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How to Buy a Salvage Car Without Getting Scammed

By Mike Richards Updated: 05/22/2019 Posted: 06/26/2017

If you’re in the market to buy a salvage car, you’re far from alone. Every year, countless people will do the same thing and for good reason. When you’re really trying to watch your budget, salvage cars are great. A lot of times, they only require minimum repairs, too.

Unfortunately, a very small percentage of those who purchase salvage cars will get scammed and end up wasting their money. Even though this is rare, you still want to be prepared so the same thing doesn’t happen to you.

Never Fall for Something That Sounds Too Good to be True

As we already covered, the main reason you’re looking to buy a salvage car is to score a great deal, so it makes sense that you’re on the hunt for a fantastic bargain.

The good news is that you may truly find one, too.

However, you need to be realistic. Don’t fall for a scam that’s simply too good to be true. Although the Internet has made it a lot easier to find and buy cars, it’s also made it exceptionally easy for bad people to “catfish” people with vehicles that don’t live up to their claims.

Hope for the best, but be smart enough to know when there’s no way an alleged deal is legitimate.

Check for Matching VINs

One really sneaky way that scam artists fool people is to switch out the VIN numbers on a vehicle or otherwise alter them. This way, if you look it up, it will appear as though the vehicle you’re about to purchase has had a much better history than it truly has.

This is why you should always check multiple spots on the vehicle. You can find the VIN number right at the base of its windshield but also the trunk lid and the edge of the door. There could be a legitimate reason for why they don’t match (e.g. the door was replaced and the numbers were never corrected), but it’s not worth the risk. Walk away.

Lemon Laundering

Although the whole point of this scam is to convince you that you aren’t about to buy a salvage car, it’s still very common where these types of vehicles are sold. The scam artist knows you’re looking for a deal and they seem to have a vehicle that doesn’t actually have a salvage designation from the government.

Unfortunately, it does. Through “lemon laundering” the scam artist registers the vehicle over and over across different states, increasing the chance that the annotation doesn’t stick. At that point, they just have to make the vehicle look nice and they can easily make thousands of dollars more.

The way to avoid this scam when you buy a salvage car is to use Carfax or other vehicle history sites to make sure you know all about an automobile before you buy it.

Of course, you can always buy a salvage car through our site. Our agents know exactly what to look for and how to avoid scams altogether. Just tell them what you want in a vehicle and how much you want to spend. They’ll do the rest.