Avoiding car shipping scams

The majority of our clients have purchased cars abroad without even seeing them first, this may sound crazy and high-risk, but if simple procedures are followed it really is no different to buying a car here in the UK. Sellers can be checked out and vehicle history can be checked out to avoid being put in a situation where you pay for a car and never see your money, or the vehicle again.

Some of our Top Tips are very simple and completely free:

  • Google is the best detective around – try entering the vehicle VIN and foreign registration number into the search engine, this can often throw up some interesting information on the car history, past scams, or past accident damage can sometimes be spotted on forums, blogs, owner’s clubs or personal sites all by this simple technique.
  • Is the deal just too good to be true? Quite often that means that it is. Simple.
  • Ask for copies of vehicle registration or title documents, do they show the seller’s name? Ask for a copy of seller’s passport also to verify their name
  • Speak with Owner’s Clubs local to the person selling the car, if it is something unique, people will know the history of the vehicle
  • Facebook can be a great tool for verifying the seller – try putting their email address, name and even telephone numbers into Facebook’s search bar at the top of the page – this can often show the person to be genuine and sometimes even photos of them with the vehicle – be careful though, Facebook accounts can be fake, but it is often easy to spot a genuine profile.
  • Common sense – take a long look at the advert selling the car you are looking to ship – is it well written? Does it sound like a genuine past owner of the vehicle? Are there any other clues as to where you can search for car history?
  • Forums can be a great place to post a question asking if anybody knows of the vehicle and/or seller – for example if you are buying a Mustang, try the Mustang Owner’s forums or Ford enthusiast sites
  • How are they asking to pay? If you are buying a car in the USA for example and they are asking you to ship money to Nigeria by Western Union transfer it probably is not true
  • Seller offers to ship the car to you for you to check over and if not good, they will pay the car shipping charges to get it back

There are also some methods that are not free but can help verify the car prior to arranging the sale and then car shipping, for example:

  • Escrow – this is where a third party hold the car and your money until everything is verified – you then get the car and the seller gets the money – these can be expensive though and some sellers do not like using them
  • Inspections – we can organise a vehicle inspection for £175 + VAT in the USA – this can help verify the vehicle actually exists