How to Escape Second-Hand Car Scams

Buying a car second-hand means that someone else takes the biggest depreciation hit. If, having read a Ford Fiesta review at, your heart is set up upon such a car that has been “pre-used,” you should take care to ensure that you aren’t being duped. Caveat emptor – buyer beware – is never more appropriate. was one of a great number of sources to speak of second-hand car scams that said that any offer seemingly too good to be true, probably is.

How to Buy

You should only view used cars during the day. You should never view a car at a pub, service station or other public place. Take a friend as security and a witness. If neither of you is an expert on cars, it’s worthwhile paying someone who is.

Looking at the Car

Peel back rubbers around windows and open the tank. Different-coloured paint means there has been a respray, post-prang. You should always test drive a vehicle, and walk away if this isn’t permitted. Any electrically-operated items should be checked – twice. Anything that functions not can be used to reduce the price.

Never Pay in Advance

Obviously, you should never pay in advance, no matter how convincing the seller. Crims can set up a fake website purporting to be that of a shipping company that will transfer funds after you’ve taken possession of the vehicle. This happened to Michelle Wethereall, a call centre worker. The seller only dealt with her by email. She grew suspicious when she found the car was last sold months before but the seller claimed to have owned it for years. She had been clicks away from forking out $6,000 for a car she’d never receive.

Is the Car Roadworthy and not Stolen?

A safety report details the roadworthiness of a vehicle. In New South Wales, this is known as a Safety Check Report, while in Victoria it’s a Vehicle Information package and in Queensland, a safety certificate. You should also ascertain that the seller is a car’s true owner by examining identification documents such as a driving licence. More than one should be used, if possible.

Is Money Owed?

A report by stated that 16 percent of the cars it checked had outstanding finance. This information can be found by a Personal Property Securities Register Check in your state. You will need the car’s identification details. Failure to identify that money is owed on a vehicle could leave you liable to debts or even repossession. Government agencies also allow you to check how many
owners a car has had. Private car sellers sometimes tell this teeny fib.

Odometer Tampering

Odometer tampering is commonplace. A Queensland mechanic was found to have understated the milage of written-off cars by more than four million kilometres. Tampering with digital odometers can be difficult to detect even by the most highly-skilled

mechanic. To escape this particular scam, you should ask the seller for the car’s service log book or previous service invoices, which will provide a record of odometer readings. If these details aren’t provided, walk.

Phil Jones of the used car website,, said that cars are typically driven for around 24,000 kilometres a year, so alarm bells should ring if a car is supposedly five years old but has only 32,000 miles on the clock.

And, Lastly – Don’t Pay a Fortune for a ‘Phone Call

You should be wary of sellers who ask you to call them, as the number may be premium rate.

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About the Author: Andrew

  • Cars are so cheap in the UK, I’ve found one the other day for £500. God knows how reliable it is….

  • Usually there is a good reason why a car is cheap. Some people try to sell old cars with engine problems or that needs expensive repairs.

    Best to check the registration history of a vehicle before purchasing. In Australia you can do this online through NRMA (National Roads and Motoring Authority). Might be able to do the same in the Uk.