Auto Bargain of a century? Look closer and don’t : How not to Fall in love with a fraud

Outstanding pictures. Excellent condition. The equipment is top level. The price? It’s a bargain of the century. It seems to be the perfect car in an online or print advertisement. Every motorist has seen it. But is it a deal worth your time and – inevitably – money? Well, it’s a yes and no. In most cases, the car will have a salvage title or false odometer readings.

Even though it’s considered a crime by NHTSA, more than 450,000 vehicles each year are sold having false odometer readings. Frankly, a vehicle is sold with a higher price tag than it is actually worth based on its real mileage. It is estimated that American car buyers lose more than $1 billion annually for this very reason. And that is a lot.

Mileage is a key evidence

“Age” is an essential part of the “Mile-age”. Odometer readings reveal the real wear of the car over the years. Thus, when buying a used vehicle mileage is more important and accurate than production years. According to the United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Americans now drive an average of 13,476 miles a year.

Before calling the seller, multiply this number by the years of the car. If the odometer numbers are significantly low, it is worth asking about. Another way to tell if the mileage is false is by inspecting wear and tear on the steering wheel, brake pedal, safety belt, and the driver’s seat. However, these methods could be quite subjective and biased.

So, experts advise checking the actual mileage via online platforms providing vehicle’s history reports. There are various of them of different quality, but the algorithm is always the same: enter the car’s VIN and get the report about the vehicle’s past.

The damage you might like 

Another reason why the seller is letting a “good” car for good money is a salvage title. The most common reason for a vehicle to get labeled as salvage is involvement in a crash. In some states, cars that were damaged by flood or fire are listed as salvage, too. These are like a time bomb of unexpectedness. Everything may work properly during the test drive but some systems – especially electronics – can, and will, fail in the future.

An honest seller will tell that the car has a salvage title if it’s not obvious by looking at the price tag. However, more than often these cars are rebuilt and sold by deceptive sellers. They fail to disclose or try to hide this information. The worst case is when the salvage title is “washed”. It means that there is no mention about the previous vehicle crash in its documents. There are millions of vehicles salvaged each year and it is calculated that 20 percent of them are shipped to Europe.

Shopping for a once salvaged and now reconstructed vehicle is quite a practical decision. Usually, it costs about 60 percent of the identical — model and year — a car without a salvage title. It is highly recommended to stay away from cars with bent frames. Bodywork, glass and headlight’s damage is regarded as “good “damage. After a scrupulous repair, this kind of damage has no or minimal impact on the vehicle’s operation by the time it’s back on the road again. But how can you know if the damage is “good”? Or even how the vehicle has been looked after prior to the crash?

Can you trust the seller?

A reliable seller will have the vehicle’s pictures before the reconstruction and – if you are dealing with a really honest seller – even close up pictures of the whole repair process. Otherwise, it’s recommended to start by checking the car via already mentioned vehicle’s history reports, for example, using blockchain-based or other platforms. Sometimes they reveal that even the most sincere sellers are hiding something behind their superficial honesty…

The reports usually include photos of the car after the crash when it enters the salvage yard. Also, it covers the previous history of the vehicle and how it has been looked after.

Finally, if the history seems good and the car price is appropriate, a visit at an independent workshop is a must. A proper repair evaluation could be done only by professionals. And this step is not optional.

Arnoldas Vasiliauskas’ automotive background dates back to 2005 – previously employed as an executive at Mitsubishi-Motors, Citroen and Honda brands and now serves as the Chief Innovation and Product Officer at carVertical.  As a CIPO, he is responsible for the new and existing products, innovations and partner integrations. Arnoldas also plays an important role in shaping the future strategy of carVertical, where the focus is set on data and technology innovation. Reach him on LinkedIn.

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