It appears that far fewer people are clicking tires these days for everyday vehicles on eBay Motors.
The popular Web site is in transition. I know from buying and selling cars and classic car parts on eBay Motors what’s changing: Listings for everyday vehicles offered by private sellers are fading away.
And most of the everyday cars such as Toyota Camrys, Ford Fusions and Chevrolet Malibus listed by dealers are sitting on their virtual lots unwanted, and worse, unviewed.
Unless a car is a classic or upcoming collectible, it gets fewer eyeballs on eBay Motors than it once did.
I reviewed 200 completed auctions for all makes of cars. I counted 21 vehicles sold. That seems like a respectable percentage -- until you look deeper. The sold vehicles were mostly muscle cars, sports cars and old trucks. One sold vehicle was a clapped-out police cruiser; another was an old, beat-up tow truck. Seems like the only vehicles selling consistently these days on eBay Motors are classics and the oddballs you most likely won’t find on your local car dealer’s lot.
Of 400 Mini Coopers listed, just 42 sold, about 10 percent. Which means 90 percent of the cars were unsold -- not a good record. Of 400 modern Chevrolet Malibus, five sold, just more than 1 percent. But there was plenty of action on classic ’60s and ’70s Malibus.
This makes sense to me.
Why would a resident of New York, for example, buy a Nissan Sentra located in Seattle?
It makes little economic sense to buy an ordinary used vehicle -- sight unseen except for pictures -- that’s thousands of miles away. The cost to ship across the country, usually between $1,500 and $3,000, would probably wipe out any great deal a person could get online. It makes no sense to buy an everyday car far away when local dealers or Craigslist might have the duplicate car within driving distance.
A spokesman for eBay Motors says that 76 percent of the vehicles sold in the United States went to out-of-state buyers. But eBay doesn’t break out what percentage of the sold vehicles was classic or collectible.
Compare sales on 1973 Corvettes to 2013 models and you’ll see the ’73s are moving a lot faster. To be fair, older cars are more affordable. Still, hard-to-find, in-demand newer sports cars sometimes sell well on eBay.
EBay says in the second quarter this year, $1.8 billion worth of vehicles were sold globally on eBay Motors, but eBay couldn’t provide the data for the year-ago period.
The parts section of eBay Motors is also rapidly losing its appeal to me. Not long ago, you could find nearly thousands of new, used or reproduction parts on eBay Motors for even the most obscure cars.
EBay used to be gold mine for those trolling the Internet for parts to restore their project cars. Surfing over to eBay was like going to a never-ending garage sale with great new items appearing every minute. Now searching for that rare part is mostly a time-suck.
Clicking through the parts listings reveals tens of thousands of generic parts listed automatically from robo-sellers, components with vague descriptions that do not fit or match the vehicles for which they are listed.
EBay was great when you could turn on your computer and wade through thousands of items owned by individuals. You never knew what treasure would turn up or how much it would sell for.
But eBay decided that businesses and new- and used-car dealers, not individuals, have deeper pockets and can provide a more consistent source of revenue. That’s probably not bad logic because, after all, eBay has shareholders to satisfy. But the change has made eBay more like a trip to the dollar store. And I ain’t buying very much anymore.