Updated 16-11-2021 - Nicki Saunders

Tips for purchasing used cars from Facebook marketplace

Facebook marketplace only became a reality in 2016, to have a communal area for Facebook users to sell their unwanted goods. Although there had been a lot of buy/sell/swap pages around for quite some time, marketplace was a faster way to pool everything together in one place, and give users a direct link to the seller’s messenger, without getting lost in limbo because they were not friends with the seller. The only problem with this online tool of course, is that there is no company name to attach to the seller – therefore the authenticity of both the person selling you the goods, and the authenticity of ownership comes in to question.

Purchasing a car is already an important decision to make, as they are such an important commodity, whether it is to get to work, school, or family. The last thing you need,  is to find yourself in a position of having constant breakdowns, or being scammed online and losing the money you had set aside for your new vehicle. Rather than spending an unrealistic amount of money on a brand new vehicle, or being hit with seller fees, a lot of people use Facebook marketplace as a way to buy and sell used cars. So, here’s a few tips on how you can do so safely!

Check the history

One of the most important things to do before committing to buying a car online, is checking the history of the vehicle. You can easily do a free MOT history check, and cross reference it with the pictures provided online. All you need to do this is the registration number of the vehicle. If the owner won’t provide you with this, it’s safe to say that you should just walk away!

Using this simple tool, and cross-referencing with the information provided on Facebook marketplace, you will be able to see if the plates have been changed with no paperwork, if the estimated mileage is higher, and if the car is recorded on the salvage register (which will show you if the seller has the appropriate documents or not).

Ask for a test drive

One of the easiest ways to find out if you are being scammed, is to ask the seller if you can take the vehicle for a test drive. If they have any push back at all at this simple request, that’s a red flag that you should not ignore. If someone is genuinely selling, they will understand that as a potential buyer, you want to test the car out before spending your hard-earned cash on it. This is also an opportunity to check out the vehicle for any hidden flaws that may have been hidden or disguised in the photos online. Do not attend this meet-up alone. Bring someone along with you, as you are less likely to be scammed if you are not alone, and it is safer to have support with you. Your support person may also think of other questions to ask about the car that you may not have considered personally, so it’s a win-win.

Organise an inspection

Although it may come at a small cost, it is a good idea to have a professional inspect the car prior to purchasing it. They will be able to tell you if there is anything untoward about the vehicle, and can also predict anything that may become a concern in the long run. It is definitely worth spending a small amount of money prior to the purchase, rather than ending up with a damaged car that has the potential to cost you £1000’s.

Always meet in a public place

Whether you are just going for a test drive, or have committed to purchasing the car, the best thing you can do to make sure you have a safe and smooth transition of ownership, is to always arrange to meet in a public place. The best place to do this, is in the lobby of a bank, as not only does it make sense to be there with money changing hands, but there are security cameras everywhere that are guaranteed to witness the transaction, should it be required if things turn sour.

Document the conversation​

Because it is so easy to create a Facebook account, you never know if the account is a temporary setup for a scam. To protect yourself, take a screenshot of your entire interaction with the seller. You can also take pictures of their actual Facebook page, and see how long the account has been active for. Usually, if the profile has been active for a few years and has consistent posts, it is a genuine account that is a bit more trustworthy than someone who has no photos, and has only had an account for a couple of weeks. It may seem a little bit strange to have a stranger’s photos in your phone, but it is a small-term weirdness for a long-term protection.

Buying a car from anyone that is not a dealership will always come at a risk. It is nice to think that humans can be trustworthy and would never try to pull a scam on an innocent person, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. Just remember to follow your instincts when it comes to purchasing from Facebook marketplace. If you have a gut feeling that something seems wrong, or that it is too good to be true, follow that instinct and withdraw from the sale. By opting out of the purchase, you will of course have to keep looking, but I personally would rather have to search for a little longer, as opposed to ending up with no car, no money, and egg on my face.