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Pitfalls of Online Car Auction

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 18 May 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Online Car Auctions Scams Safety Checks

Millions of cars are sold every year using online car auctions. Fraud experts have warned that many buyers are ignoring safety checks that would be second nature when buying a car from a dealer in person.

The Dangers of Online Car Auctions

Buying used cars online at auction sites such as Ebay has risen in popularity. Almost 30% of all used cars sold every year are purchased using online car auctions. These auction sites have proved an excellent business tool for trustworthy sellers but have are also a breeding ground for scammers. Losing a few pounds to scammers may not be a great hardship but safety checks are vital when it comes to hundreds or thousands of pounds. It does seems that for many buyers, sensible precautions are forgotten about when it comes to the ‘too good to be true’ online car sales.

Common Scams Used in Online Car Auctions

Well known online car auction sites are not the only places where car scams occur. Scammers are setting up their own websites in order to dupe people into parting from their money. It’s a little known fact that around 50 scam car sales websites are shut down every day. These sites offer luxury vehicles at very low prices in what has become known as the ‘phantom’ car scam. Photographs of other cars are posted on these sites and buyers are seduced with offers of discounts of thousands of pounds. These phantom car websites are an ongoing problem that are proving very profitable for the scammers.

Photographs Used to Dupe Online Car Buyers

Photographs of cars for sale are a very important part of online car auctions. But photographs can hide a multitude of sins when it comes to online selling. Buyers who have bought cars online after viewing photographs can be in for a shock. Many buyers have had cars delivered to them with scratches and dents to the bodywork that were not apparent on the photographs.

Other cars have had serious rust problems and evidence of previous repairs that were not photographed or mentioned in the description. It is in the buyer’s best interests to view the cars before handing over or sending any payments.

Purchasing Vehicle Status Reports for Online Car Sales

An excellent safety check when buying a car at online auction is to purchase a vehicle status report. Auction websites such as Ebay do offer vehicle status reports that will contain a great deal of vehicle information. A buyer will be able to tell if the car is an insurance write-off or if it has been reported as stolen. The report will also provide information on any outstanding loans on the vehicle or if there are any mileage inconsistencies. These reports are only a few pounds and will help to easy any worries over an online sale.

Payments When Buying a Car at an Online Auction

Buyers should be on their guard with ‘cash only’ sellers. There are a number of different payment methods that can be used with online auctions and many have built in safety measures including money back if the deal does go wrong. Sellers who will not accept Paypal or other safe online payment methods should be regarded suspiciously. Buyers should never supply credit card details even for a small down payment. Credit card payments can come with extra buyer protection but should only be used through secure online payment tools.

Other Safety Checks When Buying at an Online Auction

There are a number of easy to use safety checks that should ensure the scammers do not make an easy sale. These safety checks should include:

  • Ensure the car has a log book; V5 vehicle registration document
  • Compare the price of the vehicle with other similar used car sites to ensure that overpaying does not occur
  • Ask as many questions as needed including issues such as test driving the vehicle and collection or delivery
  • Research the price of the vehicle; does it actually look like a realistic price for the vehicle?
  • Always check how much the transport cost will be as some sellers will inflate this price
  • Find out how long delivery will be after the sale closes and if the vehicle is insured during delivery
  • Check the seller’s feedback, although the seller can have multiple identities to raise their positive feedback

Online car auctions can be a great way to pick up a bargain. Buyers should remember not to get carried away by the excitement of online auctions. Have a top budget price in mind and stick to it. Getting a great price and a good deal at an online car auction means responsible bidding and using sensible safety measures.

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