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Top 8 Tips to Avoid Car Buying Scams



Nobody plans to fall victim to car buying scams when browsing online. The rise of ecommerce has increased the prevalence of internet fraud as well as the number of victims. Online car buying is extremely efficient and can be 100% safe, if done correctly. At Carsforsale.com, we are passionate about connecting real buyers and sellers. Here are 8 tips to help you safely find your next ride.

1. Lay Off the Gas

Slow down, hold your horses, take your time, decelerate, reduce speed, hold on, whoa. Don’t let a seller rush you into a purchase. It’s hard to make a smart decision when you’re under pressure. Feel free to take plenty of time to consider a vehicle and a seller. A vehicle is a long-term investment, don’t make a rash decision

2. Avoid Too Good To Be True Prices

A brand new 2015 Ford Mustang selling for $7,000? I’ll take two! Be very cautious of prices that are far below the national average. Scammers often use an unbelievably low price to attract customers ready to part with their cash quickly. Don’t fall into this trap.

Here are a few legitimately “too good to be true” priced new vehicles. Ten 2015 Vehicles Priced Under $15,000

3. Don’t Buy the Sob Story

Scammers will use your goodwill to their advantage. Car buying is a time to set aside compassion. There are a variety of sad stories scammers use to gain your trust and sympathy, leaving you prone to a fraudulent sale. From military deployment to a family tragedy, nothing is off limits. Beware of stories such as these:

Car Scam 1 (1)

“I’m at XYZ Air Force Base and I’m being deployed tomorrow, but I can have the car delivered, no extra charge. You’ll make the payment in an Amazon managed trust fund, no bogus payment!”

“My son died and we have to sell his vehicle by tomorrow to pay for the funeral.”

“The car is so cheap because we need the money right away to pay for my mother’s chemo.”

4. Never Pay Early

Sending money before having the vehicle may very well be paying for a car that doesn’t exist. Only use reliable and familiar forms of payment. If you aren’t comfortable with the payment, suggest something that works for you. The absolute safest transaction is when you have the keys in your hand immediately after handing over the cash.

5. Pick up the Phone

Car Scam 1 (2)

“I’d rather not speak on the phone,” is a huge red flag. If someone is unwilling or claims they are unable to speak on the phone, move on. It’s much easier for a scammer to avoid the law when the transaction occurs with no phone correspondence. Scammers can cover their computer tracks with ease.

Once you have them on the phone, feel like an expert. CarBuyingTips.com provides a great list of questions to ask when buying a used car.

6. Dig up the Facts

Get your own vehicle history report. It’s great if the seller provides one, but it is possible to falsify these reports. A Vehicle History Report  has standard vehicle data to help you make an informed purchase. This report will also reveal if the car has been stolen, totaled, flooded or in any other accidents. For a few bucks, it’s a worth-while investment. All you need is the vehicle’s VIN (vehicle identification number). The seller can provide you with this information.

VIN Number

7. Nothing Beats a Personal Touch

Touching, feeling and driving a car will always be the best way to ensure vehicle quality. Most scammers don’t actually have a vehicle to sell, making a personal meeting a great screening tool. Know what to look for in a used car before the meeting. When arranging a meeting with an independent seller, consider your personal safety. Select a well-populated area during daylight hours and take someone with you.

8. Trust your Instincts

If the seller’s e-mail address is janedoe@sej.23.22jhedj.com, be more cautious than with a familiar e-mail provider. Is the vehicle image cropped, stretched or squished? Take extra caution. That gut feeling may be more accurate than you realize. If something feels fishy, resort to tip #1, or just back out.

Bonus Tip

Carsforsale.com will NEVER e-mail you asking for personal information or payment. If an e-mail claims to be from us and asks for personal information or payment, it is fraudulent.

Our passion is connecting real automotive buyers and sellers.  Shopping for vehicles online saves you an incredible amount of time and legwork. Don’t let the fear of car buying scams keep you from using this valuable car shopping resource.

Caroline Rex

She's a graphic designer by trade, but loves writing blog posts on the side. As a closet car fanatic, Caroline enjoy sprinkling knowledge about the unique ins and outs of the underdogs of the auto world. #neonsruletheworld

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  1. Avatar
    Kia Of Auburn March 16, 2015

    Great post thanks for sharing this! Trusting your instinct truly does go a long way. If you do not feel comfortable or you are just not satisfied it’s okay to walk away. This gives us control over the situation!

  2. Avatar
    Oscar Trombertt August 15, 2016

    I need help with something. Something might be a scam.

  3. Avatar
    jwawa December 4, 2016

    Why doesn’t carsforsale provide a way for customers to flag a listing, or otherwise report misleading or fraudulent listings? Even Craigslist, which stinks for trying to buy a vehicle, at least has a way to flag a listing.


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