Private online transactions always come with a degree of risk, particularly if the item is high value. Car sales scams don’t just happen when you are trying to buy a car. If you don’t go through and do your due diligence you could fall victim to a number of car selling scams too.
As the saying goes, forewarned is fore-armed, so it’s important to keep your wits about you if you decide to sell privately. Be aware of the different types of car scams that you could fall foul of when selling your car – and learn how to avoid them:
One of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to car scams. Your potential buyer may actually be a professional car ‘flipper’ that will offer you a price well below market value, claiming they know the ‘book value’ of your car, that multiple things are wrong with it and they’ll try to justify this with a mechanic they have brought along. These scammers operate by buying cars cheap and selling them for a profit. How do they get cars so cheap? They take advantage of sellers who haven’t done their research or who’ve been trying to sell for a while with no success.
When preparing to sell your car, it’s important you’ve done your homework on the valuation of your car. Look for other listings that are the same model with similar mileage, check out a price estimator or have a chat with your mechanic. Alternatively, check out this guide for tips on pricing your car to sell.
Knowledge is power when it comes to private sales.
Another long-standing scammer favourite that has caught many a seller out: the buyer knowingly writes a bad cheque as ‘payment’ for your car. The problem with this being that by the time you go to cash the cheque you find out it’s fake which leaves you with no car, no payment and no chance of getting it back. A buyer asking to pay by cheque just means you need to tread carefully to ensure you get paid. Either call the bank to verify funds before accepting a cheque or insist on a banker’s draft or cash payment.
If you plan to accept a cheque, make sure the buyer knows they won’t be getting the keys until the cheque has cleared. Then only hand over the keys once the cheque has cleared. If you’re not comfortable with cheques and aren’t sure what other payment options are better, read through this guide to accepting payments for private car sales to get a better idea of what the best payment methods are when you’re selling privately.
Any sort of overpayment offer tends to be a red flag. In this case be particularly cautious of a buyer who writes out a cheque over the agreed price and requests a cash refund from you. As mentioned above, when dealing with a cheque payment verifying funds is important, as is explaining that possession of the vehicle won’t be transferred until funds have been cleared. As a rule of thumb when making a sale, you want monetary transfers to be one way: from the buyer, to you.
Buyers will ask to take your vehicle for a test drive, offering to leave their driver’s license with you as they go. However, licenses can be faked which means you just let a stranger drive off in your car and the chances of you seeing it again are not high. When letting a potential buyer have a test drive, it’s best to accompany them on the test drive so that to ensure they don’t drive off with your vehicle. Another trick to be aware of is the buyer trying to get you out of the car during the drive. A ruse like wanting to check the tire pressure or engine condition mid-drive is a red flag that has the potential to end with you on the side of the road with no car and no payment. Always wait for the buyer to get out of the car before you do.
Although cases of violence are rare, always be on the guard when you meet up with a respondent to an ad. Make sure that when you arrange a meeting with a buyer, you do so in daylight, in a place that’s visible and public, and ideally have a friend or family member accompanying you. All of this reduces the risk of something unsavoury happening or if the worst case scenario plays out, you’ll have witnesses.
Be wary of anyone who offers to buy your car sight unseen. When considering an offer, always screen respondents to ads to make sure they are serious, well-intentioned, have the necessary financing sorted, possess a valid driver’s licence, and are prepared to meet up. Also keep a paper trail of all documentation that changes hands as it is your responsibility to ensure that this is in order before handing over the keys.
The best way to avoid a scam entirely is to use a reputable and established car seller. If you are in the Brisbane area and are looking to sell your car safely and profitably, the team at Cars Brisbane can help. We have an unmatched track record of customer satisfaction.