Buying Used Cars
What is Salvage title? Buyer Tips

5 Tips on How to Avoid Scams when Buying a Used Car in Nigeria

By Femi Amisu Updated: 05/23/2019 Posted: 10/04/2018

When handing out money in exchange for a product or service, you can be easily scammed and buying used cars is no exception. Learning how to avoid scams when buying a used car is critical.

There are lots of reasons why people prefer to buy used cars. Most times, it is due to budget constraints and affordability which in itself is not a bad thing. Chances of falling into the hands of crooked dealers and salesmen are highest when enthusiasm and excitement cloud your judgment.

Scammers and crooked dealers continue to improve and find new ways to fleece unsuspecting people exchanging fault-ridden vehicles for money. In some cases, not even providing a car at all. Buyers must be vigilant and wary of these tactics by researching and being on the lookout for gimmicks and tricks.

How to Avoid Scams

Further Reading

  1. Everything You Need to Know about Buying Used Cars
  2. How You Can Buy a Salvage Car in an Online Dealer Auction and Save Big Bucks
  3. Buying a used car in Nigeria directly from USA auctions
  4. Importing Used and Salvage Vehicles From The United States To Nigeria

When buying from auction houses, you also need to be careful and do your research before starting the purchase process. Many unlicensed dealers and auction houses operate and claim to be licensed. It might be difficult to trace or hold them legally accountable if you are scammed by any of them.

There’s only so much you can know about buying used cars and observe not being a mechanic. Avoiding a scam when buying a used car is not a cut and dried process. These tips will help you spot a scam a mile away and protect yourself when purchasing your dream car.

1. If it is too good to be true, It probably is

How to Avoid Scams

To woo unsuspecting buyers, scam dealers may offer their cars for sale at unbelievable and unrealistic prices hoping to snap up greedy buyers. A good rule of thumb is to always double check the selling price of the car and compare with what other competing dealers are offering for the same make and model. You also want to check Auto Auction Mall inventory for similar vehicles to understand the margins the dealer is making.

An abnormally low price might also be a sign that the dealer is trying to get rid of the car quickly, sometimes due to a fault that might not be readily noticeable. Abnormal prices in most cases will always point to a hidden defect in the car or even a stolen vehicle.

You also want to be wary of yo-yo scams in car financing agreements. In this situation, you receive the “perfect” financing offer without reading the fine print, sign and take your car home only to be called after a few days that your financing arrangement did not go as planned and you would need to come in for a new offer. The new offer is higher however by this time you love your car so much you’re willing to agree to higher terms. It’s not worth it.

**An unbelievable price does not always mean it’s a good deal.

2. Do a check on the dealer or auction house

Buying a Used Car

A cursory examination on the dealer or online auction house you are buying from can reveal a lot. If you can’t access regulator’s archives to check the license status of the dealer or auction house, the internet is at your fingertips.

The internet offers a treasure trove of information including reviews both positive and negative. Take time out to google search reviews and comments about the dealer or auction house. Check their social media profiles and watch out for the little signs. Read what people are saying or have said about them if any. Entirely negative reviews are just as terrible as all positive reviews. No dealer or auction house is perfect.

You’ll also want to avoid curbstoning. These are unlicensed dealers posing as private sellers. They’ll give you stories like they are selling the car for mom or some imaginary father or brother and in the real sense of it, they are trying to either scam you outrightly or sell you a faulty car.

**Always double check your dealer or auction house before buying your car.

3. Do a car check using VIN or ask the dealer for the Vehicle history report

Regardless of where you are buying your car form, it is only proper that you know everything about a used car before buying it. If for no other reason, at the very least for safety and to verify that you are not buying a stolen car.

A vehicle report is a treasure trove of information that will help you understand the vehicle’s history, the extent of repair work done on it and the actual condition. This is also a good time to double check the make, model, year, license plate and vehicle identification number (VIN). Before buying the car, request for the VIN and run a search.

VIN cloning is when a thief replaces the VIN of a stolen vehicle with the VIN of another car. It is a rapidly rising problem that can be solved with a careful VIN search.

Title and vehicle history reports can identify many red flags for you such as last reported mileage, number of previous owners and if the car’s real title is “junk” or “salvage.” You’ll also be able to know of any significant issues like accidents and floods.

You can get the vehicle report with the car’s VIN in sites like CarProof, Carfax and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.

**A vehicle report can prevent you from buying a nightmare. Do it.

4. Triple check the car’s condition

used car inspection

A simple vehicle inspection can reveal a lot about the “true” state of a vehicle. The inspection can reveal Odometer Fraud: This is when the mileage of a car has been tampered with to read a lesser mileage and deceive unsuspecting buyers. A closer look at the dashboard should reveal scratches or evidence of tampering. If you’re not sure, the vehicle history should reveal any tampering. A vehicle with 3 previous owners and built in 2010 cannot have a mileage of under 14,000.

Flooded cars being passed off as used cars with no issues: Flooded vehicles will almost certainly come with its fair share of electrical problems and other mechanical headaches. Dishonest dealers will try to mask this so they can make a profit. A cursory inspection might reveal funny odors within the car. A strong pleasant scent within the vehicle is also a sign of someone trying to mask the smell of wet interiors.

Hidden mechanical problems not captured in pictures: A look at the engine and underside of a car can reveal a lot about its real state. Sometimes, a rusted away underneath is a good indicator of the general condition of the vehicle. Occasionally minor dents and scratches are masked with a cleverly done paint job.

Underside Car Inspection

Not all users know what to look for when physically inspecting a car. It is not a bad idea to reach out to trained or professional help for this. Hiring a licensed mechanic or auto inspection service might seem like extra money but the satisfaction of buying a car as advertised makes it worth it.

**Try to physically inspect the car before the final purchase especially when dealing with private dealers or unlicensed auctions.

5. Beware of title washing and warranty scams

In most cases, a car is given “salvage” status if it has been involved in multiple accidents or has been flooded and is suitable for parts. Title washing is when the title of the car is altered so it does not reflect this, leading buyers to buy potentially problematic vehicles.

Salvage cars in auctions are cars that insurance houses have weighed the cost of repairs against the value of the car and didn’t see it as a cost they are willing to absorb. So they auction it off undervalued at its current condition. Do note that there are salvage cars that can be fixed and restored to good working condition and not all are for scrap or parts.

**A proper vehicle history check and inspection will help you avoid this type of scam.

Some dealers will claim their used car inventory is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. While this may be true in some cases, usually accidents, floods and significant faults will have voided this claim. Don’t just trust or assume the dealer is being honest. Checking with the manufacturer may provide you with helpful information to avoid being scammed when buying a car in Nigeria.