When you think about used car scams, you probably think most often about getting scammed by the used car salesperson. While many used car salespeople are honest and hardworking, there are enough shady ones out there to have created the stereotype in the first place.
Yet, it’s not only when buying a car you need to be cautious. If you’re thinking about selling your used car on your own, there are some risks, too. While the best way to avoid a scam when selling your car is to trade in at a dealership, there will be times when you’d rather sell outright.
Here are some of the more common scams you could run into when selling your car:
1. Violent car theft.
This is perhaps one of the more uncommon – yet probably the most dangerous – scam you can run into. Some people will place an ad on an auction site or on Cragislist that they’re looking for a specific type of vehicle. Alternatively, they might respond to an ad of yours. When you meet up with the “buyer,” you might find yourself on the wrong end of a gun. Make sure that when you arrange a meeting with a buyer, you do so in a place that’s visible and public. You might even consider not having the car at your home, as this might be an opportunity for the criminal to case your house and come back later.
2. The bad check.
This is the oldest one in the book. Some people knowingly try to write bad checks for a used car. There are some ways around this; you can often call the bank to verify funds. Alternatively, you can require cash only. You can also tell the buyer that you’re going to deposit the check, and that they can have the vehicle when the funds actually clear. Bad checks and fraudulent checks are easily enough avoided, you just have to be smart about it. If someone has enough money in their checking account to buy the car, they can go to the bank and withdraw the cash.
3. Professional car “flippers.”
Some people will attempt to purchase your car, but they’ll offer to pay much less than what it’s worth. They can often be very convincing, especially if you’ve been trying to sell your car for a while. They want to get your lowest selling price and fast. They intend to purchase the car from you, and then turn right around and sell it for more than what they paid you for it. This doesn’t put you in danger, and it’s not illegal; however, it will wind up seeing you get less than what you want for the vehicle.
4. Solo test drivers.
Some people will want to take your vehicle for a test drive. They might even leave you a driver’s license to hold onto while they do. Be careful here; fake licenses are hard to recognize for the common person. Be especially wary if they not only want to drive the car without you, but if they have a second person with them to go along on the test drive.
5. Buyer overpayment.
This most often happens when the buyer isn’t located in your local area, and wants to purchase a vehicle sight unseen. Often, you’ll get an offer for the vehicle, and the buyer will ask if they can send you a payment. Usually, they’ll ask if they can sent you a check for money over and above the cost of the vehicle. They’ll then ask you to wire them the extra money, and they’ll arrange for the pickup of the vehicle. It will turn out that their check is fraudulent, and you’re out that extra money that the buyer “paid.”
6. Undervaluing the vehicle.
Some buyers will outright lie to you. They’ll claim that they have checked the “book value of a vehicle.” They might bring a mechanic along, who proceeds to tell them (and you) that there are terrible things wrong with the vehicle, and that it’s not worth as much. They might try to convince you that the transmission is about to go, or that the vehicle needs a new alternator. Whatever the issue, they’re really just trying to get you to sell the car for less. Don’t fall for these tactics; if they claim something is wrong with the vehicle, have your own mechanic check it out.
There are those who want to harm you, and those that simply want to rip you off. Don’t fall victim to these predators. Be smart about selling your car, and you’ll get the most from the transaction.
Nick Simpson is Social Media Coordinator at Fred Loya Insurance, a leading provider of general car insurance in the Southwestern US. Fred Loya provides a unique service catered specifically to customers in multiple states, and was a pioneer in revolutionizing the Texas car insurance industry by offering multi-lingual service to all customers.
[IMAGE CREDIT: Some rights reserved by skippyjon]