3 Tips for Safely Buying a Car Online

Kip Tips

3 Tips for Safely Buying a Car Online

Yesterday, we gave you three tips to safely sell a car online. Today, we have three tips to help you avoid fraud when buying a car online.

Be suspicious of ridiculously low offers, particularly those connected to sob stories. Before buying a car, check KBB.com to find out what it's market value is. If someone claims he's selling a vehicle at a low price because he needs the money fast (he lost a job or is a soldier going overseas, for example), it's probably a scam, says Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life: 377 Smart Ways to Protect You & Your Family from Ripoffs, Bogus Deals & Other Consumer Headaches.

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Verify that the vehicle exists. Start by getting a phone number from the seller and calling him or her (don't rely solely on e-mail communication). Ask the seller to send you a copy of the vehicle registration and the VIN, which you can use to get a vehicle history report from CARFAX, Kirchheimer says. Don't rely on photos. See the vehicle personally or, if the seller is in another state, ask the seller to take it to a mechanic of your choosing, who can report back to you about the condition of the car, says Keely Funkouser, director of fraud prevention strategies at AutoTrader.com. You also can pay DataScan Field Services, the largest vehilce inspection company, to inspect the vehicle.

Mind your money and personal information. Do not give out your Social Security or credit-card number. When paying, don't send a personal check or wire money (a request to do so can be a scam). Funkhouser recommends paying by cash or making an arrangment with the seller to meet at a bank. If the seller is pushing you to use a particular escrow company to handle the transaction, be suspicious because it might be part of a scam. You can verify a company's legitimacy by checking with state regulators, Funkhouser says, or ask to use an escrow company or your choosing, such as Escrow.com. Most importantly, make sure the seller hands over the vehicle's title when you pay.