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5 Most Common Used Car Scams and How to Avoid Them

Buying used cars has almost become the status quo in our modern society. Finding a cheap and affordable slightly older vehicle is almost always more convenient than the nightmarish process of buying off a lot, but that doesn’t mean the process is inherently simple either.

In fact, with so many people out there willing to distort the truth or blatantly lie simply to get some money for their ‘lemon’ vehicles, the key (pun intended) to buying a used car all comes down to knowing the tricks and knowing what to look for before making the deal. Fortunately, when it comes to the car itself, we’ve got you covered with our ultimate list of what to check when buying a used car. However, what about the car owner themselves?

This is where we decided to delve deep and present to you the five most common used car sales scams individual sellers pull and how exactly to avoid them without fail.

Why Purchase a Used Car From an Individual Seller?

Before we can delve into the scams themselves, let’s elaborate on why individual sellers are a very common and highly viable option for used car purchases. For starters, in almost every situation, buying from a private seller leads to a cheaper price on your desired vehicle. You also won’t find financing our warranties on vehicles sold in between two individuals rather than from a lot.

On top of this, many people actually prefer to have quick and simple transactions which individual sellers provide. No sales pitches, sense of urgency tactics, or embellishments to make you buy the car. Instead, it’s simply two people talking about a car, going through the streamlined process, and then moving on with their lives.

Lastly, many people enjoy working with individual sellers because this means that they can inspect the car in a less pushy manner, can likely have their mechanic look it over before purchasing it, and can pay in cold hard cash.

With these benefits outlined, it’s no wonder why so many people turn to AutoTrader, CraigsList, and FlipRide in search of their dream used car within their budget. But, this is also where the scams start to unfold in some unfortunate cases.

What are the 5 Main Scams to Avoid and how to Spot Them?

Before outlining the five scams, it is important to note that car dealerships can rip you off as well. However, in any used car purchase, the best way to avoid the scams is simply to know what they are, how to detect them, and how to avoid them from happening to you. Having said that, let’s analyze these five scams thoroughly and see exactly how to skirt past these nefarious dealings each and every time below.

1. “I’ve only driven this car a few times so the mileage is very low”

When you hear this highly common phrase when looking at a used car, especially an older model car, you can almost always be sure that they are lying to you. Why? Well, the average miles per year on a used car sits at 12,000 meaning that if you are purchasing a 2005 vehicle, you can expect the odometer to read no less than 180,000 miles.

Therefore, if the odometer reads less than this, you are more than likely dealing with an odometer fraud case. The best way to determine this is simply to compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage indicated on the vehicle’s maintenance records. You can also head over to CarFax for a free odometer check. The minute that any of these numbers don’t add up, your best bet is to not make the purchase and to simply move on to the next vehicle on your list.

2. “I know it’s way underpriced but I just want it gone”

Although we’d all like to believe we’ve found the deal of the century, there’s an old saying about that very feeling, “If it seems too good to be true, it’s likely because it is.”

Too good to be true deals on used cars are few and far between. As such, if someone says that they have a vehicle which goes for $10,000 used and they’re selling it for $1500, you can bet that this vehicle has some sort of underlying damage they are not revealing to you that is forcing them to sell it as quickly as possible.

When a vehicle is far less than it normally runs for online, this creates a sense of urgency to purchase it which makes the buyer less likely to look it over for damage or check its validity. With this being said, if the car is going for an astronomically low price, don’t bother trying to buy it and instead stay within a reasonable range of the car’s actual value to ensure you are receiving a fully-functional vehicle.

3. “The car comes as is but it worked just fine when I drove it”

When people use the phrase ‘as-is’, it is almost always because there is something wrong with the vehicle and they don’t want to relay that information with the potential buyers.

Instead, they say the vehicle hasn’t been driven in a while but worked fine for them the last time they drove it, they underplay any kind of damage, and then, when the vehicle’s damage becomes apparent, they deny it is because of them and blame you. The ‘as-is’ part of the ad also makes them feel as though they aren’t responsible for what happens after it leaves their property and this is where the problem herein lies.

The best way to avoid this particular scam is to ask them for the vin number and to check the vehicle online for any records of past damage. You can also request that your mechanic looks the vehicle over before you make any decisions. If the seller is hesitant or confrontational about either of these requests, you have your answer and can move onto the next vehicle option on your list.

4. “This is my friend’s car and I’m just here to sell it for them”

Although a true car enthusiast would likely immediately recognize the scam here, there are still some that won’t. For instance, my very own mother made this glaring mistake and purchased a stolen Camaro unknowingly only to have it impounded by the police and for her to be out thousands of dollars in exchange with no chance of getting her money back.

Therefore, if you haven’t heard this scam before, it simply is a way for someone to deny knowledge of the state of the car, any kinds of discrepancies in paperwork, and even who they are. The best way to work around this if you encounter someone like this is to check if the title and registration match, run the VIN online, ask for the ID of the seller and take a photo of it for your records, and still have the vehicle checked over by your mechanic before purchasing.

In this way, you can ensure that the vehicle is not stolen. However, if a person denies any of these requests, the next step to take is to leave and to call your local non-emergency police department line in order to report the vehicle and seller. While you may have seen through their ploy, others might not be so lucky so it is always best to call in a suspicious seller as soon as possible to save others from being scammed by them as well.

5. “This car was in a very minor accident with the last owner”

Lastly, if someone tells you the car has been in a minor accident but won’t give you any additional information, this may be because the vehicle was in more than a ‘minor’ accident and has serious damage that may not be cosmetic in nature. The best way to check this is to run the VIN online and look at its records and reports thoroughly.

However, you will also want to have your mechanic look over the vehicle at this point as well because not every accident is documented. If the individual simply smashed into a wall or hit a curb that damaged a rim, this wouldn’t be found online which could result in you purchasing a damaged car despite taking the initial precautions to avoid just that.

Once you have checked the vehicle over and looked at its reports to find they all check out, you can rest assured that the vehicle you are purchasing is reliable and you are making the right decision without being scammed in any way.

In the end, while these five scams are highly common and easy to catch with a keen eye, the best way to avoid any and all scams with ease is to buy your next vehicle through the wonderful process on FlipRide. With everything streamlined, all of the process easily verifiable, and every document saved in a convenient location, you can rest assured that you are getting the right car for you without the fear of being scammed in the process. To learn more, check out the FlipRide system and app today!