I’ve seen and heard of just about every auto related scam out there as the CEO of Auto Connection in Manassas, Virginia. Everybody loves to save money, and buying a used car instead of a new one can help you do that. However, there is risk to this reward: It’s possible to lose thousands on scams and fraudulent practices if you’re not careful.
While most sellers you’ll come across are legitimate folks just trying to sell their old car, it is still possible to come across one who is willing to scam or defraud you. Financially dangerous schemes appear to be on the rise now thanks to the Internet, where some don’t hesitate to list false information to lure in an unsuspecting buyer. Common methods deployed by corrupt, shady, money-hungry shysters can catch you by surprise.
I want to warn you of the most popular used car con-artist techniques out there and help you avoid them.
Over the Phone Highball Offer Scam
Maybe you have an old car you’d like to trade in towards your next used car. You give the dealer a call and are pleasantly surprised to hear a very attractive number if you bring in the vehicle.
Once you arrive, the shifty, calculating dealer inspects your car and refuses to honor the original value. The purpose was to have you arrive at the showroom where you’ve already wasted time going there; now they can wear you down to a price you’ll find acceptable enough if it means you’ll just be done with it already.
To avoid this, shop in-person with numerous dealers. Any offer that you hear from someone who hasn’t inspected the vehicle means nothing. Losers will say anything to make a sale. If you’re told how much your car is worth to them over the phone the figure you are given will always be a lie. Run in the opposite direction of such fraudsters.
Changing Lease Numbers
Leases aren’t easy to read, and car sellers know it. Some dealers will fix the numbers listed within the contract, which is literally a means of stealing your money over time. This includes increasing money factors and upping the capital cost.
The best way to prevent this is to have an idea of what terminology is used in leasing and how phrasing goes. If in doubt, have a qualified 3rd party review the contract so that you don’t fall prey to such bad business.
Adding to the Lease
Even if the dealer doesn’t change the numbers directly, it may include needless add-ons like extended warranties or pin stripping in the agreement. The former is not needed as the warranty you get will usually cover anything for the duration of a lease. Other fees are placed secretively in the capitalized cost area of your agreement. Less informed consumers will never notice the higher monthly cost.
Every scammer in the auto industry knows this little trick!
Again, the best way to avoid this would be to understand how leasing works and check the agreement thoroughly to ensure all the agreed-upon numbers add up. Homework will keep you from becoming yet another one of the unscrupulous dealer’s victims.
Contrary to popular belief, it is easier to manipulate a digital odometer than an analog one. Devious, underhanded sorts will use fairly cheap software to reprogram the odometer and recalibrate otherwise faulty meters to make it seem like the car is less used than it is. It is estimated that billions will be lost each year; it is possible that up to 10 percent of used cars have tampered odometers.
The best way to avoid this is to get the VIN and order a free check and history list. Compare what the odometer says to the numbers listed here.
Good Guy / Bad Guy
Much like the old cop routine, one salesman is a trustworthy, honest sort, but the other can be aggressive, rude, demeaning and overbearing. The idea is to wear you down until you eventually agree to a poor deal.
Naturally, the easiest way to avoid this type of swindle is to avoid negotiations at the dealership or build a relationship with a salesman before doing business with him.
Service centers make big bank on worn accessories and replacement parts. A double-crossing dealer mechanic will tell you that the brake pads are bad and need replacement when they still have plenty of life left. It’s known that most are willing to accept repairs to their vehicles without any further questions.
To avoid getting ripped off, hire your own independent mechanic to inspect the vehicle or get a second opinion before agreeing to a repair.