Cars are an expensive business, so it goes without saying that you want to ensure your money does not get flung down the drain, wasted on a car that is not fit for purpose, stolen, or otherwise likely to end up in an empty wallet and no shiny new car for you.
Scams are sadly all too common when it comes to buying cars because cars do not come cheap, and that means if you want to avoid any of the above scenarios, you really do need to keep your wits about you and ensure you know about all of the most common scams going around, including the following…
1. The Classic ‘Cloned Number Plates’ Caper
Cloned number plates are one of those scams that simply will not quit so we’ll take a look at this particular caper first and foremost. Picture this: you find the car of your dreams, but little do you know it’s wearing a disguise – a number plate stolen from an identical car. Like a dodgy doppelganger, this vehicle is masquerading as a law-abiding citizen, but in reality, it’s more crooked than a politician’s smile. Always check the vehicle history and ensure the number plates match up with what’s on the paperwork, because although you can find number plates for sale legitimately, and many people use them to make their cars unique in a perfectly legal way, it is always best to check where yours came from before buying a new car. Remember, if the car’s history is murkier than a muddy puddle in a rainstorm, steer clear.
2. The ‘Too Good to Be True’ Bargain
We’ve all seen those adverts where the car is so cheap it might as well come with a free unicorn. If the price is so low it causes you to do a double-take, chances are there’s something fishy going on. It could be stolen, have hidden damage, or might even be cursed by an ancient spirit (just kidding on the last one – or are we?). Trust your gut – if it feels like a trap, it probably is.
3. The Mysterious ‘Seller Abroad’ Story
Ah, the seller who’s perpetually abroad – probably ‘working on an oil rig’ or ‘serving in the military’. They’ll promise to ship the car to you as soon as you transfer the money. Spoiler alert: the car doesn’t exist, and your money will take a one-way trip to Scamsville. If you can’t see the car and meet the seller in person, walk away.
4. The ‘I Only Accept Wire Transfers’ Trick
Any seller insisting on a wire transfer for payment should set off alarm bells louder than Big Ben at noon. Wire transfers are a scammer’s best friend – once the money’s gone, it’s gone faster than a toupee in a hurricane. Stick to safer payment methods where you have some buyer protection.
5. The ‘Clocking’ Conundrum
‘Clocking‘ – winding back the odometer to make the car seem less used than a gym membership in January. Always compare the mileage on the odometer with the car’s service and MOT history. If the numbers are as inconsistent as British summer weather, it’s probably been tampered with.
6. The ‘Outstanding Finance’ Fiasco
Imagine buying a car only to discover it’s got more outstanding finance than a student loan. You could end up liable for the debt, and worse, the finance company could reclaim the car. Always do a finance check before buying – it’s like a credit check, but for cars.
7. The ‘Accident Damage’ Deception
Some cars have had more facelifts than a Hollywood starlet. They’re repaired and sold without any mention of their accident-prone past. A thorough inspection and a vehicle history check can reveal if the car’s been in any major accidents. If the car’s history has more red flags than a bullfight, best to avoid.
8. The ‘Bogus Buyer Protection’ Scam
Picture this: a seller suggests using a ‘buyer protection’ service that turns out to be as real as a three-pound note. They’ll promise you the moon and the stars in terms of security, but once you’ve paid, they vanish like a ghost in the night. Always use legitimate payment services and never fall for fake buyer protection schemes.
9. The ‘Dodgy Dealer’ Dilemma
Not all car dealers are created equal. Some are more slippery than a bag of eels. Watch out for dealers with a history of bad reviews, sketchy practices, or cars that seem to have had more past lives than a cat. A reputable dealer should be more transparent than a pane of glass, not shadier than a parasol in July.
10. The ‘Phantom Car’ Flimflam
Ever seen an ad for a car that seems perfect, only to find it mysteriously disappears when you enquire? Then, suddenly, the seller has another, more expensive car to sell you. It’s the old bait-and-switch – as reliable as a chocolate teapot. If the car you enquired about always seems to just have been sold, it’s time to look elsewhere.
11. The ‘Hire Purchase Agreement’ Hoax
Here’s a sneaky one – selling a car that’s still under a hire purchase agreement. It’s like selling a rental movie – it’s not really theirs to sell. Make sure the seller actually owns the car outright, or you might find yourself in a sticky legal quagmire.
12. The ‘Overenthusiastic Seller’ Scam
Beware the seller who’s pushing you to buy like they’re on commission at a used vacuum cleaner store. If they’re rushing you, refusing inspections, or avoiding questions, they might be trying to offload a problem faster than a hot potato.
13. The ‘Guarantee’ Gambit
Some sellers promise the world in terms of guarantees and warranties, but these promises can be as hollow as a chocolate Easter bunny. Always read the fine print and understand what’s actually covered. A guarantee should be a safety net, not a spider’s web.
14. The ‘VIN Switcheroo’ Shenanigans
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is like the car’s fingerprint. Scammers might tamper with it to hide a car’s shady history. Ensure the VIN on the car matches the one in the documents. If they don’t match, it’s a bigger red flag than you’d find at a communist rally.
15. The ‘Pressure Cooker’ Sales Tactics
Finally, beware the high-pressure sales tactics. If a seller’s laying it on thicker than gravy on a Sunday roast, take a step back. A good deal will still be a good deal tomorrow. Don’t be rushed into making a decision; after all, you’re not choosing a sandwich, you’re buying a car.
16. The ‘Mystery Maintenance’ Mislead
Sellers saying the car has been meticulously maintained, yet there’s not a single shred of proof, is one of the more common scams out there and one that so many people fall for because they just take people on their word!
As you can imagine, this is really not a great idea, and it is so very important, if you do not want to be ripped off, that you always ask for service records, receipts for repairs, and any other documents that prove the car has been cared for better than a beloved pet. If the seller’s records are not exactly forthcoming, then it’s a clear sign the car’s history might be more fiction than fact. Remember, a well-maintained car should have a paper trail as extensive as a royal family tree, not a mysterious past like a spy novel protagonist.
Knowledge is power, and now you know a lot more about the awful scams that can be perpetrated on innocent car buyers, hopefully, you can avoid them and get that perfect car at the best possible price.