UPDATE (Nov 2021): Buyer Beware - Scams and Other Shady Practices

It’s currently a seller’s market for new and used cars (like houses!) unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Buyers can expect to pay up to 30% more for an equivalent used or collector vehicle than the same period two years ago (Pre-COVID). Indeed, some used cars cost as much or more than the now mythical MSRP for a new car! I’ve been told of personal experiences where the dealer would get the car you wanted (a late model SUV in this case) as long as $5,000 upcharge deposit was provided. Do you really need that car?

With buyers so desperate to find the vehicle of their dreams it opens the door for even more scammers and hooligans looking to take money from an unsuspecting buyer. In developing appraisals for clients, I have to survey the market for like vehicles and that requires searching as many sales channels as needed to obtain relevant comparables. That includes all the advertising sites and auction companies that retain sales records.

The “seller” doesn’t own the car, and probably never even saw it. They collect photos of cars for sale or sold elsewhere, cobble together an ad and post it on multiple websites, usually for an incredibly low price. You are told you have to send a deposit if you’re serious – send a check to a PO box – then nothing…

The “dealer” is not really a car dealer, but lists cars for sale that owners have posted in other locations. They dealer may even say “the car is not at our location, but is at the owners home.” If you contact them, they will give you the owners info – for a price. They may or may not forward your info to the owner, but they walk away with your money.

The “dealer” may be for real and they list a car for sale that’s in big demand. Trouble is they don’t have the car…it was sold two months ago. But, you’re in luck! They have something similar (not) that you might be interested in…

The “seller” has a car you really want. Just one small problem. He can’t find the title. Hey but that’s no problem, just take the bill of sale to the state DMV and they’ll issue you a new title, simple! Not so fast. Some DMV’s have lesser requirements than others, and there are a few that are non-title states but a car without a title can be a major headache. You may never get a title, or may find that it was stolen, legally belongs to someone else, has a junk or salvage title, or maybe even a fake VIN!

Please be cautious when looking to buy. A good rule of thumb is if the deal seems too good to be true…then it probably isn’t. Look for red flags and consider hiring a local appraiser to check into your prospective purchase and provide some professional advice. It’s usually money well spent.