6 Scams to Watch Out for While Buying a Car

Whether you are looking to buy a minimally used secondhand car or a brand new one. There are people out there with not-so-social morals who are ready to grab the opportunity to scam buyers. There are levels to scamming car buyers without leaving a trace, especially for secondhand cars and online advertizes. However, you may be surprised to know the way even reputed dealers could scam their customers. So this article will shed some light on the common 6 scams to watch out for while buying a car.

Depending on what you got yourself into, cars scams can cost you extra hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

6 Scams to Watch Out for While Buying a Car

Truth be told, there are many tactics one could use to scam a car buyer. So you must investigate before even sitting at negotiating table. Here are some of the top 6 scams to be aware of while buying from a dealer, private owner, or even online.

1. Fake Ads

You’ve surely heard about people advertising things that don’t even own. Well, there is some black hat who scam people by advertizing cars they don’t even have. These ads may confuse you as they as proper photos and matching descriptions. They claim to be offering steep discounts saying “we have to sell fast”. Everything seems okay and you may also pay upfront to set a deal. Once you do this, the seller will disappear into the thin air.

2. The Stolen Vehicle Scam

Stolen car

Just like one could successfully sell salvage cars, some people offer second-hand cars at surprisingly lower rates. And there is a good chance of the car being stolen. For them, It’s not that difficult to make fake paperwork of a stolen vehicle. So you need to act confident and ask for all necessary info. – their license, vehicle registration, and even try to get information about previous owners. Don’t rush in and act friendly and curious rather than concerned. If the owner seems hesitant or uninterested to answer, it’s a red flag. Kingly look for other deals.

3. “We’ll Pay-off Your Negative Equity” Scam

This scam happens when you’re in love with a new car you just saw in a showroom but your old car is still in negative equity. You’ll be misguided with words like we’ll pay off your negative equity even if it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. What actually happens is the dealer will configure the loan of your new car such that the debt on the old car is combined with the new contract, making you pay for both. These dealers aren’t doing any favours besides worsening your financial situation.

4. Odometer Fraud

Audometer scamAlso known as a clock, this is a very common scam while dealing with secondhand cars. People use this to make people pay more as mileage significantly affects a used car’s value. For a used car, the value of average miles per year is fixed for specific brands and models. If the odometer reads less than that fixed number, high chances that you’re in for an odometer fraud case. 

5. We Have Found a Buyer For You!

These scams are related to people who contact sellers about finding a real buyer even though a buyer doesn’t exist. The same thing may happen with a buyer. For some quick bucks, they ask you to pay to get a contact of the buyer or seller. Even if is a genuine car, he/she will lie to both parties regarding prices to earn profit. So you should avoid such claims and find a genuine buyer instead.

6. Title Washing

When talking about the title in regards to cars, it simply means history. So, title washing simply means hiding a car’s history that the buyer needs to know. For instance, salvaged cars destroyed by accidents, floods, or other natural disasters. This is often encountered in the sale of secondhand cars and is illegal. Be careful as these crooks can go to any length to hide this necessary info about a salvaged vehicle. 

Tips to Avoid Scams While Buying a Car

As a buyer, you’re a target for scam artists who want your cash. Keep your money safe by following these tips:

Avoid car scams

  • Inspect the car thoroughly before taking possession. Drive it yourself, get it checked by your trusted mechanic, or bring a knowledgeable friend along when seeing the car.
  • If the mileage on the odometer seems oddly low then compare it with mileage with the vehicle’s maintenance record.
  • Do a history check of the vehicle. This may cost a little but you’ll know if the car has a history of accidents.
  • Try to avoid agents. Find a seller and contact him directly.
  • Online marketplaces never give any guarantees after the sale and don’t trust sellers who say so. eBay, Craiglist, and other sites don’t guarantee sales or if the seller is genuine or not.
  • Ensure that there aren’t any liens on the car. It gives banks and loan companies authority over the car for unpaid loans. The liens should be paid before you purchase the car. You can go to your local DMV office to check liens.


Many disingenuous people are willing to scam car buyers for some quick bucks. And your own knowledge is the key to not getting carried away with unrealistic offers. If something smells fishy, there are good chances that it is. So believe your instincts and investigate thoroughly if the price seems abnormally low. Don’t shy away from taking help from an adult or a trusted mechanic if you don’t feel qualified enough to know if you’re getting ripped off.

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