Buying & Selling Vehicles Online-Staying safe and protecting yourself from scammers!
The days of browsing the local newspaper classifieds, searching for your next caravan, camper or motorhome are on their way out. Online market places are dramatically increasing in popularity for both buyers and sellers, particularly for larger ticket items like vehicles, boat and RV’s.
For buyers, the convenience of placing an ad online in only minutes is very appealing. The ability to give a very comprehensive written description of the vehicle and easily being able to add the all-important photos to the ad proves very effective. Sites including Gumtree, EBay and carsales.com are brilliant avenues for both buyers and sellers to work the vehicle market to their advantage and with technology going the way it is, people are now using their mobile phones to shop for their next investment anywhere, anytime simply for convenience.
Online ads are relatively cheap to place; they usually offer greater detail in the information. Buyers can easily search and compare similar items within a convenient radius of their desired location. It makes great sense to go online and browse the ads next time you are in the market for a new vehicle or RV. BUT- there is a downside that can be very frightening if proper caution is not taken. Believe it or not, there are low-life’s out there who prey on people and are quick to take advantage of innocent and naïve individuals who are a little too trusting or are just after a quick and easy sale.
Here are our tips for making sure your online transactions go smoothly:
- Limit personal information within ads. Don’t discuss bank details online. Avoid your residential address being visible- you can disclose this later on to serious buyers.
- Use the telephone to discuss the transaction details. (Scammers usually will use email for anonymity)
- Be VERY clear on the conditions of the sale. I.e.: agree on the condition of the vehicle, payment terms, Price, pick up date, what’s included etc. before committing to any deal or handing over payment or deposits
- Cash or bank cheque is the safest way of making payment. Use caution if using other methods
- Be wary of offers for easy finance with unknown financial lenders- this may be a way of them getting your personal details and using them to apply for credit using your name.
- As a seller, never accept a personal cheque on merit alone. Attend a bank together and get some guarantee of clearance so you won’t be left out of pocket.
- Be honest as a seller- if there is something that the new buyer needs to know, it’s best to disclose it to them upfront.
- As a buyer, make sure the vehicle you are considering has been checked by a trusted mechanic and you have researched the title and status of the vehicle. You don’t want to go buying a stolen vehicle or one that still has money owing on it! Check the websites below.
- If the price seems too low- be suspicious. It doesn’t always mean there is something fishy but it pays to be cautious. Ask more question about the vehicle history, go over paperwork thoroughly.
- Never be tempted to accept online payments or disclose personal details on the promise of a quick sale at full price- this should ring alarm bells and you need to be vigilant. Get more details from the buyer and push for the buyer to inspect the vehicle in person first.
- Never accept payment for more than the selling price. A common scam involves a buyer sending the seller more than the amount of the listing price and asking for the balance to be returned to them. If the check is cashed and later determined to be fake, your bank may hold you responsible.
- If you are a seller, never agree to pay a fee to the buyer upfront on the promise of a refund when full payment is cleared. Sometimes scammers will do this (mainly overseas scammers) will try to convince you to do this and state it’s for some kind of tax or delivery charge, security deposit or some other seemingly legit reason. For some reason people fall for this and many people have lost thousands!! Be careful.
- As a buyer, make sure the car is available for you to take delivery of at the same time the payment is made. Scammers have been known to “take you money and run”.
- Both buyers and sellers- always take a trusted friend or relative to inspection meetings and meeting where a financial transaction is taking place.
- Ensure you receive ALL paperwork, all keys, accessories etc. (as negotiated) when the financial transaction takes place.
- Don’t be too quick to dismiss an email if the writing, spelling or grammar is awful. Although it may be a foreign scammer trying to get info from you, it could also be a legit buyer. Just take precaution- you don’t want to miss out on a sale either.
- Don’t be scared to ask questions about the vehicles history or ask to see repair dockets or service log. Buyers should be upfront about any known issues.
- Avoid using bank wire services like Escrow for payment. They are commonly used by scammers as most transactions are very difficult to trace
Because the online marketplace is huge, you have instant access to vehicles all over the place. This opens up more choices for a suitable vehicle (depending on your willingness to travel). You can get a great snapshot of what is good value and what may be considered overpriced based on average asking prices of similar vehicles. Keep in mind each vehicle is different and price can depend on lots of factors. Don’t be shy about asking for “best price”, sellers should leave themselves a little room to move. We all like the thrill of bargaining! But as a buyer, be careful not to offend with silly offers- sometimes a vehicle is for sale due to unfortunate circumstances or the need for urgent funds. Keep your price offers realistic. Remember to be vigilant but not suspicious of good deals and good communication between all parties will be the best method of a happy ending and a pleasant transaction!
The following websites are very useful when buying or selling vehicles online:
www.scamwatch.gov.au- Find out more about scams
www.revs.com.au- Get the vehicle checked for encumbrances
www.ppsrcheck.com.au- Make sure there is no finance owing on the vehicle