Online purchase of construction equipment just got safer -- or at least more comfortable. eBay on June 2 launched business equipment purchase protection for transactions between $1,000 and $20,000 for certain categories of capital equipment, including construction equipment. The coverage, which is free for buyers and sellers, protects U.S. buyers against fraud and material misrepresentation. Buyers using eBay's PayPal payment system already are protected up to $1,000.

eBay has been offering similar coverage for automobiles within its motors category for more than two years. Fraud so far hasn't been a big problem on eBay, the company claims. "Less than 1/100th of 1% of [all eBay] transactions result in a confirmed case of fraud," says Jay Fiore, eBay's senior manager of business and industrial marketing. The motors category generates $12.9 billion per year in volume. The business and industrial category, which includes construction, generates $1.4 billion per year.

The protection is more a matter of giving bidders a higher level of comfort when dealing with equipment they can't inspect in person, says Fiore. "A year ago this was sort of a big curiosity," but now the small to medium-sized businesses who comprise the majority of online equipment buyers more and more are incorporating online equipment purchasing into their usual way of doing business, he adds.

Nearly 250 pieces of heavy equipment sell on eBay each day, the San Jose, Calif.-based company says. This year so far, more than 10,000 pieces of equipment items have been sold on eBay, including a 2001 Caterpillar 140 H motor grader that sold for $184,100. About $1.4 billion of items sell per year in eBay's business and industrial category, which includes construction. Currently more than 25,000 eBay listings are in the construction category.

The buyer protection plan protects against material misrepresentation, fraud, liens, etc. "It's not for maintenance and repair," notes Fiore. "And it doesn't cover you for buyer's remorse."