ignorant when it comes to cars.

As a younger member of the male population of American society, I feel like I’ve failed to inherit this basic knowledge that was supposed to written into my DNA. In fact, my inability to prioritize the maintenance and regular care of my own car is likely one of my biggest financial weaknesses. Maybe that’s one reason I enjoyed our recent year without owning any vehicle at all!

Even with this blatant gap in knowledge, I actually have had some success selling cars online through Craigslist. Before we left for our year abroad, we sold both of our cars using their online classifieds. However, those were a couple of clunkers. If I remember correctly, we sold one for $1,000 and one for $2,000 after negotiations.

Because we were leaving, our priority was to just get our cars sold. We didn’t want to give the cars away for free, but we weren’t trying to squeeze out an extra 10% or additional $100. We were more concerned with not being stuck with a set of wheels parked in Indiana while our bodies were in New Zealand!

The situation with this car is different. The family member I’m assisting doesn’t need to sell the car — he wants to sell the car. He has no delusions about getting top retail dollar, but is willing to take the time to obtain a fair private-party offer.

Plus, this isn’t anything close to a clunker. It’s a 2003 Honda Accord EX Coupe. It’s been driven 150,000 miles, but still has only a few minor bumps, blemishes, or flaws. It runs very smoothly and has been taken care of by someone more responsible than me for the majority of its years!

Giving eBay Motors a fair shake
Normally, I’d take the same approach with this car as I have with the others I’ve sold. I’d take plenty of photos, research the competition, and write a detailed description. I’d present the price and the process for getting more information in a firm, but politely worded manner. I’d then upload the info to Craigslist and wait for the phone to ring!

In other words, normally I would never give eBay a passing glance. I know that for the last few years they’ve had some form of classified through what used to be Kijiji.com, but for one reason or another I never considered it a viable option. I’ve also heard stories of people buying and selling cars through traditional eBay auctions (non-classified formats), but that process seems too risky and intimidating.

Recently, however, eBay has started a huge push on its newly re-branded classified section, eBayClassifieds.com. They’re heavily promoting this, and they seem to be incorporating the classified listings much more fluidly with the general automobile searches for the main site. Classified listings within a certain distance (200 miles by default) are now included alongside the national listing in searches when logged into your eBay account.

In addition, constructing a classified ad in eBay has several benefits over its competitors. It’s a more guided process, with eBay providing reminders and recommendations along the way. For example, they supply a fantastic, printable Sell Your Car Checklist [219kb PDF] to help gather everything you’ll need to create a detailed listing. Currently, your first six classified ads in the eBay Motors section are free during a 12-month period.

The process of creating a classified ad to sell a car is so smooth that, for the first time, I’m going to construct my classified ad in eBay first. I’ll then take my description, pictures, and relevant details, and copy them into my trusty Craigslist format, as well. The more I research and tinker with eBay’s classified section, the more I’m starting to view this as a necessary part of giving the car adequate online exposure.

Step it up with a national auction?
Selling via a classified ad isn’t the only way you can list your car on eBay. You also have the option to list it through the eBay Motors site under a standard auction format. With classifieds, you list your contact information and have to work out the details of the transaction with potential buyers (just as if you were listing on Craigslist). However, using eBay’s standard auction format, interested parties from all of the U.S. can view and place bids on your vehicle, just like they would any other item on eBay.

Currently, eBay is allowing you to post your first four automobile auctions of this type for free, too. As long as you pass on all the extra upgrades and add-ons, you can create a national listing at any starting price for free. With this format, you can eliminate a lot of the grunt work that accompanies a classified listing. (Grunt work includes answering phone calls, negotiating, showing the car, etc…)

So, I could simply list my car with a starting price equal to what I’d normally offer in my classified ads. It’s unlikely that I’d get any bids, but as a free 7-day listing, it’s hard to pass up taking a shot. I’ll already be compiling the info for my classified ads, so it’d only take an extra 15 minutes or so to upload the data into a standard auction of this type.

Is the extra 15 minutes worth taking an unlikely shot at selling my car outside of my local market? I’m not sure. eBay will automatically compile and offer shipping options to someone who may want to have the car transported. These ranged from $300-$700 on some of the sample cars I looked through. Would someone actually pay that? Again, I’m not sure.

Edmunds.com featured an article about a couple that sold cars online to people from all around the country, people who would fly in to inspect the cars. I like to keep a fairly open mind, but I just can’t imagine someone wanting to buy plane tickets to come check out a potential car from across the country. (In the story, the couple even picked them up from the airport and made breakfast!)

Deciding what to do…
Many times when I write a post, I explore a topic I’m experienced with. I look for areas where I’ve had either success or failure that may be valuable if I were to share it. This isn’t one of those posts.

On this topic, I’m still clueless. I’d actually like to know what you think! Have any of you bought or sold vehicles using eBay (either classified or standard listing formats)? Do you know anyone who has? Am I missing any huge gaps in my thought process? If you were in my shoes, what would you do to maximize the exposure for your car online?

I love Craigslist, but I’m convinced I may be leaving money on the table if I don’t seriously consider eBay for selling my car. If there’s interest in this topic, I’ll be sure to post a follow-up describing any successes or failures!

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