Common Used Car Scams to Look Out For

Buying a used car can be a stressful process. Unfortunately, there are a number of scams that are used by private sellers to push the sale. Often, these are illegal and involve concealing the car’s history or condition and making it more appealing to the buyer. In many cases, the history will later reveal itself and be very costly for the new owner.

Here are a few of the more common schemes to look out for when in the market for a used automobile:

Escrow Scam

With this scam, the private dealer will attempt to sell a vehicle that does not exist. They will claim that the car is currently overseas (or simply elsewhere), and that it will be shipped once the funds are placed into a holding account. To avoid this scam, never transfer funds without physically seeing the car and be wary if the seller states that the car is elsewhere.


Clocking is another common scam that involves the seller winding back the odometer to make it appear as if the car has not travelled far. To avoid the scam, you should see if the general wear and tear of the automobile matches the mileage and also check the vehicle history report.

Number Plate Change

One way that vehicle fraud is committed is by changing the number plate to conceal the vehicle’s history. Sometimes, the plates will be changed legitimately (personalisation being the most common reason) and the seller will tell you this, but it is essential that you check to make sure that there is nothing outstanding on the previous plates. Number plate checks are available from companies like HPI, which will determine whether or not they have been changed. If they have, you should avoid the purchase if the seller does not tell you about the change.

Cut n Shut

Cut n shut involves creating a new automobile from parts of other models. This is illegal, difficult to spot and the vehicle will be unsafe to drive. In addition to carefully examining the panels, you should also check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) against the paperwork and engine.


Some sellers will restore a written-off vehicle and attempt to sell it on. Although not illegal, it is a huge risk as the car may still be dangerous to drive. Be suspicious of low prices, mentions of CAT C and always ask if the car was previously written-off or a CAT C.

These are the key scams to look out for when you are in the market for a used car.

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