Why These Red Flags Mean Walk Away
When you want to buy a used car, you want it at the best price possible. It might tempt you to head to Craigslist for a fantastic deal, but press pause on your search, because shopping on Craigslist is not as simple as it looks. Look at these red flags and why you should buy your vehicle from a used car dealership instead.
Real Posts for Fake Cars
This is one of the biggest scams to watch out for when you want to buy a car on Craigslist, because it’s easy to fall for. Scammers and con-artists will copy and paste images from an actual post, and make fake, yet convincing, listings in several cities across the United States. So, how do you spot a post made to spoof you?
Look at these tips:
- Seller won’t meet in person or wants you to pay upfront
- Seller has extreme urgency or “needs cash quickly”
- The deal is too good to be true
- The post description doesn’t match the image
- You find multiple grammar and spelling issues in the post
Quick Tip: Scammers don’t always make new listings for each vehicle. When you’re interested in a vehicle, try searching for a snippet from the post in Google. If any other listing appears with the same words, it’s probably a scam.
Did you know most states have a limit on how many cars you can sell per year without needing a special license? The people who don’t get licensed to sell used cars and disguise themselves as individual sellers are called curbstone dealers.
While it doesn’t sound like such a terrible thing, curbstone dealers are often hard to locate after you’ve purchased a used vehicle. This means it’s going to be nearly impossible to get your money back if a problem occurs with your car.
Even though they get a bad rap from television and movies, the best place to buy a vehicle is a used car dealership. That way, you can take your car back to the original seller without having to spend a considerable amount of time to hunt them down.
Quick Tip: Curbstone dealers often try to sell cars that aren’t in their name. If they pull out a title in someone else’s name, it’s time to walk away. Never sign paperwork you don’t understand or doesn’t cover all the details.
Most sellers on Craigslist know you don’t have the same level of expertise as a mechanic, and there are some that might take advantage of that by hiding damage. Your untrained eye will miss poorly maintained parts or not notice some parts are missing or fake. They may even try to distract you by tugging on your heartstrings with a sad story. Don’t let a Craigslist seller pressure you into buying a busted car.
Check out these common things sellers try to hide:
- Car accident history
- Engine or transmission issues
- Factory defects
- Interior damage
- Milage on the odometer
Quick Tip: The only way to make sure you’re not getting scammed by a seller on Craigslist is by either taking the car you’re looking at to a mechanic you trust, or hitting the search button for a “used car dealership near me,” so you can purchase your automobile from a reputable seller.
You Need to Pay Little-by-Little
Con artists know they can’t ask for a ton of money upfront on a used car, and will ask you to trickle in money a little at a time. They’ll claim the car is in high-demand, you need to place a deposit to reserve it. Then, you’ll be dishing out money for shipping, taxes, and then a final payment. All for a car you might never see.
Some scammers might even go so far as to make fake escrow sites. Escrow sites protect consumers by holding your money for a certain amount of time before it reaches the seller. That way, you can get your money back if something goes wrong. However, advanced fraudsters will trick you into thinking you’re signing up for a safe agreement by spoofing an existing escrow site or setting up their own.
Quick Tip: Always research escrow websites that a seller recommends by searching for the site yourself. contacting customer service and only trusting escrow sites that are licensed by your state.
The Test Drive Was Too Short
Many people who purchase a used vehicle from Craigslist often complain about a test drive that was quicker than the car itself. Sellers trying to hide damage on a vehicle will often only let you take it for a drive around the block where the speed limits are low.
Until you’ve taken a realistic drive, you won’t be able to accurately know how well a vehicle drives or whether it’s had proper routine maintenance. If a seller refuses a longer test drive or has issues with a second inspection, walk away.
Quick Tip: When you’re test driving a car from a seller on Craigslist, write down the VIN (vehicle identification number), and purchase your own vehicle history report. You might not want to spend the extra money, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re buying a quality car.
The Bottom Line
There is a chance you could find an incredible deal on a used car on Craigslist, but it’s still slim. These days, you can visit a reputable Chevy or Ford dealer in Kansas City that offers everything you need to feel confident about your purchase. So, save yourself a lot of stress. Head to a used car dealership near you, instead of wasting time on Craigslist.