TOP 5 common scams to avoid when buying a used car according to carVertical

There are so many different cars and when it comes to purchasing one, it can often be a headache to buy a perfectly maintained vehicle. One of the main problems with the used car market is that buyers cannot quickly identify common used car scams. Some used cars may be tempting at first glance, but deep inside, they may be misleading. Often this results in unexpected maintenance and unbearable repair bills, both now and in the future.

The methodology of this study

Data source:

This research of the most common used car scams was conducted by carVertical. The carVertical car history search platform gathers a wealth of information about individual cars, including records from national and private registries, various databases, insurance companies and stolen vehicle databases in many different countries, so all these sources were used for this study.

Period of the study:

CarVertical analyzed car history reports from April 2020 to April 2021.

Data sample:

More than 1 million car history reports were analyzed.


This study was conducted by using the data from Croatia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, Estonia, Finland, France, Belgium, Belarus, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.

Based on the data, these are the most common scams to avoid when buying a used car:

1. The car is damaged

As cities get denser and denser, drivers are more likely to be involved in a car accident. carVertical’s research found that nearly one-third (31%) of all cars checked through their platform had sustained damage.

When choosing a car, it is advisable to check that all the gaps between body panels are even. If some gaps are wider than others, this may indicate damage to structural parts or cheap repairs. Some scammers try to hide these and so customers must inspect the vehicle close-up.

2. Clocked mileage

In the carVertical’s research, every sixth vehicle (16.7%) had had their mileage clocked. Mileage fraud is very common amongst scammers who import used cars and try to sell them with fake odometer readings. Diesel cars are much more likely to have mileage fraud.

A single correction of the odometer is a cheap procedure in the black market, but it can inflate a cars' value by 25% or more, especially for very desirable vehicles.

Cars that have had mileage ‘rollbacks’ can be easy to identify. Usually, the wear-and-tear of a vehicle can speak for itself. If the seats, steering wheel or gear selector are worn but the mileage appears low, this may be a sign that customers should step back from this car and look for another one.

3. The car is stolen

The experience of buying a stolen car is perhaps the worst of all the used vehicle scams. Usually, the unfortunate new owners have their vehicles confiscated and it can be complicated to retrieve the money paid for the car. During the last 12 months, carVertical identified several hundred stolen cars, saving considerable time and money for customers.

4. The car was a taxi or rental car

Some drivers are not aware that their vehicle was a taxi or a rental car previously. Taxi drivers typically build up considerable mileage and, most of the time, they carry passengers on urban roads. Taxis and rental cars typically wear faster and they are very often less well-maintained.

Using carVertical, around two thousand cars in the last year were identified to be ex-taxis or rental cars. Sometimes it is possible to identify these, for example, from the paintwork colour, but keen scammers may even repaint the vehicle. History reports offer the best solution to avoid such cars.

5. The price of the car is too low

Buyers of used cars should also avoid suspiciously cheap vehicles, although for many the temptation is too great. If the price feels too good to be true, buyers should investigate further by comparing the car with similar cars in other used car markets. Sometimes such cars are imported, clocked, or have hidden damage creating an illusion of a great deal. Ultimately, buyers may be best to stop right there and look for another deal.


Purchasing a reliable used car is a challenging task. However, by using online car history reports buyers can uncover the true identity of a car and avoid popular scams. By adopting a critical perspective, buyers can avoid being fooled and save themselves from unexpected expenses.

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