According to Statista, in 2021, the Facebook Marketplace received one billion visitors per month. It’s certainly a viable place to buy just about anything that people are willing to sell. Does that include cars? Should you purchase a vehicle from the Facebook Marketplace?
You can buy a car from the Facebook Marketplace, but as you would when purchasing a used car elsewhere, you must be smart. Always see the car in person, ask about the vehicle’s history, and never buy the car first and pick it up later.
This guide to buying a car from the Facebook Marketplace will help you make a well-informed purchasing decision and avoid scams. There’s lots of great information to come, so make sure you keep reading!
Is Buying a Car from the Facebook Marketplace a Good Idea?
Today, you can jump on the Internet and begin shopping around for your next set of wheels. While many serious buyers will use car-centric resources like Cars.com, Autotrader, CarMax, and the like, others might want to try social media avenues like the Facebook Marketplace.
Facebook Marketplace is a viable place for buying a used car just as resources like Craigslist is. Some car shoppers have reported that cars available through the Facebook Marketplace are usually priced lower.
If you do decide to buy a car through Facebook Marketplace, then all the regular used car shopping tips apply. Here are our best practices.
Always See a Car in Person
Sure, you can buy a lot of goods online without seeing them in person, but a car is not one of those purchases. Photos and even videos are nice, but you need to see the car so you can inspect its undercarriage, its trunk, its headlining, and all the other little areas not captured in photographs or videos.
Plus, more importantly, you need to drive the car. No image can tell you what that experience will be like!
Request a Vehicle History Report
The Facebook Marketplace seller might claim to be the first owner, and maybe that’s true and perhaps it isn’t. Without a vehicle history report, you won’t know.
The report can also tell you about the vehicle’s accident history so you’re aware of what might be wrong with it going into the purchase.
A vehicle history report isn’t free, but it’s better to pay $40 now than hundreds to thousands of dollars later because you bought a lemon.
Consider a Professional Inspection
If this is the first car you’re buying new or used, then you might not know everything you’re supposed to be looking out for. It doesn’t hurt to pay for a professional mechanic to inspect the vehicle inside and out before you sign on the dotted line.
The seller will have to consent to the inspection, of course. If they don’t, then you should be wary. There’s a reason the seller doesn’t want a pro to look at the car. They could be trying to hide something.
Ask for the VIN
A VIN is short for a vehicle identification number. All vehicles have one. A VIN number should be 17 digits, including some capital letters and numbers.
The VIN tells you a lot about a vehicle, including its manufacturer, specifications, and features. You can also learn about insurance, thefts, warranty claims, registrations, and any recalls on the vehicle through the VIN.
The seller should be more than willing to provide the VIN for the car or truck you’re buying through the Facebook Marketplace. If not, then no deal!
How to Avoid Scams on Facebook Marketplace
The problem with any online retailer that welcomes third-party sellers is that scams can occur. Facebook Marketplace is not immune to that. Since a car is going to cost you a lot more money than a bad deal on a pair of sneakers or an iPhone, you need to be especially careful.
These are our best suggestions for warding off scams when searching for a used car on the Facebook Marketplace.
Know What the Prices Mean
As we mentioned, cars on the Facebook Marketplace are usually lower-cost, but some are downright dirt cheap.
In some cases, this is an illusion just to get clicks. For example, if a used car headline has a three-figure price for a car, that’s not what the seller is offering. Instead, they’ll include the real asking price in the description.
Yes, that means you have to click through every car listing you’re interested in to ascertain the real price. This is time-consuming, but it’s worth doing.
If the seller is indeed offering a used car for three figures and it’s a newer make and model, then you can assume it’s a scam. Avoid that listing!
Don’t Pay First and Buy Later
This is the worst thing you can do when buying any used car, be that on the Facebook Marketplace or through your coworker’s friend’s friend. As we already made clear, you must see and test-drive the car first before you know whether it’s worth owning.
Even if you see a car that you really like, refrain from buying it outright.
Skip Deals Where the Seller Is Picky about Payment
Money is money, so it shouldn’t matter if you pay through PayPal, credit card, debit card, or check. If the Facebook Marketplace buyer is insisting that you pay through a certain means, such as cryptocurrency and especially sending a wiring transfer, something is usually up.
Also, back out of any deals where you have to spend money to send the buyer money. Those are usually scams too.
Only Pay When Everything Matches Up
When the seller hands over the bill of sale, lien release, title, VIN number, and the like, you can verify everything, only then should you pay for the vehicle. If it takes a while for you to receive these documents and review them, then so be it.
It’s not like you’re going to drive around in the car until then. You’ll wait to take it home until you’re sure it’s in good enough condition to own.
Meeting in Person Through the Facebook Marketplace? Follow These Safety Tips
One of the downsides of buying a vehicle through the Facebook Marketplace as opposed to doing so through a dealership is that you have to meet up with a stranger to exchange the car for your money.
Most people who use the Facebook Marketplace are everyday social media users like yourself. They want their payment and wish to give you what you purchased. However, nefarious characters use the platform as well, which is why we recommend you’re cautious as you proceed.
Use a Messaging Service
If you can, avoid giving the seller your real phone number. You might take your messaging about the car over to Facebook Messenger. You know the seller already has Facebook anyway since they’re on the Marketplace, so why not?
You can download Facebook Messenger on your phone and message the seller like you’re texting your friends or family members. The seller never has your phone number though.
Oh, speaking of keeping your private information private, before you start interacting with sellers on the Facebook Marketplace, it’s a good idea to go on your Facebook profile and clean it up. Remove any contact details like a phone number or email address. You might even want to remove which city or town you live in.
Meet at a Public Location
It doesn’t matter where you and the seller meet, per se, but it must be public. If you feel safer doing the exchange at a police station, you can, but that’s far from your only option. Try the local library, a park, a restaurant or café, or a shopping mall. Wherever there are people, that’s where you want to be.
No Nighttime Meetings
If the seller only wants to meet with you after sundown, that’s shady. It could just be that they’re busy with work or other tasks, or it could be that they’re trying to set you up for a potentially dangerous situation.
Push for a daytime arrangement. Should the seller refuse, then don’t proceed with the deal. The seller must have some spare time eventually, so their excuse becomes flimsier as time goes on.
Don’t Go Alone
You should always bring at least one other person with you when going to check out the used car. They can act as another set of eyes when inspecting the vehicle, but much more importantly, there’s strength in numbers.
If the seller was trying to do something criminal such as attack you and steal your money, the presence of a second or even a third person will certainly dissuade them.
Let Others Know Where You’ll Be
Even though you’ll have a small posse with you, it’s still not a bad idea to tell someone else in your life where you’ll be going and what you’ll be doing. This way, if they don’t hear from you after a while, they can contact the authorities. It usually won’t come to that, but you can never be too safe!
You can buy a car from the Facebook Marketplace if you so choose, but do be aware that scammers and nefarious characters abound. If you see the car in person, get the right information such as the VIN number, and meet to buy the car in a public place, there’s no reason why you can’t find a great used car on Facebook!
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.