Should I buy a car online?
Buying and selling vehicles has never been easier, with the vast majority now being advertised online – either on dedicated websites, general selling/buying boards and auction sites.
Contacts are made remotely, meaning that the vehicle cannot be physically seen (nor proved to exist), nor have the buyer and seller met face-to-face, which places considerable onus on trust, which can often be (and is) abused.
Demands for direct bank transfer payments for vehicles that do not exist, advertisements for stolen, cloned or sub-standard vehicles, and fraudulent demands for up-front deposit or delivery payments are, sadly, all too commonplace. As is non-payment for a vehicle that has been collected or delivered on trust.
Buying a Car
If buying, make sure that you only pay for the vehicle when you pick it up, rather than transferring money abroad or sending money to a ‘payment protection’ service. Don’t pay a large deposit or make a bank transfer until you are satisfied that the vehicle exists and meets your requirements. Where possible, try to see the vehicle before you make any commitments.
Get a valuation or compare the price on selling sites, especially if the vehicle is being offered below market value, and do not make any payment until you have physically checked the vehicle over. You should obtain a car history and finance check which will give you information on registered keepers, mileage and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) details.
Selling a Car
If selling you need to be extremely careful about how you take payment. You should observe all the normal advice about online safety including using authentic websites and secure payment pages, and not revealing confidential information.
You should never hand over or be pressured into releasing the vehicle keys or documentation until your bank has confirmed the full value of the vehicle has cleared into your bank account, as a genuine buyer won’t mind waiting.
Finally, it has been known that a buyer will offer a cheque that is for a greater amount than the sale price, and ask the seller to refund the difference in cash. This is a tell-tale sign of money laundering and you should not accept this.