The Ten Worst Car Scams

If you’re inexperienced (or just not careful), it’s incredibly easy to let some huckster take advantage of you in the automotive industry. Here are ten of the worst scams in the automotive world, so be on guard.

10.) “Like new” Rebuilt Title Vehicles


Very rarely are cars that have been granted salvage titles in any sort of shape where they can be restored to ‘like new’ conditions. You might be buying something that has been buttoned up pretty, but these cars definitely aren’t something I would trust for any sort of long-term reliability. Oh, and if you live in a state like New York, good luck registering one of those cars with an out-of-state rebuilt title. You’ll be lucky if the paperwork even gets to the DMV’s Salvage Examination Office.

Suggested By: jbm0866, Photo Credit: Getty Images via Car Buying/Jalopnik

9.) “I can get you in this car today!”

Sketchy stealership salesmen love to make all kinds of empty verbal promises just to get you through their showroom doors. Just don’t let them get you signing any papers, and if you do, PLEASE don’t forget to read the fine print. All of a sudden that 0% APR can go to 30% real quick.

Suggested By: Slay0r, Photo Credit: Getty Images via Car Buying/Jalopnik

8.) Tornado Air


For the longest time sketchy companies have been trying to pawn off their “incredible inventions” on unknowing and desperate consumers. A great example of this con is The Tornado. A spinning turbine that does absolutely nothing.

Suggested By: McSeanerson, Photo Credit: Tornado Air

7.) Dealership Gap Insurance


When buying new cars, dealers will often try to convince you to throw “gap insurance” onto the grand total of your purchase. They’ll do this by telling you that if you wreck your car, your insurance company will only cover the cost of what it might cost you to replace your car, rather than the value of the car, and Gap Insurance will cover the gap between the amount shelled about by your insurance company and how much you dropped on your new car. Not a bad deal, but if you’re going to go for it, don’t let the dealership push you to opt for theirs. Compared to what it can cost from any common auto insurance company that offers this coverage, it’s almost always a complete rip-off.


Suggested By: Sean, Photo Credit: Car Buying/Jalopnik

6.) “Extended Warranty” Scam


A favorite among telemarketers and spam mailers alike is to solicit naive consumers into springing for an “extended warranty” on daily drivers they may or may not even own. An extended warranty that won’t cover consumables like brakes and clutches or even engine or transmission components. You know why? Because it’s all a scam.

Suggested By: Hi, I’m Nibby!, Photo Credit: US BMR

5.) Cash 4 Clunkers


Looking on from outside the automotive industry, the Cash 4 Clunkers program may have seemed like a mighty fine operation, but truthfully, it took a lot of cars off the road that very well might have had a lot of life left in them, and tricked consumers into dropping money into dealer’s banks accounts, resulting in some very happy auto manufacturers.

Suggested By: JCAlan, Photo Credit: Getty Images via Jalopnik

4.) Fake Money Order Scam


Always remember to verify certified checks and money orders with your bank! Reader As Du Volant can explain how easy it is for thieves to get away with this scam:

Someone sells a car on eBay, Craigslist, whatever. Say the price is $10,000. The “buyer” sends them a very well-made fake money order for an amount higher than the purchase price. $12,000 or so. Their excuse is they had the money order drawn up already for a previous sale that fell through, they made an honest mistake, any number of excuses. They ask for the seller to refund the difference.

Because the money order looked so legit, the seller’s bank accepted it and put the funds in their account. The seller then sends the “buyer” their refund. Two weeks later the money order comes back as fake and the seller’s bank reverses the deposit and pulls the funds out of their account. Now the seller is out thousands of dollars. They’ll never get it back because these scammers use fake names and PO boxes and often aren’t even in the US, and almost never get caught.


Suggested By: As Du Volant, Photo Credit: Romance Scams

3.) Dealership Service “Recommendations”


If your car is covered under an actual, factory warranty or if you don’t have time to find a more economical privateer option, dealership service might not be that bad. Service provided by dealers is often professional and quick. Just be sure to look out for those extra “recommended” services that your service advisor will be trying to stick you with. Decline, decline, decline.

Suggested By: langadamd , Photo Credit: Getty Images

2.) Fuelshark


The Fuelshark is a game-changer. Forget about that new Cadillac ELR you were considering, because with the Fuelshark, your MPGs will skyrocket and you’ll probably never have to visit a gas station again! And all for the low price of $39.95.

How does that sound? Realistic? I would hope not, but that’s basically how Fuelshark is marketed and how some very unfortunate people have fallen for this scam. Fuelshark is supposed to work by using its “voltage stabilizer” to control the electrical system in the car, via your preferred cigarette outlet, and thus stabilizing your vehicle’s engine performance for maximum fuel efficiency. It doesn’t work. Don’t fall for it.


Suggested By: Mr-PLP, Photo Credit: Jason Torchinsky/Jalopnik

1.) Craigslist Lies


There are so many things to be weary of when buying on Craigslist, it’s scary. From the common “ran when parked” to the “A/C just needs a recharge”, you can never fully trust a Craigslist car seller.

If you think something doesn’t add up, service records don’t make sense or maybe you just want to be cautious, arrange for a pre-purchase inspection to be done on the car before you buy it. If the seller won’t allow it, you probably don’t want to be buying that car.


Suggested By: DennyCraneDennyCraneDennyCrane, Photo Credit: Flickr via Car Buying/Jalopnik

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