7 Things To Know Before You Buy A Vehicle Online

It seems logical that buying a used car online should work for you, until you run into a scammer. That’s why we want to share 7 things to know before you buy a vehicle online.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an alert to buyers about the dangers of purchasing vehicles online because investigators spent the summer looking into consumer complaints.

As a result, they arrested six people in August in connection with vehicle sales scams.

The investigators found a common pattern. They say scammers claim:

  • They want to sell because they need quick cash after a divorce, loss of a job or other big life change.
  • They advertise extremely low prices and will take “cash only.”
  • They provide phony titles, or titles that belong to another vehicle.
  • They alter or conceal the vehicles’ brands on the titles.
  • They roll back the odometer.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Find out if the car was damaged by a flood, hurricane or other natural disaster. Check under the carpets, dashboard and undercarriage to see if you spot mold, rust or other tell-tale signs.
  2. Find out if a serious crash damaged the vehicle. Look for body damage repairs and variance in paint colors. Check out the engine compartment and the trunk for signs of damage.
  3. Start the vehicle to make sure the airbag and other warning lights come on and then switch it off to ensure the systems are operating correctly.
  4. Make sure a mechanic, not connected to the seller, checks out the vehicle.
  5. Don’t pay with cash.
  6. Get proof of ownership like a state title and make sure the name of the person selling is on the title.
  7. Make sure the seller removed the registration sticker.

Also, be aware that while it seems like you may get a better deal online, you don’t have the protections you might have if you buy through a dealer. Most states including New York have Used Car Lemon Laws that require dealers to give consumers warranties that cover repairs if you find defects within the first 30 to 90 days depending upon the vehicle’s mileage.  

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan said, “Buyers should take some extra time to make sure the car they are buying is a car that can be sold legitimately. Buyers should consider the red flags. If cars are priced very low, if sellers can’t meet you in person or want cash only, and if postings are missing personal information for sellers, take extra caution.’


Published by

Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created ConsumerMojo.com to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.