Today you can get some great deals on a used car. And who doesn’t like cheap cars? We all like a bargain and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that wants to pay over the odds for anything. But as the saying goes, not all that glitters is gold. Some cheap cars aren’t worth the money you do spend on them.

That’s not to say all cheap cars are dodgy deals. If you’re not fussed about paintwork, interior scuff marks or a few dents and scrapes, you can certainly bag a bargain car deal. A cheap used car owner doesn’t need to worry about depreciation or high insurance prices. As long as engines and body structures are sound, bargain car prices can be truly great deals. They can even help you save for your dream wheels.

However, when a great car with low mileage or too good to be true credentials is advertised, it’s time to get suspicious. Doing your homework before you part with any cash is a must. And we’d always advise that if it really doesn’t feel right, walk away. When you’re buying a car and looking for a great car deal, the following steps should help you bag a genuine bargain.

Be Aware of Scams

Car scams tend to have fads. Just like fashion runs in cycles, used car scams seem to also run in trends. Reading up online about potential car scams will help you be aware of what to look out for when you see bargain car prices or a suspiciously cheap car advertised. News and money websites will be able to make you aware of common car scams. Sometimes your local police authority can alert you to scams being run in your local area too.

Car cloning is becoming more common. This is when a legit car’s identity is stolen and passed off as the identity of a stolen or salvaged car. Owners of the car that’s been cloned often aren’t aware their car is being used in a scam either. To avoid this scam, check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the engine bay, the bottom of the windscreen or under the plastic trim around the driver or passenger’s door opening. This number can be run through a free VIN checker to let you know the vehicle history, photos and more.

Car clocking is another oldie but a goody – from a scammer’s perspective. This is when the odometer has been dialled back so it appears the car has travelled fewer miles. Checking the vehicle history and giving the general condition a good inspection should tip you off to this common cheap car scam.

Check for matching detail

When you go to inspect a car you’re interested in, be thorough and take your time. But before you even go to see a car, run the car registration through the DVLA’s free vehicle check service. This will flag up any inconsistencies in the make, model, colour and the address the car is registered to.

When you do go to see a car, make sure the general condition is as advertised. You should also check for matches with the paperwork. That means checking the VIN with the logbook and asking for any other paperwork too. If it’s a car you’re interested in and everything is checking out, ask for a full history report. If a dealer doesn’t have one it’s a red flag. In the case of private owners, you’ll need to purchase your own HPI report. This lets you know the vehicle history and details such as outstanding payments.

Cheap cars and car complaints

Some used cars are cheap because they’re just not great cars. Cars get recalled for safety issues, faulty parts and manufacturing mistakes. A car with multiple recalls is often regarded as a risky purchase – even more so if the owner hasn’t responded to the recalls. This can make a cheap car price a big risk, even if it’s not an outright scam.

Again, the VIN will come in handy to make sure any cheap car you’re interested in has been returned if any manufacturing recalls have been made. The motor ombudsman vehicle recall service lets you check this detail for free. It can be worth getting a pre-purchase inspection from a mechanic too. This will alert you to any engine issues you may need to pay for soon after purchase.

Sometimes, buying cheap cars is a great idea and the low price is genuine. Not all bargain car prices mean the seller has problematic intentions. Some cars are priced low as the owner needs a quick sale, it’s done a LOT of miles or it has some scrapes and bumps the owner can’t be bothered repairing. These are totally legitimate reasons for selling a car cheaply. If you’re not adverse to them, there’s no reason not to buy.

However, when a car looks too good for the price it’s being offered, you’ll need to tread carefully. Make sure you take time to check and re-check the details. Educate yourself about car scams in your area so you don’t fall for one. Always take a friend along or buy from a verified seller to ensure you stay safe. Some car scams have nothing to do with the actual car and are designed for robbing prospective buyers. Finding a great car at a bargain price isn’t impossible but it is worth doing your homework before progressing with the purchase.

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