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Want to buy a car online? Beware of these car buying scams

By Liam Houghton


Updated on

Beware of scams for buying cars online

You are financially ready to buy a car, but the market is overcrowded. Besides that, there is a major disadvantage when it comes to shopping online: you can’t touch the product, which means you can’t test it until it’s already bought. Of course you can see the car in a photo, but who can assure you that it was not modified in Photoshop?!. Be aware of scams because once you buy a car, you wouldn’t want to keep it in repair for months after that.


But first let’s see what are the most frequent car buying scams when it comes to buying a car online.

The “Price Too Good to Be True” scam

Too Good To Be True
Too Good To Be True

Let’s get down to business. As you’re browsing on your laptop, you notice an attractive-looking car. OMG! Its price is well below market value. You grab your phone and contact the seller. And surprise: the car and the seller aren’t in your country, so you’ll get your car through shipment after you pay for it via a transfer. You think it’s safe, but when the money is transferred and collected, the “seller” breaks contact. You remain out of money and no car. And you are asking why this happened to you.

Escrow scams

Escrow Scam
Escrow Scam

Or here’s another scenario. You are approached by a scammer selling a car. The scam seller will offer to ship the car and that is assuring you there is no risk of fraud through an “escrow” service. How nice of him. The money is transferred. The contact is broken, in the “best” case. Things could be even worse: he asks for additional funds to cover “unexpected” events. Why do  “escrow” services appear to be safe? Because they apparently will hold the transaction money until both parties are satisfied with the transaction. The question is, why did you trust a man that you’ve never seen?

Monthly Payments

Monthly Payment
Monthly Payment

Maybe you don’t have the whole amount of money right away and are thinking of buying one in monthly rates. Okay, but do the math before you purchase the car. The seller will try to get you to focus only on the monthly payment. Scammers can hide all sorts of financially useful aspects in a monthly payment and you will never know. What’s attractive to you is the fact that you will be able to give any monthly payment that’s convenient. This is such an easy trick. They only extend the car loan. So, don’t be silly and think a bit before buying. Weigh all the aspects of the situation.

So how to stay safe from these fraudulent people?

Be Safe
Be Safe

There are also smaller online scams such as dented cars, missing pieces etc. Trust no one and be cautious. Here’s some tips on how to avoid these scams.

– Take care of your money. Never wire it or use a bank-to-bank transfer in a transaction. Internet has seen so many car scams during the past years that it’s basically better to just say no from the very beginning, instead of hoping things could turn out for the better.

– Always try to deal nearby: how will you (or the police) handle a car scam whose author is located on the other side of the Globe? How will they ever respond for such a crime?

– The seller is unable or unwilling to meet you face to face? Do not buy a car from him. Again, the internet swarms with stories from people who have been misled and tricked into buying or selling things online. If the person doesn’t agree to come to a meeting, how will they even agree to help you solve other potential additional problems?

– Have the car inspected by a professional before buying it. Even if you get to “meet” the vehicle, in case you haven’t at least driven and don’t own the required expertise for evaluating it “on the spot”, don’t acquire it. It’s too risky.

– The seller guaranteed the transaction by eBay, Craigslist, PayPal? Never trust him! They don’t offer guaranteeing. As impressive as these endorsing parties may seem, they never make any commitment to anyone in particular. So take good care before accepting such an offer.

– You are in contact with an impatient seller? Beware of him! He is a scammer. If they are really looking to sell their product, they will at least have to have the patience and common courtesy of meeting you in person.

-Always trust your instincts!

About Liam Houghton

Liam has been an automotive enthusiast probably since birth and grew up restoring classic cars with his dad. He still remembers the exact moment when his dad showed him the inner workings of an engine and learned how it works. Also an avid racing fan, especially when it comes to Formula 1, Liam has contributed a unique blend of insight into both the classic car brands and sports car segments on GCB since joining the team in 2016. Learn more about GCB's Editorial Process.