Just as about everything else we do today has migrated online so has buying a used car, however, buying a used car, which is always an activity ripe for scams, is particularly susceptible to scams when you are buying a used car online.  This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider buying a used car online, but it does mean that you have to take precautions to make sure you are not scammed.  One of the first things to check out when you buy a car on Craigslist or any other online listing site is whether or not the car actually exists and is owned by the person trying to sell it to you.  Scammers often take pictures from real online listings of used cars and put them into phony online ads.  A good way to determine if a listing has been merely copied is to do a reverse image search on Google which will show you if the same car keeps turning up in ads as being available in many different places around the country.

You also should never buy a used car unless you get a chance to actually drive it and have a mechanic check it out for you.  You also should get a Carfax or similar report on the car which will indicate if there is hidden damage that hasn’t been told to you.  As I have written about many times, water or storm damaged cars often get their titles changed and are sold as if they had no damage.  A Carfax or similar report will reveal such hidden information.

Finally, it is a good idea to use third party escrow sites such as PayPal to pay for a used car to make sure that funds are not released until you get the car you purchased.


Whenever you purchase a used car you should always get a full report on its history. The United States Department of Justice operates The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System which provides much information about used cars. The NVMTIS provides a list of various companies such as Carfax that have been approved to provide reliable reports. These companies charge between $2.95 and $12.99 for a report that will provide detailed information on any used car you are considering purchasing.

Here is the link to Google’s reverse image search.  https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808?co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid&hl=en

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