A used vehicle can be a great investment! Not only can you save cash on your car finance, but you can also find a vehicle that has many of the same features as the newest cars on the market. Unfortunately, there’s a little more risk when you’re buying a used car. The risk doesn’t have anything to do with the vehicle itself—it has to do with the person selling it. There are so many car scams to look out for when you’re buying a used vehicle, and that’s why it can be such a stressful process.
Here are 5 car scams you could run into when you’re searching for a used car, and how to avoid them.
- Hidden Damage
The most common car scam is also the most difficult one to snuff out: used cars are notorious for having worn or damaged parts that the seller won’t tell you about. Car buyers are most concerned about superficial damage, like chipped paint, scratches, and crunched bumpers. They forget to carefully inspect the internal parts, like all of the engine components. It doesn’t help that most car buyers don’t know exactly how a vehicle works—and sellers are always able to use that to their advantage. If you want to avoid an accident, it’s important that you buy a car that doesn’t have defective or decaying parts.
Before you buy a used vehicle, you should arrange with the seller to have an auto mechanic of your choice look at it. Don’t be afraid to request this—it’s a common practice. An auto mechanic will be able to do a thorough inspection of the vehicle and find damage that you might miss. You should also check the vehicle history report, which will tell you if the vehicle has been in any major accidents.
- Odometer Fraud
A vehicle’s mileage has a huge effect on its value; the more miles that a vehicle has logged, the less it’s worth. High-mileage vehicles have much more wear-and-tear and so they’re more likely to break down or suffer from other mechanical issues. Fraudsters may try to manipulate the odometer and make it appear as if the vehicle has driven for less miles than it really has. Although modern odometers are digital, there’s lots of technology that can be used to manipulate them.
Again, the only way to confirm a vehicle’s mileage is to get a vehicle history report. The vehicle history report will have service records that contain the vehicle’s mileage at each servicing, and you can cross-reference those with the vehicle’s current mileage. If the current mileage is less than what was logged at the last servicing, that’s a pretty good sign that there’s been an odometer adjustment.
There are lots of sellers that price a vehicle way too high for what it’s worth. You can make sure you’re not being ripped off by:
- Shopping prices for the same make and model at other sellers
- Having the vehicle inspected by an auto mechanic to make sure that the price reflects the car’s true condition
- Checking the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the vehicle when it was brand-new—used vehicles should be significantly less expensive than their original MSRP
If you’re interested in buying a used luxury car, be sure that you buy a certified one. A certified used vehicle is one that’s only been maintained or repaired using manufacturer-authentic parts—for example, search for a certified pre-owned Mercedes for sale if you’re looking for a properly-maintained Mercedes. You don’t want to pay a higher price on a luxury vehicle when it doesn’t even have all of its authentic components.
A worst-case scenario when you buy a used vehicle is that you’ll hand a seller a large amount of money, and they’ll never give you the keys to the vehicle—they’ll disappear and run off with your cash. This is always a big risk when you’re buying from a private seller rather than a dealership. It’s important that you keep records of all communications with a seller and be sure to get any agreements in writing. You should also do some sort of background research on the seller to ensure they’re legitimate. It’s always better to be safer than sorry.
A good way to keep safe when you’re buying from a private seller is to bring a person with you so you can have a second set of eyes and a witness to all negotiating.
If you just keep these 4 tips in mind, you’ll be able to drive home in a used vehicle that’s good-quality and well-worth the price tag.