Used car purchase - scam avoidance help needed

8 posts in this topic

Hey all,

I was hoping someone could help me with my search for a used car. Specifically, I've looked at a few cars being sold buy private sellers (i.e. not purchasing from a dealership), and I get this recurring theme of being shown the car buy a 'brother', 'cousin', or 'friend', coupled with an elaborate story about why the actual owner couldn't turn up ("Sorry, I've just flown into Berlin, and I need to get a haircut urgently" - seriously that was one excuse).

All of these are cars that I saw in person, which drove perfectly fine, and all three were happy for me to take the car to an indepenent mechanic or DEKRA to get it inspected before sale. My questions are:

1. Is there some obvious scam or reason for this I'm missing? Or is it one of the following:
-(a) The cars belong to dealers who want to sell privately to avoid having to give the 12 months warranty/avoid paying taxes?
-(b) The cars belong to dealers who received them then inspected them and were like "this won't last 6 months" and so they're trying to sell them privately to avoid the 12 month warranty (same as (a) but slightly more malicious)?
-(c) the cars are stolen

2. Is there anything I can do to protect myself against buying a stolen car, or check if it's been written off before/been in a crash? (Similar to carfax.com in the States)? I know DEKRA do the mechanical equivalent of this, but is there a way to check if it's stolen?

3. Outside of getting a mechanic to look at the car first, are there any other steps I should do to be on the safe side? The worst part of this is, I'm looking to buy a car off someone who I don't think is a scammer, but who was out of town when I previously looked at the car and had his friend let me take it for a test drive... so I'm really struggling to tell the difference between genuinely nice person whose friend helped him out and weird seedy scammers.

4. Ultimately I might end up going with a dealer, simply for the 12 month guarantee. I'm VERY aware this is no iron clad guarantee, but the cars I'm looking at are all around 3000 Euros or less, and will be used for a holiday which would've cost 1500 in rental car costs - so if it's covered for that first period then I'm more than happy to let the used car gods do with me what they will. But is there anything dealer wise I should be aware of? I'm also going to request an inspection from an independent mechanic (DEKRA) if I buy there and do the usual due diligence. But would be grateful for any help.

Thanks in advance!! 

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7 hours ago, kdn said:


4. Ultimately I might end up going with a dealer, simply for the 12 month guarantee.

 

If your gut feeling is that something just isn´t right, it probably isn´t, so why not go to a dealership in the first place, and save all the time and hassle of meeting other peoples´friends and relatives?

At a dealership you would save having to get a mechanic to look over the car, and as you say, there would be a bit of a guarantee.

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It's not unheard of for dealers to do something like this but I also went with a friend to buy a car who said he was selling it for his old aunt who only drove it to church on Sundays and that car was just perfect.  If you don't trust the people, then just buy from a dealer and get your guarantee.

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Even if you buy private, you are not without rights, if the last owner sells it with a known defect and has not told you about it.

 

Go to the ADAC or website, you can download a form which describes the current condition of the car in some detail, get the last owner to fill it out, then if you buy it and something goes very wrong with it that they did not tell you about it, you can in theory take them to court to get some money of them.

 

If its a uncle of the guy selling it, make sure you get the owner to fill it out not the uncle.

 

Even if its second hand, look through any bills the owner has kept, check for a regular service history, that always tells you how well the car has been treated, do that even if you buy from a dealer.

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2 hours ago, yesterday said:

Even if you buy private, you are not without rights, if the last owner sells it with a known defect and has not told you about it.

 

The problem is proving that they knew about it.  Unless they've patched things up with tape and pieces of string, it can be very hard to prove.

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On 25/07/2021, 23:14:02, kdn said:

All of these are cars that I saw in person, which drove perfectly fine, and all three were happy for me to take the car to an indepenent mechanic or DEKRA to get it inspected before sale. My questions are:

1. Is there some obvious scam or reason for this I'm missing? Or is it one of the following:
-(a) The cars belong to dealers who want to sell privately to avoid having to give the 12 months warranty/avoid paying taxes?
-(b) The cars belong to dealers who received them then inspected them and were like "this won't last 6 months" and so they're trying to sell them privately to avoid the 12 month warranty (same as (a) but slightly more malicious)?
-(c) the cars are stolen

If the car is relatively new, then manufacturer warranty will cover. If its old out if manufacturer warranty, then you get what you get. You should inspect it fully. Going to Dekra / adac for inspection is a good thing. Moreover the 12 month warranty for used car doesn't cover the breakdown due to normal wear. It only cover defects, that you need to prove, existed before the purchase. Also new Tuv certificate should help. 

 

 

On 25/07/2021, 23:14:02, kdn said:


2. Is there anything I can do to protect myself against buying a stolen car, or check if it's been written off before/been in a crash? (Similar to carfax.com in the States)? I know DEKRA do the mechanical equivalent of this, but is there a way to check if it's stolen?

With the vin number you can simply check at https://www.carvertical.com/de

 

It will cost you 10-15 Euro per car report. It will also tell accident history of the car. 

 

 

On 25/07/2021, 23:14:02, kdn said:

3. Outside of getting a mechanic to look at the car first, are there any other steps I should do to be on the safe side? The worst part of this is, I'm looking to buy a car off someone who I don't think is a scammer, but who was out of town when I previously looked at the car and had his friend let me take it for a test drive... so I'm really struggling to tell the difference between genuinely nice person whose friend helped him out and weird seedy scammers.

You can demand to see the vehicle paper, part 1 & 2 and service history of the car. If the papers are in the seller name then it can't be stolen. Also service stamp can hint the geographical location where the car was. If there is excuse of missing these, then just walk away. 

Also inspect the papers in person. 

 

 

On 25/07/2021, 23:14:02, kdn said:

 

4. Ultimately I might end up going with a dealer, simply for the 12 month guarantee. I'm VERY aware this is no iron clad guarantee, but the cars I'm looking at are all around 3000 Euros or less, and will be used for a holiday which would've cost 1500 in rental car costs - so if it's covered for that first period then I'm more than happy to let the used car gods do with me what they will. But is there anything dealer wise I should be aware of? I'm also going to request an inspection from an independent mechanic (DEKRA) if I buy there and do the usual due diligence. But would be grateful for any help.

Check when the last Tüv was done. If its recent then good. If old, then insist of New TÜV. 

 

Also you might have some contact detailsof seller and their friend. Just do a Google search for their name, phone, adress, etc for possible other activities they might involved upon which could hint of scam. 

 

Good luck. 

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Thanks all! Really appreciated, and some great pointers.

Just to provide more details for anyone seeing this thread in the future (I've used this forum so many times in the past so hopefully I can pass it on):

We were looking for hatchbacks (Peugot 207, Mazda 2, Renault Clio, Opel Corsa) no older than 2009, with a budget max of around 3500 (ideally somewhere around 2500-3000) with a max of 125,000km, and with green sticker (allowed to drive in cities), Air Con, ABS, within 75km of Berlin. 

I ended up going and seeing 7 cars:
3 at dealerships - each felt like cars that had problems. All 3 felt like they'd sat for a long time, with rust around the engine and wheels. One had major problems with the air conditioner fan where it sounded like it would explode (I didn't even bother test driving because the dealer was useless), but the engine sounded a bit irregular as well. One was advertised as private but technically was in a dealership located next to train tracks (felt proper ghetto). Car had suspension and motor issues, and looked like it had been sitting in a barn for 5 years (rust and musty smell everywhere). Last one was Dabag in Oranienberg - lovely dealership, super friendly and professional, but the car had a weird revving problem with the engine. Also, again, rush in areas I associate with a car that's been standing for long periods of time.

Private sellers - One I couldn't test drive as it was unregistered, and was ultimately not in good enough condition to go through the fuss of arranging a red number plate. Two were just super suspicious, one because his story was just all over the shop, the other because he tried to jedi mind trick me with "you don't need to see any paper work". Of these two cars, one was in decent condition but idled a bit heavily. The jedi mind trick car's radio would turn off when you adjusted the air-con.

Anyway, thanks again everyone. Fingers crossed it all works out, and the used car gods smile upon us.

Last private seller car, which we're probably going to get - private seller, friend showed us the car initially. Just because of previous experiences this raised red flags, but friend was nice and also was up front about a suspension issue that needs fixing, and second test drive we met the guy who owns it. Our testing process went as follows:

General impressions: Engine runs well, no signs of rust, steering true, interior well taken care of, new brakes on front, no signs of airbag deployment, bodywork in good condition, seals generally look good, tyre wear even. Check paperwork - service history was good from 2009-2016, after no log book services, but some receipts for different services done. Not perfect, but passable given the price range we're up for.

Confirmation: DEKRA used car buyers check (83 Euros) - Confirmed the suspension issue, also brought up an exhaust problem where the muffler will eventually have to be replaced (but probably not for another service). Currently waiting on quote for suspension and shock absorber repair. If the repair costs are within our budget, or if the seller is happy to reduce his price so the price falls in our budget, we'll buy. 
Also ran VIN through https://www.carvertical.com/de

Extra Advice
Expand your search criteria to include Damaged cars, and don't include restrictions like "non-smoker's car only". We found a few cars too late which had "boomered" their ad - saying it was damaged because there was a small scrape on the bumper. Also, the searches will omit cars from the search because they didn't indicate something rather if they did indicate it. So if a seller writes in their description "non smokers car" but don't tick the "non smokers car" box, it won't show up in your search.
Of course this means a more labour intensive process, but well worth it.

Also, just from our small sample size, if you send a seller a message with something like "hi, is your car available still? If so could we arrange an inspection?" and they reply something like a disinterested "yes", don't waste your time. For us this was a pretty good heuristic to avoid time wasting scammers. Real sellers are motivated to arrange ways for you to buy their car.

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On 28/07/2021, 12:23:04, kdn said:

Extra Advice
Expand your search criteria to include Damaged cars, and don't include restrictions like "non-smoker's car only". We found a few cars too late which had "boomered" their ad - saying it was damaged because there was a small scrape on the bumper. Also, the searches will omit cars from the search because they didn't indicate something rather if they did indicate it. So if a seller writes in their description "non smokers car" but don't tick the "non smokers car" box, it won't show up in your search.
Of course this means a more labour intensive process, but well worth it.

What platform were you searching in? autoscout?

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