For most of us, our car is one of our biggest assets and when we buy or sell a new one it can be an exciting time. While most people are honest when presenting a car for sale, unfortunately a few are not. So, it makes sense to take care when buying or selling a car online.

To help you avoid problems, we have put together a list of what to watch out for and action to take when going through the buying or selling process online.

1. Check the price

As they say, if it looks too good to be true then it probably is! If the price listed for the car seems to be a lot less than similar ones on the market, then there may be something wrong that they may not be telling you about, or it’s possibly a scam. In this scenario, it is wise to walk away.

2. Check the odometer

If the car’s odometer doesn’t seem to match the age of the vehicle, it might have been tampered with. There are of course some legitimate reasons for having an exceptionally low odometer reading but if you have any suspicion, it is best to check it out with a mechanic.

3. Check their contact information

If the buyer or seller lists their phone number (they should!) then give them a call to have a chat about the car. This is a good opportunity to check they answer the phone and talk to you. If your call isn’t answered, or the number doesn’t connect, take this as a warning sign.

4. View the car before buying it

Always make sure you can check out the car in person before buying it. If you’re selling, make sure you invite potential buyers to come and view your car.

In particular, it’s important to watch out for potential scams, where the seller says they will transport the car to you for free after you purchase it. The easiest way to avoid being caught is to view the car before you buy it. It also allows you to check everything else about the car and take it for a test drive.

In New Zealand you can search the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) to see if there is any money owed on a car, the NZ Police website to see if the car has been reported as stolen.

5. Be wary of people wanting a quick sale

If someone is trying to sell their car quickly be careful it is not just a ploy to force you to make a quick decision. Sometimes people say they are moving to another city and are desperate for a sale. It could be true and, if so, you’ll potentially get a great deal, but it pays to be extra cautious.

6. Be careful when meeting buyers and sellers

It is always a good idea when meeting strangers to meet in a public place and, if possible, take a friend or family member with you. It’s best to avoid inviting people to your home and, if allowing people to take your car for a test drive, make sure your insurance will cover damage in case of any accidents.

7. They don’t upload good photos

If sellers list cars for sale online with bad photos that could be a sign that all is not what it appears. For example, they might be hiding possible damage to the vehicle. If you’re interested in the car, there’s no harm in asking for additional, better quality photos.

8. Be careful of payment methods

If you are buying a car online, try and make sure you pay the seller via an NZ bank account and not an overseas payment system such as PayPal. This is because your money will be harder to recover if it’s through an offshore payment gateway. And, when you’re selling a car, don’t hand over your keys until the money is safely in your account.

9. Make sure the paperwork is signed

When you buy or sell a car in New Zealand, both the buyer and seller are legally required to independently notify the NZ Transport Agency of the sale and acquisition. This can be done online or at an NZTA agent. If a buyer or seller won’t complete the paperwork, you should stop the transaction and find a new buyer or seller.