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Texas Department of Insurance
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How can I avoid scams when I buy a used vehicle?

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The way people buy used cars and trucks has changed. With at least part of most sales now taking place on apps or online, a lot can go wrong. Here are tips for avoiding auto scams.

where to find the VIN on a car
  1. Too good to be true?

    If a price is amazing, an old car looks perfect, or a rare vehicle seems cheap, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

  2. Take your time

    Scammers need to get your money before you’ve thought things through. If a seller says they’re moving soon, going overseas, or selling fast for a relative, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. If they want you to pay with gift cards, it’s definitely a scam. Don’t do it.

  3. Check the photos

    Some scammers use the same photo on different apps or websites, with different prices and contact info each time. You can avoid this scam with a “reverse image search” to see if the same photo appears in many places. Look up “reverse search” in your favorite search engine to learn how.

  4. See it in person

    There’s no substitute for seeing the real thing. Scammers can easily post fake photos and safety reports. Don’t send money until you’ve seen the vehicle in real life. Make sure you choose a safe, well-lit, public spot to meet the seller. Ask to see the seller’s identification and make sure the same name is on the vehicle’s title.

  5. Take a drive

    A vehicle could look perfect on the lot or in a driveway. Always drive it before you buy to see how it handles on the road. Try out all the vehicle’s features and ask for maintenance records.

  6. Check the VIN

    Every car has its own Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Always check the VIN with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and National Insurance Crime Bureau to make sure a vehicle wasn’t stolen, flooded, or listed as a total loss after a wreck. Make sure every document has the same VIN before you buy. Check the VINs on the vehicle too—if the VIN on the door doesn’t match the VIN on the windshield, a part may have been replaced.

  7. Are there liens?

    A VIN search will also show you if the owner still owes money on a loan for the vehicle. If they do, you could run into fraud and title headaches if you buy the car.

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Last updated: 7/22/2022