5 Common Used Car Scams to Avoid

You've done all your research. You know what kind of car you want. Now it's time to buy. But, before you do, remember the old adage, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Used car scams are everywhere, and to avoid them, you need to know what to look for.

Here are five red flags to watch out for when buying a used car:
  1. A price that's too good to be true. If you've done your research, you know the going price of the car you want. Often times, used car scammers offer it at a price well below what it's worth, and usually create a sob story to go along with it (death in the family, divorce, etc.) If you see the car you want advertised for a too-good-to-be true price, it's probably not legit.
  2. The car and the seller are in different places. While this can be a real scenario, proceed with caution. A lot of times, scammers will make up a story about having to relocate for work or pretend they're a member of the military stationed elsewhere, when really it's just a used car scam. If the car isn't where you are, you can't thoroughly inspect it or meet the seller in person before you hand over the money—and you may get the short end of the stick.
  3. 3rd-party protection plans. One way used car scammers lure in their bait is by offering you a protection plan through a third-party company—a company you've probably heard of. However, you'll soon discover that many of those companies don't even offer buyer-protection plans and those that do… only do it for cars sold through their own website. If someone offers you a protection plan through a company you didn't buy from, it may be a used car scam.
  4. Something suddenly changes. If the seller suddenly does a 180 in the middle of your negotiations, watch out! Changing the terms of the sale without warning or asking to move the transaction from one website to another is a major red flag.
  5. They want your money now. Money should never change hands until you have the car in your possession. If the seller wants your money in advance, wants you to use a wire-transfer service, or wants you to load up a prepaid card, it's likely a used car scam.