Steer Clear of Bogus Auto Deals

Steer Clear of Bogus Auto Deals

Soon the pandemic will be in the rear-view mirror. Off come the masks and out we go into the real world to meet friends, eat a meal and take a trip somewhere. It’s back to normal in most ways, but some things we may never go back to – like going into a retail store to make a purchase. Sure, folks still prefer to buy the essentials in person, like grocery shopping, but if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we can do most of our shopping online.


I’d put auto shopping at the top of that list. Why visit multiple dealers when you can shop for a vehicle from the comfort of your home? It’s easier than ever to look at cars on your laptop, tablet or phone, with online showrooms, engine sizes, performance data and reviews at our fingertips. You can never have too much information, and that’s especially important when you’re about to make one of the biggest purchases of your lifetime.


Do your homework. Decide what type of car you need. Is it a sedan, a sporty coupe, an SUV or a truck? Much of that depends on where you live, the kind of driving you do and your lifestyle. Set a budget. You can even get preapproved for a loan. Once you’ve zeroed in on the perfect vehicle, you’ll probably need to speak with the internet sales manager to arrange a test drive. That’s the one thing you should still do in person, because there’s no substitute for seeing a car, looking under the hood, sitting in the driver’s seat and getting it out on the road to see how it performs.


Now there’s a shadier side to buying a vehicle online. If you venture outside the realm of reputable dealers, you’re taking some risks. Sure, there are millions of cars on eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, but there are very few ways to know if that seller is reputable or if the vehicle even exists. Here are some tips if you intend to venture off the main drag:

  • Watch out for too good to be true deals. They’re probably a scam. Scammers often steal consumers’ personal information and money by offering them high-value goods at extremely discounted prices.

  • Never wire funds or complete bank-to-bank transactions. Scammers love this kind of transaction because there is no way for you to get your money back once it is completed. Instead, make legitimate purchases by check or credit card.

  • Contact the seller by phone. At some point during your negotiations, speak with the sales manager on the phone. If they are unusually vague about certain details of the sale or cannot confirm their location or the vehicle location, it’s most likely a scam.

  • See the car first. Never buy a car without making an in-person inspection and taking test drive first.

  • Don’t give in to pressure. Scammers often try to pressure you into giving up your personal information or making a down payment before you have time to think about the purchase. Take your time and think a deal over before agreeing to anything. If you get a bad feeling, listen to your gut.

  • Don’t trust a seller or buyer who says that the transaction is guaranteed by eBay, PayPal, Craigslist, or another online marketplace. These sites explicitly explain they cannot guarantee that people using their services are legitimate. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.

Summer is almost here and it’s time to hit the road and have an adventure in a new set of wheels. Just make sure you follow these tips to avoid a “breakdown” before you even leave the garage!

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