If you are in the market to purchase a vehicle, you will face many choices, whether you want to buy new or used or go to a dealership, a family-owned establishment, or online. These choices can affect the process and what you will face from the sellers. No matter what, your biggest priority should be ensuring you do not get scammed out of the car you thought you were buying. So, as you start the car buying process, here are some red flags to look out for.

Title Washing

If you are purchasing from a used car establishment, it is fairly evident that most of the cars will have previous repairs, possible accidents, or title transfers in the past. However, if you are given information on a vehicle that is entirely void of past problems and does not have any information on liens, salvage titles, or rebuilt titles, you could be in the middle of a title washing scam. During title washing, any negative history about the vehicle will be replaced with a squeaky clean history to help make the car look more valuable. If you feel as if the vehicle has been through more than it lets on, try to get information on the VIN or from a verifiable source.

No Test Drive

A huge red flag to keep an eye out for is when a seller does not let you test drive the vehicle. Whether you are trying to buy a new or used car, you should be allowed to test drive the car not only to see if it is a good fit but also to see if there are any potential problems. Sellers will likely try to stop you from test driving if they are hiding significant information or issues within the car and do not want you to find out so the value does not deplete. Without a test drive, the seller has too many opportunities to hide things.


If a seller instructs you to meet at a location that is not related to a dealership, you should take this as a red flag. Curbstoning is a great avenue for sellers to get rid of damaged cars much easier. They will likely do the easiest repairs in order to get it drivable but won’t allow you to get it inspected by a third party. Additionally, you might not be handed the proper documentation to change the car to your name. The seller could give you a fraudulent title, but thankfully, you can fact-check this by looking up the vehicle’s history report and seeing if the VIN matches. All in all, if you don’t feel comfortable going to a strange location to purchase a car, trust your gut and find a new vehicle.

Fraudulent Escrow Services

If you are asked to put your money into an account before providing you with a car, you should take that as a giant red flag and look for another vehicle. While escrow services can provide a level of security in some cases, when you are purchasing a vehicle, and the seller demands you to use a specific service over any others that you might trust, it is likely that they will take your money without giving you the car. Fraudulent wire transfers are no joke and could lead you to lose thousands within the blink of an eye. If something feels strange about how they are asking you to pay, take that as a sign to move on.

It’s Too Good to Be True

Lastly, one of the biggest and tried and true red flags you should look out for is when it is all too good to be true. Let’s say you find your dream car, a shiny classic that runs perfectly, and it is way under the market value. It’s perfect, right? Wrong. It is too good to be true. If you find your dream car way under market value with seemingly no issues to be seen, that’s because all the issues are well hidden. It is extremely common for sellers to mark down the vehicle, do the least amount of repairs on it, and try to sell it to an unknowing buyer. On top of the price, if the seller doesn’t go into details about the vehicle’s past, you can assume something nefarious is going on.

Don’t purchase a vehicle with rose-tinted glasses on. These red flags could cost you money. If you have further questions or have been scammed to no avail, contact the team at Stecklein Robertson Law.