While the downturn in the auto market has brought challenges for those trying to get rid of a used car -- particularly fuel-inefficient vehicles -- the Web can broaden the market of buyers, who are finding great bargains online.

Summer months are particularly good for auto deals, as many dealers are trying to get inventory off the lots. (One recent eBay ( EBAY) listing for an "exceptionally clean" 2004 Toyota ( TM) 4Runner SUV says the reserve price is "thousands below the current book value" because the vehicle "must sell.")

Auto makers and dealerships are desperate to move cars off the lot, and grasping onto any opportunity to reach a broader audience. Lexus, GM ( GM) and Chrysler recently teamed up with eBay Motors to launch a digital showroom of certified used vehicles to take advantage of the millions of users trolling the auction site for a new set of wheels.

As eBay CFO Robert Swan noted in a recent conference call, although lower selling prices are hurting eBay's sales volumes, "the good news is, buyers are getting better deals."

There is one passenger vehicle sold every minute, a part or accessory sold every second on eBay, according to The Pocket Idiot's Guide to eBay Motors, providing liquidity and bargains in a tough economic climate. Consumers can take advantage of the opportunities without getting burned, by following a few tips.

BUYERS

1. The closer, the better: While the Web opens up the horizons for sales across state borders and country borders alike, there are added risks the further you wander from home. You won't be able to see the car in person, test drive it, or have a trusted mechanic inspect it for you. While it's common to ship a vehicle cross country, there are also added risks that the item may be damaged in transit. Idiot's Guide warns against using overseas sellers, even if they offer free shipping.

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