Looking for a used car? You have a lot of places you can go. The cream of the crop, of course, is your local car dealership because they have a local presence and reputation to uphold. However, you may find what seems to be a better deal on a car at small establishments (used car lots) or even on-line.  While there is nothing wrong with retailers of this sort, you want to keep your guard up to make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of. Here’s a few things to be careful of.

Watchout for “Title-Washing”. Title washing occurs when a seller forges the car’s title or uses a replacement title to cover up a vehicle’s history. For example, this could happen when an insurance company declares a car a total loss due to flood damage or severe accident damage. This information will be recorded on the real title but unscrupulous sellers could “wash the title”.  Shoppers should always run a vehicle history report (like Carfax), since title washing does not wipe out the distributed computer records involving a car’s history.  

Be careful of “deposits”.  A popular scam involves an unknown seller requesting money via Paypal or wire transfer to “hold” the car until the details are worked out.  Do not send any money to those selling cars on-line unless you have verified that they are a reputable automobile dealer.  When in doubt, use a credit card so you have protection if there is a dispute.

Be careful of hidden damage. You always want to get photos of any vehicle you are considering buying sight unseen but unless you are buying from a reputable dealer, you may be getting a vehicle with hidden damage.  If the damaging event (an accident, for example) involved an insurance company, then you should find a record of it on any vehicle history that you request. The problem is that unless an insurance company or a local police department were involved, there may be no record of it.     

Verify the Odometer Reading.  While less common than title washing, odometer fraud still occurs.  Make sure and get a photo of the odometer reading but your first line of defense is to check the mileage as reported on a vehicle history report.  If you see anything on the report that looks suspicious, be real careful.  You may be dealing with an odometer that was turned back.

Check for Theft. While this might seem obvious, you should always run the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) through the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINCheck database. This makes sure that the car you are buying hasn’t been stolen at some point in its life and then a new title issued.  This is actually happens more often than you think and it is not uncommon for people to buy a car that was stolen quite some time ago from someone who has no idea that they are selling you a stolen vehicle.

Bottom line: it is just common sense to practice “Caveat Emptor” (Buyer Beware) whenever you enter a transaction with anyone. In particular with a used car, make sure you do your research.

Article Courtesy of: Browning Dodge

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