Buyers must beware when purchasing from an unknown dealership or a private owner. You can waste time and money if you are not careful. Luckily, we’ve developed a list of the most common scams to look out for when you’re purchasing from an unknown source.
Any type of false identification or fraud associated with the vehicle is a red flag. Here are some common types of tampering:
- Title washing - Sellers wash a title of a car that has a “salvaged” status. Cars that have had major repairs due to a wreck or a natural disaster would be considered salvaged. Title washing removes the fact that the car has been through any of this damage.
- Odometer fraud - The seller will tamper with the odometer to make it look as though the vehicle has a lower mileage. It is easier to manipulate an odometer reading now than it use to be. To avoid this scam, match up the service records with the current reports from the car.
- VIN cloning - The seller has registered the vehicle under a different VIN number which essentially means you are buying a stolen vehicle. Avoid this scam by matching the title and registration with the vehicle and making sure it is current.
How to avoid tampering: Order a CarFax or a vehicle history report and always trust your gut!
Unfortunately, tampering is not the only way sellers can con you out of your hard earned money. Here are few common purchasing scams to watch out for:
- Stolen deposits - Sometimes sellers will require a deposit to be sent to hold the vehicle for you. They can then run off with the money and you’re left without a vehicle and the money you’ve used to make your down payment. This can happen when purchasing from a private owner. Avoid this by only agreeing to pay in person and in one lump sum!
- Pricing scams - Have you ever been lured to a dealership with the promise of a lower price only to be informed that the salesperson is not able to get the price approved? This is a scam. Most of the time they assume you’ll purchase anyway because of the amount of time already spent, but don’t fall for it. Avoid this scam by doing your research and knowing the value of the vehicle before you begin to negotiate.
- Negative equity - The dealer will advertise to pay off your loan no matter what you still owe so that you can purchase a new car from them. This is not the case. The loan amount left on your trade-in will just be added to your next vehicle so that you are not only paying for one new car but you’re still actively paying off your old loan.
- Curbstoning - The dealer is posing as a private owner to avoid complying with dealer regulation standards. I.E. They can sell you a car with a salvage title or one that has an open recall.
- Warranty scams - Sometimes either a dealer or a private owner will advertise that a car has an active factory warranty. Don’t just assume this is the case. Instead, contact the manufacturer to confirm the warranty and how long the vehicle will be covered.
The car buying process can be lengthy and anxiety-inducing. Don’t let these common car scams impact how you buy your next vehicle. Go with someone you trust and if you are still unsure about a local dealership, authenticate them by researching their reviews and BBB rating!