These days, the marvels of the Internet make it possible to buy a vehicle online from a website. You, of course, could be anywhere – most certainly not standing in the same place, considering your possible dream car in person. While this opens a wide variety of opportunities for selection, buying sight unseen can pose a number of hazards in terms of a good deal. To paraphrase the great Kenny Rogers, you got to know what to look out for.
Online Photos Can Be Misleading
Most auto websites provide at least one picture of the vehicle. A lot of times there will be multiple photos of the outside of the car. But depending on the angle, external damage could be hidden. Many times, the photos are poorly composed and make it difficult to determine the real condition. Look for vehicles that have a complete set of pictures, including the inside of the car. Focus on pictures that show high-wear areas, such as the driver’s seat, the front end (which could be dinged or pitted) and the underside (which could be scraped or damaged). Sellers rarely include photos of the tire tread. With new tires a costly item, this should be a big consideration in factoring the price of the car.
Sellers Can Be Dishonest
It should come as no surprise that unscrupulous people are out there. Sellers who provide few photos might be trying to hide damage to the vehicle. If a listing mentions damage or imperfections it might be an indication of a seller who is willing to provide full disclosure. If you are in contact with a seller, it’s okay to ask for additional photos of the exterior, interior and tires. A seller who is unwilling to provide additional photos is likely not giving full disclosure.
Beware of Outright Scams
The biggest hazard of buying a car without seeing it in person is the possibility of being scammed. Beyond the dishonest seller who is hiding details about the vehicle, scam artists attempt to get money without providing the car at all. Top scams include:
Title Washing – When a car is damaged by a natural disaster, such as a flood or tornado, it is given a status of “Salvaged.” While rules restrict washing the car’s title of this status, guidelines vary from state to state. Salvaged vehicles frequently suffer from mechanical and other issues. By washing the title, sellers are able to get more money from a faulty car.
Fake Escrow Account – With the rise of online car sales, the escrow account has been popularized. Scammers will create fake escrow accounts, sometimes going so far as using the logo and user interface of legitimate escrow companies. If you are asked to wire money to an escrow account that is not of your choosing, be suspicious.
Shipment Scam – The seller claims to be out of the country and asks the buyer to wire the funds to pay for shipping the vehicle. Usually the seller claims that they will ship the vehicle as soon as they receive the shipping funds. You probably see where this goes.
Negative Equity – A dealership offers to buy out what you owe on your new vehicle. In reality, the amount you owe is rolled into the price of the new car. Now you are paying for two cars.
Get a Vehicle History Report
Whether you’re interest is in new model autos or classic collectibles, most online car buying sites will provide a vehicle identification number (VIN) for a vehicle, which is a 17-digit number that is unique to that vehicle. Using the unique VIN of any auto, you can research online and locate a vehicle history report for that auto. You can buy the report for a fee. It is worth the money to get information on a vehicle, such as salvage titles, prior accidents, multiple owners and odometer rollbacks.
Collector and Classic Car Insurance for Less
Whether or not you buy your collectible sight unseen, a policy from Classic Auto Insurance protects your valuable investment for years to come. Let us customize a policy to fit your needs. We offer affordable, Agreed Value coverage for a variety of collector, classic and custom vehicles. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff can answer your questions and give you a quote on the spot. Call 888-901-1338 or get an instant quote online and see how we can help safeguard your dream car.