Buying a car sight-unseen is always very risky.
Without being to view the car or drive the car yourself, you cannot test or feel how the car drives, or get an in-depth look at the car’s condition.
The fact of the matter is, it is never ideal to buy a car without ever actually seeing it in person. If you decide to go this route, however, here is how to buy a car without ever seeing it in person.
Step 1: Don’t Buy a Car Without Ever Seeing it in Person
The best way to buy a car without ever seeing it is to not buy a car without ever seeing it. There are too many logistics and worse case scenarios to consider. You have to worry about the acquisition of the vehicle and its paperwork, the transfer of funds, and shipping.
You’re better off making the journey to see the car than taking the risk of never viewing or driving the car.
Actual Step 1: Verify the Legitimacy of the Ad
It is always important to tread with caution when viewing used car ads. If you’re viewing Craigslist, algorithm-based scams are very common. Ads will pop up with popular cars such as late model Honda Accords or Nissan Maximas with low mileage for a ridiculously low price, in the $2,000 to $3,000 range.
Typically, when you contact these sellers, they will give you some story about how they are out of the country and they need to sell the car.
They will say they’ll do the deal through eBay, to ensure your confidence. They’ll send you a fake invoice with eBay’s legitimate email in the subject line to fool those who don’t look beyond the surface. The invoice will tell you to send the money via Western Union, MoneyGram, PayPal, or through iTunes gift cards.
Unfortunately, there are too many lazy scumbags in the world who don’t want to work for their money, so they steal it from others instead. It’s quite sad, and it is something you need to be aware of.
Step 2: Check the Vehicle’s History
As with any car purchase, it is important to check the vehicle’s history. I would request that the seller provides you with a CarFax history report. If they refuse to do so, tread with caution.
Have the seller photograph the VIN number, not type it. I recommend using Research.com to check the VIN yourself as well.
Normally, I would recommend getting a pre-purchase inspection as well, but if you’re on opposite ends of the country, it would be very easy to fake such inspections.
Step 3: Paying for the Car
When buying a car sight-unseen, it isn’t a bad idea to do it through a company that protects both the buyer and the seller, such as eBay.
This will protect you from the seller taking your money and running; eBay Buyer Protection makes sure that the buyer receives the goods before releasing the funds to the seller.
Step 4: Shipping
After payment, I would recommend that the seller ships you the title, signed and notarized. I would do the title transfer immediately, and if everything goes smoothly, arrange for a shipping company to transport the car from the seller’s location to yours. Be sure to get multiple quotes, so that you don’t get ripped off entirely.