At Get My Auto, we always tell people that buying a used car can be an ideal way to obtain a great vehicle for a wonderful value—assuming you buy from a reputable car dealership. This caveat is an important one. While reputable dealerships can deliver real bang for buck—low-priced cars that run for a good long while—buying from a dishonest seller can result in incidents of fraud. Used car scams are all too common, and it is important for consumers to protect themselves.
Avoiding Used Car Scams
The question is, what can consumers do to ensure that they don’t get ripped off? Well, we’ve already laid out the best advice we can give, which is to only buy from reputable dealerships. Do some online research to ensure that the dealership in question has a reputation for honesty. Avoid dealerships that seem plagued by adverse consumer reviews. Ensure that the dealership is licensed or certified as your state requires, and also ask if it has a Certified Pre-Owned program.
Also note that buying from third-party sellers is simply not a safe idea in most cases. It’s just too hard to determine the honesty of private sellers. Something like Craigslist might seem convenient, then, but it makes it so hard to know whether you’re truly getting a solid car for your money.
Further Tips for Avoiding Used Car Fraud
In addition, we’ll offer these tips to consumers in San Diego and around the country:
- Always run a vehicle history on any car before buying it; using the VIN, you can get a vehicle history from AutoCheck or from CarFax. Ideally, the dealer will furnish you with this history. Check it against the car you’re looking at and make sure everything adds up.
- Ask if the vehicle is a salvage title or is being sold as is. If the answer to either of these questions is yes, we recommend moving along from it. Note that the vehicle history should tell you if it’s a salvage.
- Check to ensure that the VIN is printed consistently in the inside of the doorframe, the wheel well, the trunk, and in the owner’s manual.
- Test drive the vehicle, and be on the alert for signs and sounds of anything going wrong—weird noises in the brakes, irregular wear on the tires, etc.
- Educate yourself about the lemon laws that protect you, especially if you are buying a used car in San Diego, and know what your rights are.
- Thoroughly inspect the warranty you are provided with, too.
- Don’t be afraid to have a car inspected by an independent mechanic, and be wary of any dealer who seems hesitant to let you do this.
- Also don’t be afraid to simply walk away from any deal you have a bad feeling about. Often, your instincts can be great guides!
The bottom line: Used car scams happen—but if you buy from a reputable dealership, and take measures to protect yourself, you’ll likely be just fine.