How to spot suspicious used car listings online

When browsing any site for used cars, there are some telltale signs that the seller is fraudulent in his posting. There are deals that are too good to be true, and will leave you with less money and no car; or with a second-hand car that’s bound to abuse your wallet because of too many issues.

As a general rule of thumb, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. But for your reference, here is a list of what you should look out for when identifying a suspicious used car listing.

Missing information

How to spot suspicious used car listings online 

Because you can’t see the vehicle in person, it becomes a challenge to assess whether it is going to be a good purchase. Units on offer in the second-hand marketplace are often previous models that spent some years with its previous owner. 

With second-hand cars online, you need to know everything you can before getting in touch with the seller. The first metric that you need to see on a listing is the price. The seller must post the vehicle with a price, but this is not to discredit sellers of exotic cars. If the car is a mainstream or mass-market model, then a price should almost always be posted. 

Also, be on the lookout for the number on the odometer, or commonly known as the mileage, as well as the model year. On average an individual will travel about 15,000 kilometers per year so if a car is 2 years old, the odometer should be around the 30,000 mark. A car with high mileage for its age would mean that it has been used extensively. On the flip side, a car used very sparingly might be a good buy, but it could mean that it wasn’t brought out as much; either way investigate. It is also good to see the car’s trim level and registration date as these bits of information indicate that the seller knows his car. 

No documents

How to spot suspicious used car listings online 

This goes beyond the registration of the vehicle. While buying a vehicle whose registration is close to expiry is fine, buying a vehicle with no official receipt (OR) and certificate of registration (CR) is an absolute no-no. These two documents are like a used car’s driver’s license and birth certificate. Respectively, an OR lets you drive on the roads of the Philippines while a CR says you exist. A fraudulent seller might forget to post whether the OR/CR is still with him, but if the seller cannot produce the documents, then it’d be best to steer clear. 

“Honest issue”

How to spot suspicious used car listings online 

If there are any problems with the car, it should be indicated online. Even new cars experience some quality control issues from time to time because nothing is perfect. Over time, a car will age and develop some mechanical annoyances, thus a buyer should make sure he is getting a car and not more problems. 

Try and dig a little deeper even if the seller says that there are no issues with the automobile. Inquire more and investigate after introducing yourself as a serious buyer. If the seller posts the service history of the car, then it’s good. At the very least you would like to see the date of the last service.  

No pictures

How to spot suspicious used car listings online 

It’s inexcusable at this point for a car to be posted without a photo. Regardless of the quality, a photo will tell more than a few vague sentences will. 

The poster may be able to send a photo of the car after a quick message, give him some time to send the pictures. If he cannot send a photo to you, then run. 

Payment method

How to spot suspicious used car listings online 

If a private seller is requesting a money transfer, commit to due diligence and take precautions when handing over money to someone you barely know. Make sure that the account belongs to the actual owner, and make sure that the car is titled to the seller and ready to be transferred if the purchase pushes through. 

Also, inspect the unit in person before committing any bank transfer or payment details. Make sure all documents are present and ready to transfer to you. 

LTO Apprehension

How to spot suspicious used car listings online 

If you are looking to purchase a particular unit, make sure that the plate number is known. Check with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) if the vehicle has been listed as stolen or has any prior apprehensions before pulling the trigger. 

All you need to do is text: LTO<space>Vehicle<space>[plate number], and send to 2600. 


How to spot suspicious used car listings online 

In order to see the unit, the seller must be able to post the general area where the unit is in. If there is no location indicated on the post, then raise an eyebrow and ask. 

In closing

How to spot suspicious used car listings online 

Be wary of scammers and sellers of vehicles that have shady histories. A vehicle is an investment that should last you a few years or more, and it will be wise to know that your money is going into something that you can actually use. 

If you have issues with trusting private sellers online, it might be a good idea to also go to a used car dealership, especially the ones that have a history of good customer satisfaction. also has a network of Used Car partner dealers that can provide good deals and trustworthy transactions. 

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