Curbstoning is becoming popular in this economic downturn as private sellers attempt to unload cars for cash. We’ve all seen the cars on the side of the road--usually in high traffic areas--with “for sale” signs taped to the windows or white paint scrawled on the windshield.
However, problems arise when scam artists pose as private sellers and try to unload damaged or inferior vehicles to an unsuspecting public. They buy used cars with serious problems or defects from wholesale auctions and junk yards, and then try to resell them as quality vehicles. After putting a “for sale” sign in the window, they park it on a busy street and wait for the phone to ring.
If a car buyer doesn’t take the appropriate steps to protect themselves, they can fall victim to scam artists, less-than-honest dealers, and private sellers with no scruples. What should buyers do to make sure they don’t buy a car with a salvage title, serious mechanical issues, or an odometer that was rolled back to increase the selling price?
There are two crucial steps to protecting yourself when purchasing a pre-owned vehicle from anyone:
- Buy a vehicle history report. AutoCheck.com and CARFAX.com are the two primary suppliers of vehicle history reports. You’ll need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the car in question. The report will tell you if the car was in an accident, has a salvage title, was a lemon buyback, has an odometer issue, or was in a natural disaster like a hurricane. Many dealers and some private sellers provide these at no charge. Be sure to ask.
- Have your mechanic perform a pre-purchase vehicle inspection. The cost can run from $80 to $150 and will tell you what mechanical issues lurk beneath the surface. This may not apply if a dealer provides their mechanic’s inspection report, or you buy a manufacturer’s certified vehicle that comes with its own warranty. Otherwise, you should know the vehicle’s mechanical condition before you turn over your hard earned cash.
There are a few other steps you can take, but the two mentioned above need to be done every time you buy a used car or you run the risk of losing hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on a vehicle with hidden problems. You can also download my free PDF, “The 8 Biggest Mistakes Used Car Buyers Make and How to Avoid Them” at www.BayAreaCarGuy.com to read the remaining tips on buying a used car.