Although buying a car is one of the best feelings people ever have, it can actually be just as scary as it can exciting. Car’s are for sale all over the place, and when buying them from dealers, it can be very hard to tell when they’re a dodgy or legitimate car dealer. Worse still, if you get caught out, it isn’t always easy to put right, either.
As expert vehicle inspectors, we have a lot of history working with sellers of all sizes, both private one-time sellers looking to sell their car on eBay or Facebook, as well as dealers, both with small private businesses and big-time dealerships. They can all be just as daunting as each other, but with the right advice and some solid expertise, there are some things you can look out for to help you spot and avoid a dodgy car dealer.
When working with dodgy car dealers in person, or through dealerships, things might be both easier and harder to handle, depending on how you view the situation and how confident you are with cars. Most of the clues are in the homework like they always are when buying a used car. Consider each of them before you make a decision.
Reviews are always the best way to spot a dodgy car dealer. If someone has fallen victim to a dodgy dealer, they will almost always instinctively want to warn other people from facing the same fate. The most obvious places to go are with things like Google business listings and Trustpilot since even if businesses are not registered, people can review them and create an unclaimed account for the business. Social media is another great place to look, but a thorough search online for your dealership and even the dealer’s name can help find reviews from other customers. Good dealers shouldn’t be hard to find online, especially if they have good feedback to boast about.
On a similar note, while you are searching the web for people talking about a dodgy car dealer, it’s also a good idea to check for other information about the business too. They may well be registered with companies house, for example. If so, you can see how long they have been operating, who the owner is (that you can search for and look for previous companies and reviews), and even their financial records which can show suspicious activity. It’s worth remembering though that some sellers may not be on companies house, but it’s always worth a try.
Inaccuracies are also a great way to spot and avoid a dodgy car dealer trying to take your money. Things like understanding the car’s history (even with a simple MOT check) can really help you get a better understanding of the car, the specific model, and the mileage that should come with it. You can also use the info of the car to check for the car’s actual value on the market, and help get an understanding of unsettling prices (both high and low) and see if there may be a trap waiting for you. If the dealer is making things up about the car, for example, this is a sign they’re more interested in getting rid of the car quickly and skipping a few of the details that can matter later.
This one is slightly more controversial than the other pointers in the list, but it is still something that is worth remembering if you’re going head to head with a professional car salesman (or conman if you’re unlucky). Attitude can tell you a lot about a dealer. If they are in a hurry to get you away from the car or to complete the sale (more than the usual seller), they might be trying to move the car before you notice something is wrong, or before you understand what you’re getting yourself into. It sounds brash, but if a seller is trying to manipulate you to help you avoid seeing something or part with more cash, they could have very bad intentions.
Lastly, a great one that is specific to physical dealerships, in particular, is if the dealership is of bad quality. What we mean here are cars that are broken or filthy, have damaged parts, or are generally bad news. The condition of a car can tell you a lot about the seller, especially if they are a professional, so it’s always worth making sure they take care of their cars and not just the one you’re there to look at.
In recent years, online car buying isn’t safe from dodgy car dealers either, since it’s just as easy to be stung online than it is in person. Although you might actually have a few more consumer rights to cover your back when buying online, it’s also harder to be able to get a solid understanding of what it is you’re buying. It’s a lot easier for dealers to hide things that you might see in person, and therefore the risk can be much higher too.
We won’t get into too much depth since we’ve covered this above, but it’s always a valid point to check reviews for online car sellers. They might have reviews on marketplaces, seller feedback, or simply reviews on review-based platforms. Do your homework!
Take note of the pictures that are being used for the advertisements of the car, and try to compare them with the info you’re provided with, too. Check that the picture is of the actual car, for example. Many sellers use generic pictures found online to represent the car that you’re buying, and may not use the actual car you’re looking at. They may even photoshop it, too. Others may go a step further and use other sellers’ pictures altogether. (Remember, you can search using an image in search engines like google. If it appears in other places, it’ll show up!) Never be afraid to ask for new pictures from a seller, pictures often look better than real life, especially with cars.
Suspicious behaviour isn’t only strictly applicable to dealerships, either. Online car buying is just as susceptible to dodgy car dealers and their tactics, too. Things like avoiding questions is a common example, as well as breezing past subjects, being too busy for conversations, and generally giving you a hard time when you’re trying to give them money, after all. If it is hard to buy the car, imagine how difficult it could be to try and get them to fix an issue that might be present with the vehicle when you receive it.
It’s much too easy to feel spoiled for choice when shopping online for cars. Always make sure that you have all of the information that you need when buying a car. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to before you commit to a purchase. If the listing is avoiding information, it could be a bad sign that they don’t want you to know that info, or worse still, that they don’t even have that information available themselves to be able to give you. In any case, it’s not good news. Don’t fall victim to a bargain.
Finally, always, always remember to do car history checks when it comes to buying a vehicle. Whether you get a full-blown vehicle inspection like offered at CarExamer to check out the car for you before you buy it, or you do your own checks like history, service history, or MOT checks, it all helps to give you the best image possible of what you’re paying your money for without being stung. Checks can be worth their weight in gold even if they find a simple problem. Always be prepared.
All things considered, buying a car is never completely safe, and no matter where you are buying, things can and do go wrong. Even buying new can result in problems, but with the right checks, warranties, and guarantees in place, you can do everything in your power to protect yourself and make sure that if something is to go wrong, it isn’t your responsibility, and in a worst-case scenario, you can get your money back too if you choose to buy it in the first place knowing everything there is to know about the vehicle in question.
If you have any doubts or would like the vehicle inspected by a professional, the CarExamer team is always here to help. No matter where you are in the country or who you’re buying the car from, we’ll travel to the car on your behalf and put it through rigorous testing and diagnostics to find any problems that are easy to miss.