So, you are in the market for a car, and like any reasonable person, the first place you turn is eBay. It is, after all, one of the most popular services for automotive classifieds, and with the auction feature, you might even land yourself quite a bargain.

Renault Laguna estate

After typing the make and model of your desired car into the search bar (which is hopefully not a Renault Laguna Estate), you open the first of the search results and are confronted with a bunch of unfamiliar and slightly suspicious sounding phrases. What do they mean? If you read these phrases and thoughts like ‘This is too good to be true’ begin rolling through your head, you should probably trust that instinct. Because the fact is that they are often used to cover up a less-than-ideal vehicle.

But never fear. Below you will find a handy guide to help decipher these cryptic messages. The common phrases employed are in bold, followed by their actual meaning.

  • First to see will buy. ‘This car is certifiably terrible, but if we can just get some poor, unsuspecting sod out here to look at it, we can make it look shiny enough to fool him.’
  • Genuine reason for sale. A few possibilities here. A) ‘This is the worst car I have ever owned, and I’ve patched it together just enough that it will hold up during your test drive, but will fall apart immediately after you leave my driveway.’ B) ‘I bought it last week and then discovered the skeletons of 100 mice under the boot floor.’ C) ‘I used the car to murder my wife, and since that task is now complete, I no longer have need for it.’ (HT: Chris Pollitt)
  • Over [insert amount here] spent. ‘I spent way too much money maintaining this car, and will not let the car go for less than what I put into it, despite the fact that it is worth half that.’
  • Future classic. ‘This car is approaching twenty years old, and therefore people will soon be fighting over it at auctions for an investment opportunity. As a result, I am asking £3000 more than it’s worth. No, it does not matter that it is a diesel Vauxhall Vectra.’
  • Barn find. ‘I have covered the car in dust to convince you that it has spent a many years indoors away from moisture. Like future classic man, I too am asking £3000 more than it’s worth.’
  • Best example on eBay/in the UK. ‘Of course I can’t really know that, because there is no way I have seen every other example. But since I look at my car through rose-tinted glasses, I too will ask £3000 more than it’s worth.’
  • Selling for my grandfather, who doesn’t use a computer. ‘I am exonerating myself of all responsibility when the car bursts into flames next week on the M1.’
  • Needs a part, which is available for £10 on eBay. ‘I have no idea what is wrong with it, but it will probably require a whole new engine and gearbox.’
  • Drove well during our test drive. ‘The car was able to move 30 yards from one side of the lot to the other under its own power. Three of the wheels will likely fall off on your journey home, however.’
  • No warranty implied or given. ‘Good luck, sucker!’

Although it is very hard to find a good advert, there are a lot of genuine, honest people trying to sell their cars on eBay. But there are also a lot of scammers just trying to flog cars, and it seems they are the ones most prone to using these phrases. Once you’ve looked at enough ads, you’ll begin to see patterns and start to get a sense both of who you can and cannot trust, and which cars are worth pursuing.

Are there any phrases I’ve missed? Let me know below.

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