Buying and selling: Scams to avoid

  • Here are 10 scams to avoid when buying a car
  • Watch out for small print and hidden loopholes
  • All the signs of used car buying scams outlined

There are plenty of people out there who are more than happy to take your hard-earned cash in a less-than-honest fashion, but we here at Parkers we will always try to warn you of the pitfalls so you don't get ripped off.

To make sure you're not buying a lemon, your first port of call should be a Parkers car history check. After you've done that, make sure you read and absorb our list of 10 of the top scams you need to avoid.

International used car scammers

If you see a car advertised for an unbelievably low price, it probably is too good to be true. What can happen is the seller will begin a conversation with you via email, explaining that the car is in mainland Europe and that for some reason they have to sell it quickly.

You'll be directed to a money transfer website, which will actually be a fake site set up by the seller simply to get your money. That's the last you'll hear from them.

Avoid being told any finance has ‘fallen through'

If you agree to buy a car on finance, you may get a call a few weeks down the line saying that the finance has fallen through because of bad credit, and now you'll have to pay extra. This scam is aimed at people who have a bad credit history, and the loophole the firm uses is usually hidden in the smallprint of the contract you signed.

Beware of used car ‘agents'

You occasionally find people on auction sites advertising cars that aren't theirs. They'll copy the genuine advert, take people's money and then disappear. For this reason always make sure the person you're dealing with is the actual seller and look out for people selling cars on behalf of friends.

Beware of cloned cars

This is a scam where a dodgy car's details are altered to look exactly the same as an honest car of the same make and model. Usually carried out by organised criminal gangs, the VIN (vehicle identification number) and in some cases even the V5C ownership document is forged to make the car appear genuine.

This may also fool a car history check in some cases. We'd suggest you watch out for cars with unusually high specifications and low prices, and also try to meet the seller at the location shown on the V5C form.  

You can't be forced to buy a warranty

Never allow a dealer to insist you get a warranty with a car. It's not compulsory to pay extra for one, and it's not going to affect your credit score.

Dealer preparation – you don't need it

Always check exactly what is included in a ‘dealer preparation' charge if it's listed on your invoice. It's fairly common for dealers to charge a large amount while actually only doing a few hour's work.

Poor credit history/high APR

Always know your own credit score. Occasionally a dealer may try and sell you finance at a high APR when you're actually entitled to a much better deal.

‘Well pay off the finance'

If you're buying a car and want to part exchange your old one yet still have finance outstanding then the dealer may offer to pay off the outstanding money. Be sure that they do pay, because the last thing you want is a call from your bank asking why you're not paying your loan when you thought the dealer had pair the balance off.

The low valuation

Be on the look-out for companies that quote you a certain valuation for your car, and then amend it when you turn up to drop the car off once their engineer has had a chance to check the car and find ‘faults' with it. They rely on the fact that you've taken time to come to them, so you're likely to take a lower offer. This practice isn't currently illegal, so just be aware that it could happen.

Bill consolidation

Watch out for dealers or finance firms offering to ‘consolidate' all your debts into a monthly payment. What actually happens is the loan term is much longer than before, and for that reason you'll probably end up paying more money in APR.

Don't forget to get a car history check before committing to buying a car.