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The Top 5 Dangers in Buying any Car Online and How to Avoid Them

More and more of our shopping is done online these days, even for big ticket items like cars. While you may laugh at the idea that someone would buy a $20k car from eBay or another online listing site and then be surprised when they get scammed. The reality is most car listings are now online and the next person taken advantage of you could be you. Here are the top 5 dangers in buying any car online and how to avoid them.

1. The car described and shown doesn’t match the reality – This one is simple, you find the perfect new or used car online, show up where it is and the car you see doesn’t bear any resemblance to the one that is described.

2. The “as-is” warranty is abused. – Just because a car can be sold “as-is” doesn’t mean that it is excluded from having to meet the requirements set by most State Lemon Laws. Consumer protection laws are in place to make sure that a car that is sold as a drivable vehicle meets a standard different from one that should be listed as salvage.

3. Online scammers use cars to steal your money through deposit and escrow scams. – You have an option here of whether someone will simply ask you to wire a deposit to hold the car and then disappear with your money, or you can have the reverse problem. A popular scam is for the thief to pose as the buyer and offer to send a check, plus fees and wait until it has cleared your account before announcing they don’t want the car and request a refund. The problem being that the check was never really good in the first place and when the dust settles, you have to pay your bank back the amount.

4. The car has damage, needs repairs or has been in an accident that hasn’t been disclosed. – It may look like a great car, it may drive like a great car, it can be priced like the best car in the world but if you aren’t aware that it was in a car crumpling accident and had its chassis repaired you won’t realize your wonder car is a potential death trap. The easiest way to verify a car’s history is to use the VIN number to acquire the car’s history report. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System is what powers the reporting on a car’s life, it is worth the cost to check out the one you are considering.

5. The car isn’t theirs to sell. – Repeat after me, “The VIN number is my friend.” That number that is so irritating when it comes to the process of registering your vehicle is also the one that will prevent you from being taken advantage of by a scammer. You can do a quick VIN check, often for free, to find out if the person actually has the right to sell the car they are advertising. A quick check will reveal the owner’s name, if the car has a lien on it and whether or not it can really be sold.
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