Buying a used car is often a stressful experience, because it can be difficult to verify with 100% certainty that the car you want to buy is in good shape. Buying a car of any kind is a significant financial investment, and you are likely relying on that vehicle to get you to and from your place of employment. Proper diligence is therefore essential to make sure that you are not being taken advantage of when purchasing a vehicle. There are common scams that conmen frequently rely on to swindle used car buyers out of their money. Recognizing these traps helps you to avoid becoming a victim of vehicle fraud yourself.
One of the simplest scams is when a seller lies about the number of miles on a car. The seller rolls back the mileage on the speedometer or resets the digital readout, eliminates any past paperwork that shows the discrepancy, and raises the asking price of the car based off the lower mileage.
While the scam is often effective, it can be undone with a bit of research on your part.
Always research the VIN of any used car you are considering buying. Multiple services exist that look into a car’s history using the VIN for a nominal fee. This not only helps you validate the mileage, it also alerts you to any possible accident history or serious repair that you may not otherwise be aware of. A VIN check is not foolproof, but it is a very useful resource that you need to take advantage of when researching any used car.
It is also useful to take the car to a local auto dealership repair shop that specializes in that make of car. The dealership can check its own records for the vehicle, which should include any repairs that happened at any auto dealership (for that make of vehicle) nationwide. Any time a repair is done, the mechanic takes a record of the mileage on the car. If a previous repair shows a higher mileage than what the car is current showing, you know your speedometer has been tampered with and should avoid buying that vehicle.
Buying a car off of Craigslist or any type of online private seller is always risky. That doesn’t mean that it cannot be done, but you need to do some extra research to make sure that the seller of the car is the actual legal owner of the vehicle. Scam artists often steal a car, falsify a title and then sell the car online. By the time you discover that your car title is faulty, the seller has long since vanished. The vehicle must then be returned to its rightful owner, and you have no real recourse to get your money back.
Verify that the car seller has the title in his possession. Always compare the car title to a current driver’s license of the car seller. If any excuse is given as to why the seller does not currently have the title, look for another vehicle. It is not worth the risk. Contact the DMV with any questions about legality prior to giving the seller any money.
Used car sellers, whether they be private or an actual dealer, will often get the vehicle looking as good as possible while ignoring or covering up substantial repair needs. Never buy a car without test driving it first. However, a short test drive is often not enough to uncover potentially long-term repair liabilities. Always take any used car you want to buy to a trusted mechanic for a full inspection before you make any purchase. Use a mechanic that you are familiar with, and not one the seller recommends. The small fee that you pay now for the inspection can save you thousands of dollars in the future and eliminate years of mental stress caused by buying a vehicle that is unreliable and expensive to fix.
Used cars are more cost-effective than new models, because vehicle depreciation is still one of the highest costs associated with the car. A new car drops in value as soon as you drive it off the lot to take it home. However, you do have fewer protections and more instability when buying a used vehicle. This is why proper research and taking your time is so important. Always make sure you are completely comfortable with the history, condition and pricing of a used car before you turn over your hard-earned money for it.