Top 3 Most Common Scams to Watch Out for When Buying a Used Car

Buying cars used can be a great way to save money or get access to prestige brands or additional features that might otherwise be out of your price range, but there are always pitfalls to buying anything pre-owned. One of those pitfalls is unscrupulous merchants who will try to shift inferior products onto unsuspecting buyers. To help you guard against this possibility, here are three of the most common scams you are liable to encounter.

Asset Fraud

A common type of scam involves a seller trying to shift a vehicle with outstanding finance on it. If you buy a car with unpaid finance, it will be you who is thereafter legally liable for that money, and the dealer may have had no legal right to sell the vehicle in the first place. Another common twist in this is a swap scam, where the seller offers to exchange the vehicle for another valuable rather than cash, but conveniently fails to mention the finance. In all these cases you could lose the vehicle.

If a car is on a ‘stocking loan’ things may be above board but you should still get a written guarantee that it will be fully paid off before any money changes hands and you take possession of the vehicle.

Stolen Cars

Naturally, a stolen car is still legally the property of the original owner, and you will have no legal claim over it even after paying for it. A HPI check can reveal whether a car is stolen but some savvy crooks have ways to hide a vehicle’s history. ‘Cloning’ and ‘ringing’ involve giving the car the identity of a legitimate vehicle, so check that the chassis number on the vehicle matches the one on the registration documents, and that the address you view it at is correct as well.


Ferris Bueller, eat your heart out. Turning back the odometer to disguise a car’s mileage and make it look like it’s more valuable than it actually is has to be the oldest trick in the book, but that’s why people often fail to suspect it. Again, an HPI check will turn up its own figure and a big discrepancy means someone’s trying to get the better of you.