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5 Red Flags To Look Out For When Buying A Used Car

Scams are becoming more sophisticated in the modern age. And as customers become increasingly reliant on the internet for their purchases, it is now easier than ever before to fall victim.

We’ve all been warned about used car salesmen, but what many people don’t realise is that you can also be scammed by your Average Joe – like perhaps a connection you made on Facebook, or that nice couple you spoke to on a seemingly reputable car sales website.

If you’re new to buying used cars, it can be difficult to know what to look out for. You may want to snap up that ‘good deal’ quickly, before somebody else gets in there – but what is lurking underneath those nice photographs and persuasive messages?

In this article, we will go through some of the most common red flags when buying a used car, and outline when you should back out of a sale before sealing the deal.


1. Paying Before Viewing

A friend of mine recently experienced a scam on a reputable car sales website. The current owner was selling it for around £1,600 when the retail price was closer to £4,000. That was her first red flag.

The owner then messaged her to say that they would consider selling her the car if she matched the offer already submitted by another bidder. In and of itself, this was not a red flag, so she stated that she was happy to do this.

The owner then told her that they wanted the deposit by bank transfer before she viewed the car the following week – big red flag.

The car owner also said that the other interested buyer had already given them a deposit, but then hadn’t been in touch, so they now wanted to find a new buyer – even bigger red flag.

This was a clear case of someone taking a deposit on a car that they were not planning to sell.

They could easily be posting pictures of a car that they found on Google, then taken multiple deposits on a vehicle that they did not own. Or perhaps they did own the car, but kept taking deposits while not intending to sell it at the listed price.

Ask yourself – if the seller could take a deposit from another buyer with no intention of actually selling the car to them, what would stop them from doing the same to you?

A recent survey found that 47% of UK motorists were willing to pay a seller thousands of pounds directly from their bank account to secure what they thought was a ‘good deal’. But transferring the money directly from your bank account before viewing the car could put you at risk of fraud.

Or worse – you could buy a stolen car, which could result in your vehicle being seized, and you may even face legal repercussions.


2. The Price Is Too Low

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is’?

Well, this applies to cars too. If you see a car being marketed at an extremely low price, always ask yourself why. There are several common reasons why this might be the case:

  1. The car has underlying electrical or mechanical issues that require repairs. This could mean that you end up paying more in repairs than if you bought it for the original full price. Worst case scenario, these problems could even make your car unsafe to drive. (P.S. a current MOT does not necessarily guarantee that your car is roadworthy)
  2. The car has outstanding finance – this could result in the vehicle being repossessed. The lender can legally repossess your car even if you were not the party who originally took out the loan, and in some cases, they do not necessarily require a court order to do so.
  3. The car might be stolen, which could result in your car being seized by police, and you may be subject to legal action.
  4. The car could be a clone created by a criminal gang, which could result in you receiving unexpected speeding fines – or worse criminal charges – through no fault of your own.
  5. The sale could be a scam, which could potentially result in you losing thousands of pounds that you may not be able to recover.


3. Incorrect, Missing, Or Salvaged Title Documents

Your seller must be able to provide you with all the documentation for the car they sell you, and all those documents must have the correct title, under the seller’s name.

If the seller does not have a title, or the title is in somebody else’s name, they do not have a legal right to sell you that car. An incorrect or missing title on the car’s documentation can also be a sign that you’re looking at forged documents.

If the title on the car is salvaged, that means that the car is not safe to drive. This may not matter if you are intending on carrying out a full restoration on a ‘fixer upper’, but if you intend to drive the car anywhere (and yes, that includes driving it home), you should not buy the car.


4. Missing Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

If the VIN or chassis number is obscured in any way, you absolutely should not buy the car.

This could be an indicator that the car has been stolen – which, as mentioned – can result in the car being repossessed, and may even lead to legal action against you.


5. Pushy Sellers

Is the seller trying to get you to buy a car before you are ready? Perhaps you haven’t viewed it in person yet, or need to check out the vehicle history before committing to the purchase?

A pushy seller will want to get their car gone as soon as possible. But why?

Maybe it’s because there are issues with the car that you don’t know about. Perhaps the sale is a scam, the car is stolen, or the seller has committed a crime in that car and don’t want to be tracked.

If you don’t trust the seller of a vehicle, or feel uncomfortable with them in any way, always trust your gut. You don’t want to complete the purchase, then lose the vehicle, be thousands of pounds worse off, and even have a potential criminal proceeding against you.


Make Sure You Follow These Top Tips To Stay Safe When Purchasing A Used Vehicle!


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