I Bought My First Two Cars on eBay and Saved Thousands in the Process

You don't have to buy a car the traditional way to save money.

Would you believe me if I told you I bought my first car on eBay?

In fact, I bought my first two cars on eBay. The first was an Acura Integra from a dealership in Minnesota, and the second was a Toyota Celica from a retired police officer in Florida.

The key to saving money on a car comes down to two things: purchase price and financing. But you also need to factor in things like sales tax, insurance and maintenance. Once you do, your total car costs can become much higher than you expected. According to a GOBankingRates study, owning a car can cost about $4,000 a year in some states.

However, you can use these tips to get a great deal on your next car and save money no matter where you live.

Review a Seller’s Feedback

When I purchased my cars, I made sure to do a lot of research on the sellers because it was going to be a very large purchase. eBay has a very well-documented feedback system, and I read through all of my sellers’ feedback. Take extra care to look for recent purchases and for items similar to yours.

If you’re considering a dealership, it should be selling a lot of cars and getting quite a bit of feedback as a result. If the dealership doesn’t have a lot of feedback, that could be a red flag. I’d expect a mix of good and bad feedback, so don’t let a few negative reviews turn you off.

Do research outside of eBay, too. Yelp and the Better Business Bureau can give you a good idea of how reputable a dealership is.

If it’s a private seller, the risk is a little higher because private sellers don’t sell too many vehicles. Research their feedback history to get a better understanding of how responsive they are and whether they’ve kept their deals, and look for anything that looks out of place.

Above all, trust your gut. There are plenty of cars out there.

Read: 10 Things to Do When Shopping for a Used Car

Check the Car’s History

Check the car’s listing on eBay Motors for its vehicle identification number, if available. On some listings, eBay provides a vehicle history report on the car from AutoCheck. This includes a title check, information on whether the vehicle has ever been a victim of a potential odometer rollback, reported accidents, ownership transfers and an AutoCheck score. You can buy a comprehensive 10-day report from AutoCheck for $10.99. If you want to see 10 reports (for 10 different cars), it’s just $19.99 for 10 days.

Don’t get a report for every car you’re researching; pare it down to the serious contenders, and buy a report when you’re certain. You can use AutoCheck or go with another company like Carfax (its reports start at $39.99).

Lastly, follow classic used-car advice when you review the history of a car, such as avoiding high-mileage cars, rental cars, vehicles that have been totaled and vehicles that have been recalled.

Related: 15  Great Cars To Own for More Than 15 Years

Include Shipping Costs

It can be expensive to ship a vehicle. It cost several hundred dollars for my two vehicles, and both were shipped in one of the cheapest ways possible — in an open car carrier. Fortunately, you can get an auto transport quote completely online and find out very quickly how much it will cost for you to get a car shipped.

When shipping a car, remember that the car transport is a very large vehicle. You will probably have to meet it in an industrial area or a very large parking lot. They likely won’t be able to easily navigate into your neighborhood.

Know Before Shopping: 30 Biggest Dos and Don’ts When Buying a Car

Prearrange Financing

When you buy a car — whether it’s on eBay, at a dealership or in a private sale — secure financing ahead of time. Double-check that your credit report is accurate, check your credit score if you’re concerned, and research your options for a loan from local banks and credit unions.

If you sign a bad financing deal, the interest payments can eat up all the savings you might get on a great price. If you agree to a higher price but secure good financing, you could end up paying less overall on the purchase of the vehicle.

There are a lot of different things to consider when buying a car. Keep these tips in mind and pay less for your next ride.

Click through to read more about what you need before applying for a car loan.

More on Cars