Top 3 Used Car Scams You Don’t Want to Run Into


When buying a used car, no one wants to get stuck with a lemon or a dud.

It’s hard enough to search for a car that suits you and your family’s needs without worrying about used car scams.

Yet used car buying scams continue to lure in consumers across America. Forewarned is forearmed: we’ve put together a list of the top three used car buying scams to look out for in your search.

Used Car Buying Scam #1: Odometer Fraud

Do you remember the movie “Matilda” and the scam Matilda’s father used to run?

An odometer fraud means the vehicle has been tampered with to look as if it has lower mileage than it really does.

If you think a digital odometer is harder to manipulate than a physical one, you’d unfortunately be wrong.

To overcome this scam, try to ask for vehicle maintenance records and match them up to the current odometer readings.

Used Car Buying Scam #2: Title Washing

Vehicles that have been destroyed in a disaster or accident but have been rebuilt are given a “salvage title.” Salvage titles are a way to inform the buyer that they are taking a unique risk by purchasing this vehicle, which may be unpredictable due to its history.

Cars damaged in floods and fires are especially risky because their components may be filled with all kinds of random debris, which will cause them to wear out quickly and without warning.

Due to these risks, a dishonest used car salesman will try to hide the car’s history by registering it in a different state, where the DMV clerks may process it as a regular title. This is what the “wash” in “title washing” refers to.

You can fight this scam by researching the vehicle’s history using its vehicle identification number (VIN) to check its Carfax report, where you can find its history of title transfers.

Used Car Buying Scam #3: Curbstoning

This practice is not necessarily a scam, but you should be aware of it anyway.

Curbstoning is when you meet a seller somewhere that’s not a dealership, and the dealer signs the title from the person they bought it from directly to you. Signs of this scam include a bill of sale with a dealer named “Seller,” a title that’s in someone else’s name, or the dealer’s “friend” taking care of the paperwork.

Curbstoning is done by people who are avoiding a dealer license or dealers who are pretending not to be dealers. One reason dealers might do a curbstone deal is to get rid of a car with problems so serious, only a cash for junk cars company should be accepting it.

The #1 Rule of Used Car Buying: If It’s Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to avoiding used car buying scams.

Now that you have knowledge of these three common scams, share the wisdom with friends and make sure you’re walking into your next used car purchase prepared.