How to Avoid the Main Used Car Scams

There are few markets as difficult to navigate as the used car market. In addition to the sheer size of this market, it is also filled with scams and con artists looking to take advantage of motorists. There are many different scams that are currently being used, so here is a close look at the main ones to look out for and how you can steer clear of them.

Escrow Fraud

Many motorists look to buy from overseas to save money or get a rare vehicle, but you must be careful with this path as there is one very common scam. This is for the seller to state that they will ship the car to the UK once a payment has been made to a third party, but this will be a fake escrow and they will pocket your money and disappear. This can be avoided by insisting that you select the third-party, or alternatively always viewing a vehicle in person.

Title Washing

If a vehicle has a hidden past (stolen, outstanding finance, insurance payout etc.), the seller may attempt to conceal this by giving the automobile a new identity. This can be tricky to spot by eye, which is why it is always essential that you carry out a vehicle history check with a reputable company like HPI Check. This will indicate whether or not you are looking at the same car and flag up any police records, outstanding finance, write-offs, number plate changes and plenty more.


One of the biggest scams that crooks attempt is clocking, which is the practice of winding back the odometer to make the car appear lesser travelled – this makes them more appealing and the seller will attempt to negotiate a higher price. Carefully examine the area around the odometer for signs of tampering and carry out a history check. This check will provide the MOT history, where it will list the mileage at the time of its previous check.

Write Off/CAT C

A seller is not obliged to tell you if a vehicle has been salvaged after being written off, but most motorists would stay away from these cars as they were deemed unsalvageable by the insurance company. Always ask if the car is CAT C, and be wary of very low prices and subtle mentions of CAT C.

These are the main scams to look out for and how to avoid them. Most can be avoided with common sense, history checks and thorough research, so always take your time and never transfer any money until after these checks have been carried out.