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5 tips for avoiding car scams

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Updated 10 Oct 2019

Lara Wilde

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I’m not ashamed to say that I have fallen victim to more than one car scam in my life. The trick is to never make the same mistake twice and learn the lesson the first time.

I once bought a ute that was actually a stolen cut-down panel van. I also paid a mechanic to fix my car and many months later discovered he had sold most of it off as parts and kept that money too.

After more than 20 years of loving cars I have learnt a lot of lessons the hard way. Here are my 5 tips to avoiding a car scam.


Sure, the guy selling the car says he is a mechanic and it is perfect. Get your own guy anyway. Use AutoGuru to book an impartial professional mechanic to do a pre-purchase inspection.

They will tell you if anything is wrong and everything that you can expect to have to fix in the near future. They will also tell you if there is anything illegal on the car.


Head to and do a search for the vehicle you are interested in. 

This check will tell you if there is any money owing on the vehicle (if there is, the finance company may repossess it from you), if it is stolen, and a full history of the vehicle.


This goes all ways: buying, selling and repairing.  Don’t put money into any bank account if you haven’t taken possession of the car or had the work completed.

If the buyer wants your bank account to put money in or pay for car transport, don’t – especially if it is online. Always keep your eye on the money and get a receipt.


If I am buying a car, selling a car or dropping my car off for repairs, I take photos of everything, not just the car.

By keeping track of the odometer reading when I drop it off at the mechanic I know if it went for a joyride in the lunch break.

By taking photos of the buyer’s driver’s licence, I will be able to track them down later. A screenshot of the online ad will help me later when something they promised isn’t delivered.


In this day and age, you can learn a lot online. Google the business, Facebook stalk them, read all of the reviews on that car make and model, look on AutoGuru for articles with advice and tips for your situation. 

Learn the finer details about the car so you are informed. 

No one likes to feel like a fool. Car scams come in many shapes and sizes and some of them can be very expensive if you get caught out.

You could be buying a car, selling a car or just having your car repaired, and you can be vulnerable to a scam at every stage.

The common theme through all scams is the gut feeling that it is too good to be true.

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Written By

Lara Wilde

Lara Wilde is the automotive addict showing you how to love your car without getting dirty.

With more than 20 years of driving experience, Lara has made cars her life.

Lara shares her automotive adventures educating and entertaining audiences as a keynote speaker for corporate events and freelance author for a variety of publications.

Driving across the country or on your daily commute to work, Lara can offer you safe, simple, stylish advice for adventures on the road. Look her up on