Buying a new or used car can be a stressful experience because a car is such a big investment. While the California lemon law and various other consumer protection laws will help shield you from financial loss if certain problems arise, often it is up to car buyers to simply do their due diligence and realize that there are a lot of unscrupulous car sellers out there.
Consumers should know how to recognize some of the most common auto scams so they can avoid losing money due to the tricks of a con artist. Mesa Independent recently reported on key auto scams to avoid, with the information on the scams coming from the state's Attorney General.
Key Auto Scams to Try to Avoid
The key auto scams that you should be sure to avoid include:
- Requests for money too early: If you're asked to wire money to hold a car or are otherwise asked to make a deposit, this is a big red flag that the purported car seller is really just trying to get your cash rather than to provide you with a reliable vehicle.
- Disappearing trade-ins: Sometimes, dishonest car dealers won't offer you a fair value for your vehicle that you're trading in or will “lose” the value of your trade-in when preparing all of the paperwork for a car purchase.
- Bad credit ads: Dealers who advertise that they offer deals for people with bad credit often provide financing at really high rates. Try to get approved for a loan outside of the dealer and compare the loan terms so you don't get stuck paying much more than you should have to in interest and other debt costs.
- Title washing: Title washing involves a dealer taking steps to hide the truth about accident damage, flood damage, odometer fraud or other problems that occurred with a car in the past. Find out what a car's VIN number is before you buy and get vehicle history reports from trusted and reliable sources such as CarFax.
- Inaccurate odometers: Lower mileage cars sell for more money, so dishonest dealers sometimes try to tamper with the odometer to try to get a better price for a vehicle. You don't want to buy a car from a dealer who is lying to you about the car's mileage. Compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage on vehicle history reports from Carfax or related sites and walk away if there is a discrepancy.
- Stolen vehicles: Stolen cars are often sold to unsuspecting buyers who don't check the VIN number to ensure that a car hasn't been reported stolen.
- Submitting false information on financial applications: Make sure you don't sign any paperwork to finance a car that contains inaccurate financial information.
If you suspect a problem after you have purchased a vehicle, it may not be too late to try to protect your investment. Learn how the California lemon law and related consumer protection laws can help you if you've purchased a vehicle with a defect.