Scams victimizing car buyers and sellers are continually being uncovered, and consumers are looking for ways to protect themselves in every way possible. Buying or selling a car isn’t a small task to start with, so it makes sense that people want to make the process as easy as possible. In theory, websites like eBay and Craigslist can do just that. Unfortunately, that’s also where most of the scammers hang out.
You may not want to sell your car on Craigslist
It seems so convenient to just put up a quick ad on Craigslist to sell your car. Especially since there always seem to be buyers for cars in any shape. Every car has some kind of value, even those “mechanics’ specials” destined for the scrap yard.
But if you’ve ever been part of even a simple transaction facilitated by Craigslist, like selling furniture or buying clothing, then you understand it’s not as simple as it seems. You never know whom you’re going to meet or what they’re going to be like.
It’s frustrating to deal with no-shows, habitual re-schedulers, lowball offers, and extremely late people who leave you waiting for hours without communication. Worse, there are also scammers just waiting to steal your money (or your car) no matter what online platform you use.
Here are some tips you can follow to avoid getting scammed when buying or selling a car online:
1. Buy or sell via reputable online classified websites
There are plenty of online classified websites you can use to buy or sell a car so that you’ll deal only with serious, local buyers. CarsDirect, AutoTrader, and CarMax are just a few of your options. These websites have advanced features designed to provide as much information about each car as possible, and some allow you to make your car’s Carfax report available to potential buyers.
When someone takes the time to enter detailed information about a car for sale on one of these websites, they’re less likely to be scammers. Still, you should always proceed with caution.
2. Sell your car to a dealer
This might be the easiest option for selling. Because a dealer needs to resell your car at a higher price to make a profit, you probably won’t be offered more than the estimated book value of your car. The benefit is that you don’t have to worry about dealing with unsavory characters. Chances are, the check cut by a reputable dealer won’t bounce when you try to cash it. For many people, making a little less money is a small price to pay for a safe and easy transaction.
If you’re looking to buy a car from a dealer, it never hurts to check out your local used car dealerships. As long as you walk onto the lot knowing they’re going to place a much higher price tag on the car than it’s worth, you might be able to find a good deal and talk them down to a reasonable price. Also, most used dealerships will let you take the car to a mechanic of your choice to perform an inspection, which is a wise thing to do.
3. Use Facebook as a character reference
When you connect with a potential buyer or seller, do some research on Facebook to find out what kind of person they are. Of course, Facebook can’t tell you everything about a person, and not everyone’s on the platform anyway, but you might catch some red flags that will help you make an informed decision about dealing with the person.
4. Use higher level transaction facilitators
If your local classifieds or word of mouth aren’t turning up the options you want, or if you’re just not feeling good about buying a car on Craigslist, there are other options, like Carlypso, where you can browse thousands of pre-owned cars to find the one that’s right for you. The company will perform a full inspection to ensure the car meets safety and quality standards, and then you can pick it up from one of their approved locations in three to ten days.
5. Get your payment in cash
If you sell your car to a private party you meet on any third-party website, make sure you get your payment in cash, and be sure to check the bills with a counterfeit pen to make sure they are real. If someone offers you a personal check, it’s better to ask them to come back with cash or a bank check, just to be safe. Let them know you don’t mind waiting an extra day or two.
6. Don’t be in a hurry
The last thing you want to do when you’re buying or selling a car is to be in a hurry. When you feel rushed to make decisions, you can end up making the wrong ones. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. But there are exceptions. Don’t be afraid to pay a little more when buying a car through a reputable company that you can trust. Sometimes the peace of mind is worth the extra fee.