The used car market is quite tricky and can leave you with a pretty bitter experience if not dealt with carefully. Buying a new car is one thing and there is a certain peace of mind factor involved in it. However, the same can’t be said when buying a used car. Though certain well established and big names have now sprung up in the market of used cars, the chances of getting conned are present in even certified dealerships. Also, the online used car marketplace offers many lucrative deals but that’s the place where most of the con-artist hide. However, there some practical knowhows which can help you avoid these scamsters and get the car of your dreams. Read along to find out the most common scams and how to avoid them when dealing with the used car marketplace.
The ‘pay in advance’ scam
As a rule of thumb, never part with your hard earned cash without physically seeing the car and meeting the seller. Even after this, insist on making any sort of payments only after official paperwork is initiated. If the seller insists for some sort of payment to ‘lock’ the deal and you feel a seller is a genuine person, then too only pay a very small amount and take receipt of the same. Also, cash payment for such ‘lock’ amounts is a strict no-no as it leaves no proof. There are many con artists out there who fo around displaying the same car to multiple buyers, collect advance money and then vamoose!
The ‘too-good-to-be-true price’ scam
If you see a particular deal with jaw-dropping prices, collect back your jaw into place and let the mind do some thinking. Crook sellers often list a very low price for a car and chances are that is only to lure buyers. Then suddenly, the car goes unavailable. This is then followed by the seller trying to push some other car to the buyer. If you are going for a particular make model, research a bit and get the average pricing of the car in the used market. Some websites have the facility of “right price” or “fair price” indication that gives you an idea of what the car is really worth. Some basic rules of the used car market are that diesel cars are priced at a slight premium from their petrol counterparts and higher odo reading means lower price.
The odometer rollback scam
Many assume that the new age digital odometers cannot be tampered with. However, almost everything on a car can be played with. Only the very expensive and most premium cars (we’re referring to Rs. 50 lakh+ category) come with foolproof systems but some reports suggest that even they can be tampered with. Sellers roll back the mileage that a car has done in a very professional manner that is virtually undetectable. One way to check for a tampered odometer is by comparing the readings against the service history for the odometer. Compare the odo reading recorded at last service with the current reading. Also, check the VIN number of the car to get further details. Almost all service centres now maintain a service record of the cars brought there and that data is easily accessible.
Show one car, sell another car scam
This one is quite common in online classifieds where con artists put up photos of a car and specifications that will draw buyers. Often the features listed may not even exist on the car. Therefore, don’t just believe the listing and get ready to invest your money. Always verify the listing and make sure that the car being displayed is the car being sold. The most prevalent practice is to list a petrol car as diesel or a manual car as an automatic.
The expert examination con
Many used car dealerships now keep agents or so-called experts who go over the car with you and assure you about the car’s quality. Many of them are so skilled that they will completely gain your trust by talking to you in an assuring manner and then inspect the car on your behalf, pronounce everything well. Even if you are getting a car from a reputed used car dealership, it makes sense to inspect the car, first hand. Take your time and inspect it yourself, getting help from a mechanic or friend you know if needed. If the dealership refuses to have the car inspected, have the snacks and tea offered and then wave goodbye.
The ‘paperwork later’ con
Never leave any paperwork pending when it comes to used car transactions. There have been instances where a stolen car was sold to another person, but registration was not transferred, and the new “owner” lands up in trouble with the police. Get a receipt for the sale of the car on the spot. Make sure you have the original registration certificate and copy of vehicle insurance with you. Also insist on an NOC – no objection certificate – just in case the vehicle has been involved in a legal issue or accident. Finally, make sure the owner signs all the transfer forms, so that the car can be registered in your name – and do this as quickly as possible.
The fake service history con
Con artists and their practices have been upgraded over time. Earlier, one could ask for the service history or bills from the last few services to verify the upkeep of the car. However, Crook dealers sometimes draw up a full fake service history of the car to con the buyers. It can also be that the seller will say that service history is not available for a particular car, as it was serviced at many places. If such a situation arises, ask the owner where he/she usually services the car and then if possible independently get a record from that workshop. The mechanics / service advisors there should be able to give you an idea of the car’s upkeep. Verifying the car’s history independently with the workshop helps.
The ‘no test drive’ con
This one is pretty simple to remember and follow. Always take a good test drive of the car before making up your mind. If possible, it is always better to take a trusted friend or mechanic along. Also, insist on inspecting the car in daylight and having a short test drive, if not a rigorous one. Even if you are convinced, step back for a moment and let your friend or mechanic also take a look at the vehicle. Many vehicles that have been damaged by floods or accidents often end up in the used car market. Dealers and sellers often refuse on giving test drives of such vehicles and even if they do, it’s pretty short and they’ll keep saying things like the vehicle has been standing for long and so on.
The ‘only cash please’ scam
Avoiding some extra bucks by paying in cash for a car is a huge temptation as it is easier to avoid taxes. However, try avoiding that. The best way to pay for a used car deal is in the form of demand draft, as this keeps a record of the transaction. This also means that the name of the person selling the car should be the same as the registered owner of the car. Unless the seller has some very genuine reasons for wanting the money in a different name, don’t deposit money in another person’s name. Actually, this is one of the most common ways in which stolen cars are disposed off without a trace.
The fake owner scam
This one is pretty old in the con books. Follow a rule of meeting the seller for not only cars but any other used product you may buy. Never settle for a phone call as there are scam artists who have posed as “owners” of the car on sale and answered questions over the phone to push the sale of the car. Meeting the original owner of the car would give you a better idea of the car’s history and the reasons it is being sold. In this era of social media, it is fairly easy to connect with a car’s owner, not an invisible con artist at the other end of a phone line.