eBay has revealed that 20% of its UK vehicle sales in Q1 were made via smartphone, amounting to nearly 45,000 transactions.

It represents an increase of 120% year-on-year, and shows that the online marketplace is probably on track to hit its target of $8bn in mobile sales in 2012, almost the double the $5bn it achieved last year.

Among the cars sold were a Porsche 911 and a Land Rover Evoque that both went for more than £40,000.

The news comes in the same week that eBay launched its new Motors iPhone app complete with an image recognition (IR) search function, allowing users to search for cars and parts by taking a photo of the back of a vehicle.

IR has been available in its US Motors app since January, but this is the first time it has been available in the UK.

So, does it work?

Image recognition (IR) search 

I was dubious as to how effective the IR would be, but it works amazingly well. To use it you simply need to go into the search function and then take a photo of the back of any parked car.

I tried it out on several vehicles, including a VW Golf and a Mini Convertible, and got matching search results back every time.


It’s simple and quick to use, so beyond the initial novelty value it should prove to be a really useful tool for eBay’s growing number of car shoppers.

Other features

While the headline act is the IR technology, eBay Motors has a number of other useful features for car enthusiasts.

The main screen hosts the ‘Featured Gallery’, which includes a rotating list of available cars. Users can customise the list using a number of different criteria, including keywords, make, model or price range.

The homepage also includes links to four options; Garage, Community, Videos and Events.

Of these four tabs, ‘Garage’ is definitely the most useful. It allows users to upload all the details and images of cars they own or want to own in the garage, which then makes searching for accessories and parts much easier. 


The app can also inform the user if the parts they are viewing are compatible with the cars in their garage.

The Community tab simply allows you to save other cars listed on eBay, while the Videos tab hosts content from eBay’s Racing channel. The Events tab lists upcoming racing events, but doesn’t allow you to click on them for more information.

Finally, the ‘My eBay’ tab list all the items you are watching, buying or selling, including non-car related products.


The main selling point of this app is the IR search function, and it works extremely well. As mentioned, its use goes beyond simple novelty value and should be a great tool for car enthusiasts.

However, we have seen a similar use of IR technology before in a car app. Auto Trader launched an iPhone app in 2010 that searched for cars by using licence plate details. It only lasted two weeks, as the DVLA ruled that taking pictures of cars conflicted with its code of ethics

I’m not entirely sure whether eBay’s app works on the same basis, but it will be interesting to see how the DVLA reacts.

Beyond the IR search, eBay Motors has several other functions that make it worth downloading.

The ‘Garage’ feature is extremely useful for people who are renovating vehicles as it simplifies the process of searching for parts, and the ‘Featured Gallery’ is a clever way of making the search process more user-friendly.

Overall, this is a great app that should help increase eBay’s vehicle sales on mobile.

it should also provide some inspiration for automotive brands and dealers, as it shows how effectively mobile can be used.