Scams You MUST Avoid When Buying & Selling a Second Hand Car

Scams You MUST Avoid When Buying & Selling a Second Hand Car

Scams You MUST Avoid When Buying & Selling a Second Hand Car

The world is full of people looking to make a fast buck The second-hand car market is no exception, usually because the majority of buyers don’t know much about cars and take things on face value.

What Scams do you need to avoid when buying a second-hand car?

Scams are Plentiful and range from sellers trying to offload insurance write-offs as genuine, selling cloned cars, paying with counterfeit currency and tampering with your cars

We give you the full low down below:

Failing to Disclose Insurance Write-Offs

A very very common scam, sellers will try and sell you a car which has previously been involved in an accident and has been repaired. The seller will usually not make any mention of this in the sale advert or if they do it will be hidden in amongst the text which makes it very easy to miss.

Cars which have insurance write off’s against them are not always bad purchases, however, you need to know they do not carry the same value as cars with a clean title. The scam is to make you pay full market value on false pretences for a car that is simply not worth the price.

This is rare when purchasing a car through a dealer and more prevalent in the private market, we strongly suggest a full HPI check before you purchase any car.

A HPI check will flag up any insurance write off information at an early stage.

Unrecorded Accident Damage

Harder to spot as there is no record of the car being in an accident. This usually happens when a car is involved in a crash but the driver does not inform the insurance company and opts to get the car fixed privately.

The car is then sold as if though nothing happened and often repaired to a poor standard.

Look out for bad spray work, primer visible between the joins and misaligned panels which are a big give away that work has been carried out to the car

Connect a diagnostic tool to the car to see if any error codes have been turned off. Check out our guide on how to spot accident damaged cars HERE.

Cloned Cars

Selling a stolen car which is set up to look like a legitimate car, often carried by organised crime groups. This can happen in a multitude of ways such as putting false plates onto the car being sold, or the car is stuffed full of stolen parts.

Telltale signs are a high spec cars being sold very cheaply, sellers not wanting to meet at an address but insisting to meet in a car park etc, and the seller not having any documents or if they do not being in their names.

Please note, it’s also easy for organised groups to fake legitimate-looking documents.

Be sure to thoroughly check VIN’s match up, all paperwork exists with more than 1 key for the car, and conduct a HPI check. If any of the red flags listed above appear consistently then pass on the deal!.

Use your gut instinct, if it’s too good to be true it usually is!

Car Tampering

Usually happens when you have listed a car for sale, the common method is for 2-3 people to show up to look over the car with the intention of disorientating you. Whilst you are distracted one of the ‘buyers’ will tamper with your car by either disconnecting something or adding something to the car.

The idea is to either set off an error message on the dash or make the car smoke or sounds as if there is a problem with it. They will then look to pressure you into offering a significant discount on the price for the fault they have created.

Our advice is to watch any examination of your car carefully and do not allow any test drives of your car with you not present.

Please note: 2-3 people showing up is not always a sign of this scam, it can be completely legitimate for a family to show up to look over a car, take this on a case by case basis.

Buyer Insisting to Pay With Cash

Again this may be completely genuine with people from an older generation who deal with cash only.

As a rule of thumb, we only look to accept any payments over £1000 by bank transfer.

Although we have never experienced this ourselves, we have heard of horror stories of people selling cars and accepting a large sum of ‘cash’ only to realise once the buyer has gone that the currency was fake.  It can be very hard to recoup your car/money once this occurs as you may have to prove this money came from the seller etc… not worth the hassle, stick to the rule,

International ‘Phishing’ Scams

You have your car listed on a few classified sites and you may get a text from a ‘very serious’ buyer asking you to email them at their email address. The idea is to involve you in a conversation and offer to pay you the full amount with some obscure wire payment. The ultimate aim is just to obtain your login details and tricks you into making a payment to them or carry out some kind of identity fraud.

The simple way to avoid this scam is to ignore, block and delete these idiots.

Scams You MUST Avoid When Buying & Selling a Second Hand Car

Outstanding Finance

This is when the seller fails to disclose there is outstanding finance on the car. The main takeaway here is that the car still belongs to the finance company until the debt has been settled.

So if you purchase the vehicle without doing the appropriate check and acquire a car with outstanding finance, the finance is now your responsibility and any failure to pay it could lead to the car being repossessed.

You may have an argument of being mislead in the sale which would perhaps require some kind of legal wrangle, however for the sake of a few pounds upfront invest in a gold HPI check.

A Gold HPI check will inform you if there is outstanding finance on the car or not. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a car with finance if the finance is cleared in FULL at the time of the sale. Remember to get a copy of the ‘letter of no interest; the finance company issues when the debt on the car is cleared.

Cloned/False Service & Maintenance Information

Sellers will often claim certain maintenance work has been carried out when it hasn’t! We usually work by the ‘if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen’ motto, meaning if there is no record of the work we don’t believe it happened,

However, sometimes it is written down but it still didn’t happen!

Often (although not always) handwritten notes in service books which say things like ‘timing belt changed’ or ‘ clutch replaced’ are falsified to make it appear this work has been carried out to make it more attractive to a buyer.

We suggest especially on more expensive and critical maintenance repairs you actually call up the garage who has stamped the book and get them to confirm if this work has in fact been carried out or not. You will often find garages to be very helpful and do not want their business names next to falsified stamps or claims being made. If the garage state they have not carried out this work then we suggest you seriously consider if this deal is the right car for you.

Where possible insist on seeing an invoice for the work being carried out.

Clocked Cars

There are still plenty of cars on the market where mileages have been altered significantly to make them more appealing to buyers. Mileage on a car has a direct correlation on the value of a used car so to bring the mileage down on a car and sell it on for profit is a scam.

We have a whole article on how to determine if mileage on a car is genuine. Be sure to read the article and follow the advice to not get caught out with this


This list is not exhaustive and there are perhaps scams on here we have not mentioned, as and when technology evolves there are likely to be a variety of ways people will look to be dishonest. Stick to the basics when it comes to buying and selling cars, don’t be afraid to walk away from deals if they don’t seem right to you, we have a gut instinct for a reason, use it.

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