Shopping for a used car is a tricky process. From untrustworthy sellers to dealerships trying to squeeze extra money out of you, there are so many details you have to pay close attention to. And you need to know exactly what you’re getting into before handing over your hard-earned cash.
The following are three crucial traps sellers use to get you to overpay when buying a used car. Here’s what you need to know in order to avoid them.
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The Price Is Suspiciously Cheap
You likely already know that if a used car’s price seems too good to be true, there’s probably something wrong. But did you know that low prices are a common scam that untrustworthy dealerships use to tack on thousands of dollars to a used car sale?
Because the used car market is competitive, many sellers and dealerships will try to undercut the competition by offering their vehicles for less than market value. However, if you see a car that’s being offered at an unrealistically cheap price, you should be wary. That low price could mean a dealer is planning to charge you a whole bunch of fees that will put the total well over the agreed-upon sticker price.
How can you tell if a price is too good to be true? Do your research. For example, if you’re shopping for a used sedan, determine what the going rate is online. You’ll likely notice a lot of models priced within the same rage, like $19,000 to $22,000. If, in the midst of these listings, you spot the exact sedan you’re looking for at $14,000, that’s a red flag. That low price could be nothing more than a hook to get you interested, in the door, and signing on the dotted line for a much higher total.
And some dealerships will add on over $2,000 in fees. In one region, Jalopnik found that a Volkswagen priced $7,400 below market value wasn’t the great steal it seemed – it was actually a dealer’s ploy to charge bogus fees, including a $1,365 “reconditioning fee” and a $900 “dealer fee.”
That’s why searching online and comparison shopping before heading to a dealership is so crucial. If you do your homework beforehand and carefully compare cars within your price range, you’ll know exactly what the going rate is for the used car of your dreams. And you’ll immediately be able to spot unrealistic offers.
The Dealer Won’t Give You a Vehicle History Report
A vehicle history report is an important factor for any used car shopper. Without the vehicle history report, you have no idea what the vehicle has been through – and you simply have to take the seller at his word.
Legitimate and honest used car sellers will happily provide any interested buyer with a copy of the vehicle history report. Many will even let shoppers see it when browsing their ads online, making it easy to verify the car’s history in just seconds.
However, some dealers and sellers will try to hide the vehicle history report or keep potential buyers from seeing it. And some will even charge interested buyers to view the report. Some dealers will insist that customers come into the dealership to pay to see these reports; others will simply refuse to show it to you. In either case, this isn’t a seller you want to be dealing with.
So, before you choose your next new car, always ask to see the vehicle history report. If you don’t see it online, reach out to the dealership or seller. You can then use that report to determine whether or not a car’s price is fair for its condition and if it has any concerning problems in its past.
And don’t fall for any claims of how impossible it is to get a vehicle history report. These reports are easily accessible online – so if a seller or dealer tells you it can’t be accessed, don’t believe them. There’s something they’re trying to hide, and it could be something that seriously affects the vehicle’s performance or price.
The Seller Won’t Let Your Repair Shop Inspect the Car
Every smart used car buyer knows that there’s one final step you should take before deciding to purchase a particular vehicle: have your own repair shop take a look at the car.
Why go through this step? It’s important to have a pre-owned car inspected because, even with the vehicle history report, a seller may not be aware of all the work their car needs. Sometimes, the seller isn’t aware of any problems. Other times, the seller is perfectly aware there’s a problem – and they’re trying to sell you the car without you realizing it.
Buying a used car that has any problems or maintenance needs will cost you money. Once you buy the car, you’ll have to pay to have these issues and repairs fixed. And if the seller was scamming you, it could cost you thousands.
Make sure you ask the seller or dealer of the used car you’re interested in if you can have your mechanic take a look at the vehicle. They should be willing to accommodate you; if they don’t allow your mechanic to check out the car, you should be alarmed. A good dealer will gladly welcome an inspection, and they may even offer an inspection that’s verified by a specific expert or mechanic. But if the seller or dealer refuses altogether, you need to be suspicious. Buying a car from someone like this could mean you’ve overpaid for a junk vehicle.
Make Sure You’re Buying from a Reputable Dealer or Seller
In order to get the best price and avoid overpaying on your next used car, keep these tips in mind. If you encounter any one of these big red flags, you’ll know immediately that you’re dealing with a seller who’s trying to get more money out of you – money you don’t need to spend.
Of course, the most important step in the process of buying a new used car is to do your research. The only way to ensure you’re paying a fair price is to be as informed as possible.
Search online to determine what the “going rate” is for the car you want. Search for local sellers’ and dealers’ offers, examining vehicle history reports and visiting the car in person to check it out for yourself. And don’t forget to search for information about the seller or dealer. You might discover other buyers have some helpful tips for you and your search.