Wondering how to avoid used car scams?
With so many used car buying scams out there, if you’re not careful you could stand to lose far more money than you ever planned to spend on a replacement vehicle.
If you’re considering getting a new set of wheels, a used vehicle should be the cheaper option over the purchase of a new car. But unfortunately, it’s not always straightforward and things aren’t always quite as they seem. What’s more, buying from a dealership doesn’t necessarily mean car buyers won’t get exposed to scammers. Sometimes even car dealers are none the wiser than private sellers.
Read on to learn how to avoid some of the most common used car scams.
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Avoid these common used car scams
1. Online selling platforms such as eBay and Gumtree
These popular platforms might appear trustworthy, but they make life way too easy for car crooks. Watch out for these used car scam red flags:
- You are asked to pay for the vehicle outside of the selling platform/website. Never pay outside of eBay or Paypal as these organisations will protect from fraudulent sellers and will be able to refund your money once a dispute has been raised.
- Finding that the ‘seller’ has no idea who you are when you go to pick up the car. In this case, it’s likely someone has fraudulently taken pictures of somebody else’s car, posted it on the site and taken your money.
- The asking price seems ‘too good to be true’ – when you consider the age, mileage and condition of the car.
The advert asks potential buyers to contact them by email directly – or they supply a mobile phone number which goes straight to voicemail and requests that you email them. Once you’re in touch with them, they ask you to send over your bank details or a significant money transfer to their bank account before you have seen the car. And once you’ve sent the money? You never hear from them again…
If you’ve found a car you like on a website such as eBay or Gumtree, arrange to view it in person before you make a bid or offer. That way, you’ll be able to check the advert is legitimate and an accurate representation of the car. Be wary if the seller tells you they want a quick sale because they are leaving the country or a similar story. And never send money to someone you don’t know by bank transfer – always use a protected payment service (such as Paypal) or a credit card.
Clocking has been going on for years. And while it’s becoming increasingly harder to clock modern cars, criminals are still finding ways to do it. While they’re at it, they often switch off the warning lights too, meaning the car you are buying not only has a lot more miles on the clock, it also has a number of undetected faults. Keep an eye out for suspicious-looking black tape on the instrument cluster that may be covering an engine management light.
How to avoid clocked car?
For this one, you’ll need to do your homework. Use Car Guide’s Vehicle Check to find out the vehicle’s mileage at its last MOT. You’ll just need the registration number of the car. If the number plate is obscured in the photos, ask the seller to supply it. If they say no? Be concerned.
Make a note of the car’s mileage at its last MOT so you can check it against the odometer when you view the car. Have a look at the interior and exterior of the car – is there any unusual wear and tear? Does the car show any signs of having travelled more miles than the clock suggests? Are the seats, switches, rubber coverings on the pedals or steering wheel heavily worn?
Equally, if the gear stick or steering wheel look brand new but the car is 10 years old, alarm bells should be ringing.
To estimate how many miles a used car is likely to have done, multiply 10,000 (average annual miles) by the vehicle’s age in years. If the numbers don’t make sense, then question the seller – this is a big red flag for clocking.
This one’s really sneaky. Criminals steal a car and swap the number plates, vehicle identification number and V5C document with another car. You buy the stolen car, believing it to be genuine. But eventually, the police track the car down and seize it as a stolen vehicle. And the seller gets away with your money. In even worse cases, criminals’ fuse two damaged cars together, creating a “cut ‘n’ shut” car. These cars are totally unroadworthy, but from the outside, it can be difficult to tell they’ve been welded together.
Avoid cloned car scams
To reduce your chances of buying a cloned car, run a thorough check on the car’s history using Car Guide’s Vehicle Check. When viewing the vehicle, make sure the information on the V5C document matches the car in front of you – is the make, model and colour of the car correctly documented? Does the engine and VIN number match the vehicle, Is the owner’s name and address correct? If they’re not, it’s best to walk away.
4. Quick sale
Sometimes people really are looking to sell their car fast. But you should always be vigilant, just in case they’re not genuine. The car may have been stolen, or there might be outstanding finance on it. A stolen car will eventually end up being seized by the police. And a car with outstanding finance is likely to be claimed back by the finance company. To avoid falling into this trap, use our vehicle check – you’ll be able to find out whether the car has been reported stolen, or whether there are any outstanding finance payments.
7 red flags – avoid getting scammed…
Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Here’s a summary of the red flags to look out for to avoid getting scammed:
- Missing V5C registration document
- Missing service history (always ask to see logbook)
- The seller doesn’t want you to view the car at their house. This one’s a biggie – you’ll need to check the address on the V5C matches their home address.
- The seller won’t share the vehicle registration number with you prior to the viewing/test drive.
- The VIN (Vehicle Identity Number) doesn’t match the one on the V5C. This means the vehicle is probably stolen.
- The engine number on the V5C doesn’t match the engine number on the vehicle, whilst there may be a valid reason for this (for example the car had a replacement engine fitted), it is relatively rare, therefore ask for a receipt for the engine replacement.
- The seller only shows you the ‘green slip’ or says you’ll have to apply for the V5C.
For total peace of mind when buying a used car and to avoid the most common vehicle scams, why not try out our vehicle check? This will enable you to gather all of the key information, including full vehicle history check as well as a market value which you’ll need to make an informed buying decision.