by Sam Dillinger (comments: 0)

Used Car Scams to Avoid

used car

One of the most popular used car buying seasons is upon us: tax return season! A huge reason for our existence is to try our best to help you get the most satisfying automotive bang for your buck, whether it’s with DIY repairs, estimate reviews, or just useful information from longtime automotive professionals. We’re here to try and help. In that vein, we’re publishing this article to give you a short list of things to watch out for when you’re buying a good used vehicle this tax season. Let’s get started!

For the first entry on the list, we’re going to talk about a potential warranty scam.

The Setup: “Come buy my car because it’s got ____ left on the factory warranty”

The Scam: There could legitimately be a balance left on the factory warranty, so this proclamation doesn’t necessarily indicate a scam immediately. However, many warranties don’t transfer to a second owner. In other cases, the warranty may be restricted by the factory due to previous negligence, accident damage, or suspected warranty fraud, to name a few.

The Fix: Fortunately this is a simple one to avoid. All you need is the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of the vehicle. Call the local dealership for whatever make the vehicle is that you’re considering, e.g. call the Ford or Chevy dealer respectively, and give them this VIN number. They can give you all the up-to-date warranty information that the manufacturer has on file for that specific vehicle. Make sure to ask if that warranty will transfer to a new owner!

Our next entry is dealing with a scam we’ll call “sawdust in the gearbox” to paraphrase what I mean. For those of you not familiar with that terminology, it means to make a very shady, VERY temporary fix to a system of the vehicle to make a quick sale, and leave the problem with the new owner.

The Setup: This one could range to almost anything that a dishonest person would say to try and sell a less-than-perfect vehicle for a higher price than it would otherwise fetch. For the sake of our discussion here today, we’ll go with “She runs great, she’s just a bit temperamental when she’s cold”.

The Scam: In fuel injected vehicles, this is a farce. The vehicle will run trouble free regardless of the conditions under which you’re testing it out. There will be minor differences in the way the vehicle idles if it’s extremely cold out, but that’s about it. Assuming the temperature is above 0 when you’re looking at the vehicle, it should start right up and idle with no issues at all. If you’re buying a 1972 Lincoln with a carburetor, that’s a different story. It’s also a different discussion for a different article. Onward!

The Fix: This one is also easy to avoid. If the person you’re buying the vehicle from gives you a “minor” warning like this, make sure they demonstrate the condition they’re talking about for you. Do NOT buy the vehicle before you’ve had the chance to fully check out whatever issue it is they’re telling you about. If someone is telling you something like this, it’s so they can tell you “well I told you the car did that when I sold it to you”. If you’re not comfortable with the defect once they’ve demonstrated it for you, continue your search. There’s plenty of other great candidates out there, and more go up for sale everyday!

The last entry for our article today is particularly devious (I’ve personally fixed multiple cars for people that this happened to). This deals with someone trying to sell a car while avoiding a test drive. Any reasonable used-car seller knows that a savvy car-buyer will want to test drive the car.

The Setup: When you go to visit a prospective new car, the absolute most important part of the pre-purchase routine is the test drive. That’s where the rubber meets the road, er, literally!

The Scam: So a dishonest seller will try to avoid the test drive by telling you there’s no insurance on the vehicle because they took it off the road, so if there’s any damage it’s your responsibility. They’ll also be quick to mention that you could get a citation for it as well. Another way is to remove the license plate entirely and tell you that it’s been transferred to another vehicle.

The Fix: There are a few ways to rectify this. For the insurance, call your own insurance company and tell them what you’re doing. A lot of insurance companies actually cover this and you’ll be able to test drive legally. If the owner of the vehicle has full-coverage insurance, tell them to call and make sure they’re covered for “borrowers”. Almost all full-coverage insurance covers this provision which would allow you to test drive legally. As for the license plate: unless you’ve got a dealer registration that allows for a single plate to be used for multiple vehicles, it’s ILLEGAL for you to drive a vehicle with a plate that’s not registered to that specific VIN number! If the seller “took the vehicle off the road” they don’t intend for anyone to drive it, so you should strongly consider taking your hard-earned money elsewhere. NEVER buy a vehicle without a proper test drive, first!

That’s all we’re going to cover for today, as always, if you’ve got any questions, comments, or just want to stop by and say hi- is the spot



Go back

Add a comment

Get News From Sam

Meet Sam Dillinger

My name is Sam Dillinger. I've been a professional, dealership technician for 18 and a half years. My first introduction to mechanical repair was when my own vehicle broke down in the fall of 1995. I was 18 and couldn't afford to pay to have it fixed. So I borrowed tools and asked a ton of questions and, eventually, was able to replace the clutch on my truck by myself. During the course of that project, I found that I really enjoyed having a wrench in my hand and figuring out the puzzle of disassembly and reassembly of a motor vehicle.

Meet Sam