BOISE, Idaho — If you're looking for a new ride, get ready to visit the car lot virtually. COVID-19 has forced many auto dealerships to pivot to new ways to sell their stock, including through online sales.
Rebecca Barr from the Better Business Bureau says many manufacturers are still catching up on the COVID standstill they experienced in spring. Local dealerships and car lots have been busy with people spending stimulus checks on a new car. People are also choosing to get their own car instead of using public transportation and ride-hailing options due to health concerns, leading to a supply-and-demand issue.
Barr says while you may not be able to find the make or model of a car you want. You may also not be able to negotiate a price. Now, many are looking to purchase a used vehicle instead of a new version, and they're looking online to do so.
Low inventory and social distancing have created an unprecedented shift in buying vehicles online, opening the door for scammers. Many platforms are rife with ads of cars, trucks, vans, and RVs for sale for low prices. Sellers are offering to make third-party delivery arrangements if the buyer pays via an escrow account. Unfortunately, neither the automobile nor the escrow company exists -- leaving the buyer without their money or their vehicle. This has resulted in thousands of consumers falling victim to this vehicle escrow scam, with losses totaling millions of dollars.
Before you buy your new ride online, remember these tips:
· Research a trusted seller. Know the reputation of the dealership you are buying from. Read reviews and complaints to learn what other customers have experienced. This is especially important if you are not able to see the car in person.
· Watch out for too good to be true deals. Con artists are notorious for putting up fake ads on third-party websites with low prices. They often copy and paste vehicle photos and post them in different cities around the country.
· Get a vehicle history report. Check to see if the title is marked “salvaged." This is especially important right now in the middle of hurricane season to make sure you aren’t getting a car that could potentially have flood damage.