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Car Shopping? Don’t Get Scammed!

Despite the excitement that often accompanies a car purchase, many people dread the prospect of shopping for a car. You may worry about buying a car with hidden problems. You may not feel comfortable negotiating the price. You may wonder if a car dealer is taking advantage of you.

Learning to recognize the most common scams can help you protect yourself. When you begin shopping for a car, be sure to steer clear of these hazards:

Title washing.  After a car has been totaled, many states require the vehicle to be branded as “salvage” or “rebuilt” on its title.  This significantly decreases the value of the vehicle. Title washing scams remove the “salvage” status from the title of a car through title registration in a state that does not require branding of vehicles after a total loss claim. To avoid purchasing a “salvage” or “rebuilt” vehicle without being aware of its status, use a reputable vehicle history source such as CARFAX or AutoCheck.

Bait and switch. Be wary of a dealership advertising unusually low interest rates.  Oftentimes, buyers are lured into a dealership by attractive rates and then informed that those rates are no longer available; next, the dealer may attempt to sell the vehicle at a higher interest rate. Avoid this trap by leaving the dealership if it fails to honor an advertised offer.

Deal is good for one day only. Dealers hate to see potential buyers leave the lot, especially once price negotiations begin. To discourage customers from shopping around, dealers may claim the price is only good for one day. Oftentimes, this is not true.  Offers may only be good for one day when a dealer’s rebate is expiring – usually on the last day of a given month – otherwise, be skeptical. This is most likely just a strategy to pressure you into closing the sale.

The car and seller are in different places. While this does not necessarily signify a scam, err on the side of caution.  Scammers may make up a story about having to relocate for work or pretend that they are in the military and stationed elsewhere.  A car that cannot be seen cannot be inspected for problems.  Never commit to buy a car unless you or someone you trust sees it first.

Other Red Flags

  • Any price that is too good to be true
  • Third-party protection plans
  • Any sudden changes in a deal
  • The dealer wants your money NOW
  • Mistakes in the contractor paperwork

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