How To Safely Buy or Sell a Car Online

  | 7 min read
How to safely buy and sell a car online

Stay safe online

A difficult decision that most car sellers and potential buyers deal with is whether to buy or sell a car online. E-commerce has become one of the biggest revolutions of our time. From groceries, to land, to cars; you can buy and sell almost anything online. However, with the rise of e-commerce comes with the rise of scammers and people take advantage of the anonymity of open platforms to benefit from sellers and buyers.


A car is a very important asset as it requires a heavy investment and sometimes, you have to take a loan or save for a very long time in order to afford one. You should thus be very careful when buying or selling a car online.


Safe online car-buying tips

How to safely buy and sell cars online

Sites such as provide you with a host of individual car sellers and dealers in Tanzania and abroad. Such sites bring together the best car sellers on one platform and give you a wide range of options. However, as much as they go to great lengths to ensure that the ads on the site are genuine, you still need to be on the lookout. Here are things you should bear in mind:

  • Talk to the seller directly. Most online scammers will insist on using chats via SMS or WhatsApp and email to communicate with people they intend to scam. Not that there is anything wrong with communication via SMS and email, but, you should ensure that the communication is verbal at some point. Get the person’s phone number and call them, or better yet, meet with them before making any monetary commitments.
  • Be wary of extremely good deals. Sometimes, the vehicle’s price is too low for its odometer reading or its year of manufacture. Ask yourself why anyone would want to sell such an important asset at a significantly lower price. Is it broken? If not, why make a loss anyway?
  • Verify the identity of the person selling you the car. If you find the advertisement suspicious, check for details such as the price. Scammers will often replicate an advertisement of a genuine seller and then lower the price of the car to lure buyers. As such, cross-check details like price to ensure that the advertisement is genuine. In some cases, the scammer’s information will be scanty so that should be a red flag. When you see an advert, ensure that the car is not similar to another one on the site. An identical advert, with different contact details and price, often indicates scamming. If you detect such a case, report to the website for the necessary attention.
  • Do not make any transactions before doing your due diligence. Additionally, do not share your financial details with anyone. Transactions should be open, transparent and without any glitches. If the seller is soliciting for your financial information or pressuring you to make payments, through mobile money transfers or wire transfers, you should be wary of their intentions. Genuine sellers will often give you time to do your due diligence and inspect the car.
  • Verify that the number plate, engine number, and vehicle registration match those of documents such as insurance papers. Fake documents will often have inconsistencies.
  • Do a test drive in a safe location. It goes without saying that a test drive is highly recommended before buying a car. It is your way of ensuring that the car is in good condition and you are getting value for your money. To ensure that you are not mugged, have the test drive in a safe location and agree on a route with the seller before you go on the drive.
  • Be wary of people contacting you and asking for personal details. Online companies will never contact you to ask for your personal information or login details to your account on the site. As such, if someone calls and solicits for personal information such as passwords and financial information, that is a classic case of a scammer.
  • Do not carry money or cheques when going for a test drive. If you are not knowledgeable about cars, go with a friend or a trusted person for the test drive. Payments should be made after you are satisfied and in a safe location like a bank.

Safe online car-selling tips

How to safely buy and sell a car online

It is not only buyers who can get scammed. Even sellers have fallen victim to unscrupulous people and lost their cars in the process. If you want to sell your car online, you also have to be very careful as a car is an important and costly asset. Usually, buyers will initiate communication and this means that you must be very alert. Here are ways to ensure that you stay safe:

  • Never give out the following details to a prospective buyer: details about your transactions with the site, financial information such as bank details and mobile money transactions, where your normally park your car at night, and personal details. This is information that can be used to steal your vehicle or defraud you.
  • Be wary of buyers who contact you and ask for the login details for your account on the website you are selling your car.
  • Do not deal with a buyer who offers you more money than you are asking for, in the pretence that they want to make a quick purchase.
  • Buyers who make you an offer before inspecting the car are usually scammers so end all dealings with them.
  • Buyers will often ask to test drive and inspect the car before buying it. As such, agree to meet at a neutral location such as a police station or a public place and make sure you are accompanied by someone. Do not let the potential buyer go on a test drive alone. Additionally, agree on a test-drive route to ensure that it is a safe area.
  • When you meet the buyer to go for a test drive, ask for information such as full names, verify it and send this information to a friend if possible. This will ensure that in the event of any issues, someone else can help trace the person.
  • Always have your keys with you while changing seats after the test drive or anytime you walk out of the car.
  • Do not carry any documents such as logbooks, certificates of inspection and vehicle registration certificates to a test drive. If you agree on the sale with the buyer, you will arrange for a different date to deliver these documents. Scammers have been known to lure sellers to a test drive where they rob them of these documents and effectively get to steal the car.
  • Even if you have met potential buyers and had discussions, do not take down your advert from the site until you have sealed the deal.

How to safely buy and sell a car online

  • Only arrange to have payments made in a bank so that the authenticity of the money is verified and you do not risk carrying large sums of money around. Even if payment is being done using a cheque, ensure that you are paid in a bank and only transfer the ownership of the car to the buyer once payment is confirmed. You also get an opportunity to confirm the authenticity of a cheque if payment is made inside a bank.
  • Do not accept confirmation of remittance of money from the buyer. If it is an electronic transfer or cash deposit, seek confirmation from the bank only. A buyer may lie about cash transfer and this will end up being a long case and you can potentially lose your car.
  • Finally, be aware of the bare minimum you are willing to accept and be open to negotiations that do not go below this limit. Once payment is confirmed, you can now transfer the necessary legal documents to the new car owner.

Buying or selling a car online can be a hustle-free process.

How to safely buy and sell a car online

It is easy, convenient and most importantly, you can check out different cars, compare makes and prices of cars being sold locally and internationally. With online buying, you get options from a wide variety of sellers, which can help you get the best deal in the market. If you are selling your car, you get to market your car for free and above all, you have a wide audience. However, with this ease comes challenges posed by scammers. Stay safe online.

Doreen Mueke
Doreen is the Senior Content Marketer at Ringier One Africa Media.