SEE | Here's how to spot a potential scam on classified car sales

<i>Image: iStock</i>
<i>Image: iStock</i>

For many people, classifieds sites provide a cheap route into some wheels and there are significant bargains to be had when shopping online. 

It's also easy to shop for your next ride within close proximity of your home so going to view and buy the car is an easy win. But watch out for scammers looking to put one over you on classified car sites.

READ | The thrill of the first-time car buying journey

Here are some red flags that should get your attention: 

1. Documentation

While it's understandable that you can lose your registration documents for your car, it's relatively cheap to have duplicated printed.

So beware of ads where the seller advertises that there are 'no papers for the car' or the 'papers are with the previous owner'. 

While not illegal, this usually indicates that someone is looking to make a quick buck by offloading a dodgy vehicle, leaving you saddled with a long-term headache when you try to register the car in your name. Walk away.

Have you ever saved yourself from a bad car buy? Email us and we'll share your story.


2. Engine 

As a rule, I would steer clear of cars where the seller advertises that the engine has been customised for performance.


                                                                            Image: iStock

Think about it, if the engine has been customised to perform better, why is the car being sold? Also, backyard performance upgrades usually do not include braking and tyre upgrades to match the engine performance.

READ | Avoid these mistakes when buying a new car

Don't be suckered into paying for someone else's vanity project of which they’ve grown tired. Thank you, next. 

3. Problems 

If I had a 10c for every time I saw an ad where the car had a "small problem" or "requires some TLC" I would be rich enough to buy an Italian sports car.

                                                                               Image: iStock

Once, when going to see an Audi A4 with a "small problem", it turned out that the Audi had been in a smash and someone had done a DIY repair. The light and wiper switches didn't work properly, and the driver's side window would only go down and not come up again. 

Other problems you can spot in an ad include "small electrical problem" or "battery required" - this is usually code for: "There's no way you will be able to drive this car home." 

4. Car body 

Look carefully at the pictures in the ad.

Cars with smashes - especially around the suspension are bad news as this is an indication of a pricey fix. I've seen homemade alignment jobs where cars crab-crawl down the road. This is why I have the owner drive his or her own car first. Look for rust on the pics in car ads - especially around the windows, doors and pillars.

                                                                          Image: iStock

On the side view, check that the panel gaps look consistent and if are not, don't bother calling because it's likely an indication of bigger (and more expensive) problems lurking below the surface.

Some sellers take horrible pictures of the cars: Photos taken into the sun, out of focus, night-time, or obscured images may be accidental - or a deliberate way to obscure the worst bits of a car. Once, when looking to buy a Toyota, the picture in no way matched the disaster of the actual car. 

But the picture was only of the interior which wasn't bad, but the car was a wreck and should have gone straight to scrap. It wasn't going right. 

5. Areas of sale 

Without any discrimination, there are some areas you shouldn't go to buy a car because it would certainly place you at risk – even more so if you plan on carrying cash with you. Most genuine sellers will agree to meet in a public or neutral venue to conduct the sale and if they point blank refuse (within reason) it is perhaps better to walk away from that buy.

                                                                              Image: iStock

Also, it is better to conduct deals during the day when you can see everything clearly - including the seller's details. 

And finally, when you look at an ad and see a great car, in wonderful condition, and the cheapest price ever - be aware that it might just be a scam. People don't generally sell perfect cars at rock bottom prices - even if they are "emigrating" or "leaving the province urgently". 

Keep your wits about you.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Brought to you by
Voting Booth
Which of these factors are prohibiting you from buying an electric vehicle as your next car?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Prices should be more affordable
16% - 210 votes
Our unreliable electricity source
10% - 128 votes
There's not enough charging infrastructure
10% - 135 votes
All of the above
64% - 853 votes