Scams when buying a car online

Buying a car online is becoming increasingly popular. This revolutionary way to purchase your next vehicle saves time, offers more deals in one collective space, and is hassle-free as long as everything goes to plan. However, it does come with its downfalls. Buying a vehicle online provides more opportunity for scammers to take advantage of innocent potential buyers. So, if you're ready to sell your car and buy your next one online, take a look at our tips below on how to avoid scams.


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Common scams when buying a car online

There are plenty of scams to avoid when buying a car online, but here are a few of the most common ones.

  • Buying abroad

    Shopping abroad may offer an even bigger range of great deals and a variety of cars to choose from, which can sound quite appealing. But, it doesn’t come without its risks. First of all, there’s no chance of seeing the car to check it is exactly as it has been described before making the purchase, unless you’re willing to make the trip out, ramping up the total cost of the purchase. Once the deal is done and the money has been transferred, you are relying on the seller to ship the car to the UK for you to pick up. However, should the sale turn out to be a scam, the car probably doesn’t even exist and you won’t see your money again.

  • Buying a stolen car

    When buying a car online, it is important to check all of the relevant documentation that provides proof of who owns the vehicle. If documentation listing the previous owners of the vehicle is missing or incomplete, then approach with caution. Another way to spot if the car is stolen is when you visit the car and the seller doesn’t enter the house. They wait for you on the driveway of a house that doesn’t belong to them.

  • Buying a rental car

    Another scam that buyers can often fall for is unwittingly purchasing a rental car. Scammers can lease a car for a short period, and then advertise the vehicle for sale, often only accepting cash payments or deposits. If in any case the seller seems overly keen to only accept cash payments or deposits, this could indicate that they do not want to be traceable after the sale.

  • Buying a car with outstanding finance

    This is a tricky one to spot. The seller will have all the right documents to prove the car is theirs, and may even let you visit the car to check it is as described. However, what they fail to reveal is that the car was bought on finance, and therefore, isn’t theirs to sell. If you buy a car with outstanding finance, it is most likely that your car will be repossessed and you won’t have any rights to claim back as the deal was illegal.


How to avoid being scammed

Although scammers are clever in the way that they trap their victims, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure you aren’t persuaded into a dodgy deal.

  • See the car in person

    Don’t buy if you haven’t seen the car. If the seller refuses to make an appointment for you to visit the car, or if you are buying from abroad, then approach the deal with caution or don’t make the deal at all. If you can’t see the car, there is no way for you to check if the vehicle exists, if it’s exactly how it has been described, and you can’t test drive it to see if you actually like the car.

  • Check all documents

    There’s no rush when it comes to buying a car. Well, that’s the impression you want to give the dealer at least anyway. If they think you’re desperate for a car they could become more stubborn with their offer, but if they think you have time to walk away and shop around, they will want to keep your custom. Also, you will be parting with a lot of money so you want the decision to be right for you, so take your time.

  • Ask questions

    Don’t be afraid to keep asking questions. This will test the buyer to see if they know all the right information that a car owner should know about their vehicle. You can find out basic information on a car by using our free car history check tool. If they don’t know the answer or they don’t respond, then it could be a scam.

If you think you have been a victim of a scam, contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for initial advice.


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