How to Avoid Getting Scammed When Buying a Used Car

Last Updated on November 21, 2021 by Joe Regan

Are you going in the market for a used car? You want to know how to avoid getting scammed when buying a used car due to a high rate of curbstone, stolen vehicles, odometer fraud, and title problems.

how to avoid getting scammed when buying a used car

To avoid getting scammed when buying a used car, you want to be able to trust the seller, inspect and know the car conditions and then make payments in cash in an open location. Of course, you have to test drive it for possible problems.

With online markets such as Craigslist, eBay, Facebook Market, etc., buying a used car gets even easier. However, you cannot trust a private seller. It might interest you to know that a seller – private or a dealer, does not trust you.

The average used car seller wants to cheat you, or perhaps, get the better deal. The slightest loophole you leave is enough to achieve their target, and this is always the case if you are a first-time buyer.

How to Avoid Getting Scammed When Buying a Used Car

Being an old-time buyer does not mean you cannot be scammed when buying a used car from a private seller or a dealership. Anyone can become a victim but you only have to do your homework well to outsmart the seller.

Below are the steps to avoid getting scammed when buying a used car:

  1. Use a trusted escrow website

If you want to pay for a used car online (not advisable), use a trusted escrow service. You want to be sure that you are transacting on a reputable website, so you do not lose your money to scammers.

Besides, it is not even recommended to use a website that takes and keeps your money for the seller when you do not even know what car you are buying.

Unless you are transacting with a seller in person, websites like Craigslist and eBay can be the go-to platforms. They are not trusted which is why this article and your intelligence are your best bets not to get scammed. Meanwhile, you can read our guide on how you can get away with being scammed when buying a used car on Craigslist.

  1. Finding a seller

An honest seller will never publish a deal that is “too good to be true”. Besides, your instinct can tell when a deal is a potential scam trap.

You want a seller that owns the vehicle, and you can measure this beginning with the seller’s use of unique images.

You can trap a seller who uses fake images by running a reverse image search on Google Photos or any image search. If the images point to similar images on the web, then the seller merely downloads those images to use for the ad. They may not even have the car for sale.

  1. Find out about the used car

At this point, you are not yet interested in physical inspection because the car is not with you or your inspection team. You know, if you are buying a used car from outside the country, you need an inspection agency to complete the inspection on your behalf.

There is a lot to find out about the car prior to your meeting with the buyer.

  • Vehicle lien. First, you want to know if the car has a lien on it. If there is a lien on the car, and you buy it, you will be responsible for it despite paying for the car. If you find out that there is a lien, make sure the lien is released before you pay for it. You will also have to ensure the seller’s driver’s license matches the title certificate and even VIN info. You can contact the DMV to verify the lien.
  • Odometer fraud. It is common for insincere sellers to roll back odometer to sell a car at a higher price than its value. This process conceals the true odometer from you which can be detected using this guide. You can begin your investigation from the last odometer disclosure on the title.
  • Title. The title certificate gives lots of information about the legitimacy of a used car you want to buy. Make sure the details will match. While awaiting the physical inspection, this virtual investigation can hint you about the kind of seller you are dealing with. You must be careful not to buy a washed title or an open title. Otherwise, you will have difficulties putting the car in your name without a title.
  • VIN check. A simple VIN check will provide as much information you need to determine whether or not the seller is involving you in a fishy deal. Unfortunately, VIN can be changed, so if the car is a stolen VIN-switched car, you cannot tell it. Even the police cannot, so nothing to worry about here. Nonetheless, run a VIN check for the vehicle history. It can be able to reveal if the car is salvaged, rebuilt, etc. You can use services such as Auto Check, CarFax, and more. The database needs to be updated, so you might be getting older but more recent information.
  1. Meeting the buyer

After negotiations, decide where to meet the buyer. During negotiations, avoid lowballing, sellers hate it, especially the sincere ones.

If you reside in the same state or country, choose to meet in an open place. Do not ask a seller to come down to your home unless you know them.

If the seller is in another town or country, you want to meet an inspection agency to set up the meeting on your behalf. Some buyers will not transact with outsiders, especially if your country has a bad record in scams.

If meeting with the seller, go with a friend, perhaps, one with good knowledge of cars or a mechanic.

The seller may not come alone, so you also need your brothers in arms to balance the deal.

  1. Vehicle inspection

What is the safest way to accept payment for a used car

Your vehicle must be inspected if you want the best deal because you cannot trust the seller – a private seller or a dealer.

If you reside outside the country, then we are speaking of getting an inspection agency. Depending on the used car website you use, there may be an option to select an inspection agency.

Most International vehicle buying platforms provide plans for inspection, so you sign up to get a sincere review. You will receive images of the vehicle, comments, and suggestions. Of course, the agency will test-drive your car.

If you are meeting the seller in person, be sure you have excellent test-driving skills. Otherwise, a mechanic can do the job.

You also need your driver’s license. Most sellers will only let you drive if you present your driver’s license. Active insurance is also mandatory so that if there is an accident during the test drive, neither you nor the seller is responsible for the expenses.

There are many things to check when test driving a car but our interest is on how to not get scammed when buying a used car. Refer to this article to know what to check when buying a used car, and things to consider during the test drive.

  1. Scam payments

Paying for a used car is the main deal. If you are dealing with a scammer interested in ripping you, here is where you must be really careful.

If the seller is a scammer, their appearance, and perhaps, mode of response would have already hinted to you about them.

A scammer will ask you to transfer money to their bank account even before you see the car, or before they ship it to your location. Here is where escrow comes in, and you need a selling platform with trusted escrow if you are not meeting the seller in person.

If a seller will not show up but pressures you to make payment, it is a sign that they have a scamming intention. Do not accept inspection reports from this kind of seller as they may be doctored.

Besides, you are not even supposed to use an inspection agency or agent recommended by a seller. You will only receive comments like “it is in a good condition”, “a perfect car for any road”, etc.

No ACH transfer to prevent fraud. Here, your money will move electronically through the banks. Typically, a scammer will give their account credentials so you can send money. They will tell you no money 2as received despite receiving, and so you lose the car and money.

  1. Pay with cash

How can I buy a used car without getting scammed

If you are dealing with a used car seller in your state, ensure to pay in cash only. You can also pay with certified checks but cash is better.

If you reside outside the country, your trading platform should be reputable for reliable escrow support. So, you make the payment online, have your used car inspected and shipped to your country.

You should use a website that offers advanced escrow services, including being able to track the vehicle until it arrives for them to release the payment to the buyer.

Final Thoughts

To buy a used car without getting scammed is no rocket science. You do not also have to be a genius to secure the best deal for your money.

Let the seller understand that, like them, you know what you are doing to prevent fraud. You also want the seller to trust you for the deal to progress smoothly.

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