Beware: Don’t Fall For These Cash for Junk Car Scams

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Marc Skirvin

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We all want a good deal.

But knowing what your car is worth can be difficult. And it’s made more difficult by unscrupulous dealers who might exploit your ignorance.

We’ve put together some of the top auto junk yard scams you need to avoid when selling your car. Read on to find out what they are.

How Widespread Are Scams?

Junk yards and used car dealers don’t always have the best reputation.

However, most auto junk yards are legitimate businesses who will give you honest information and a fair valuation. Sadly, there are a significant number of businesses who won’t.

We can’t know for sure how many junk yards use unscrupulous tactics. But reports suggest that there are over 1 million used cars that have been title washed. This means a vehicle designated for scrap was ‘washed’ of its scrap brand and resold.

So there are dealers out there who are getting rich by skipping morality and the law. Now let’s take a look at how they do it.

Vague Units

How many pounds in a ton?

If you answered 2000 pounds, then you’re ready to be swindled. When selling your car for scrap, it’ll often be valued on the tonnage. But there are two kinds of tons.

The net ton is equivalent to 2000 pounds. But the long or metric ton is equivalent to 2,240 pounds. Dishonest junk yards won’t go out of their way to tell you which units they’re using. Instead, they’ll pay out in long tons and you’ll miss out on cash.

Stay vigilant and check what units they’re quoting you. If it looks like they’ve been trying to scam you, it might be time to find a new auto junk yard.

Tow Troubles

Is the tow charge included in your cost?

Shady dealers won’t tell you, and if you don’t ask then you could be in for a surprise. A disreputable auto junk yard will add the tow cost on to the fee they’ve already quoted you.

You might only find this out when they come to take the vehicle away. This tactic is often paired with highballing their offer. This way, they come to collect and not only demand money for towing, but also a higher figure for the car as well.

In some cases, you can even be charged twice for the towing. One charge will be included in the car’s cost, and one at the point of towing the car away.

You need to ask questions about this in advance. Upfront junk yards will tell you, but if you don’t ask then you only have yourself to blame.

False Incentives

If your auto junk yard is trying to sweeten the pot with non-cash incentives, watch out.

These dealers will offer you below the going rate for your car. But they’ll try to offer incentives like coupons to make up the difference. This might look good at first glance, but these coupons aren’t equivalent in value.

Often the coupons they issue will be very restrictive. They might be holiday coupons for very limited times of the year. Or discount vouchers that can only be redeemed in very specific circumstances.

It’s rare that these incentives will ever equal the amount of cash you’re losing from them. Don’t trade your car in for anything less than the cash it’s worth.

Putting on the Pressure

If your auto junk yard is putting a lot of pressure on you to sell, it might be time to reconsider.

A good buyer will give you time to think about their offer and will answer any questions you have. If you’re being pressured into making a decision, it’s so you don’t have time to think over the details of the offer.

Not only is this poor customer service, but it’s a classic con man trick. People make poor decisions under pressure, so it’s the best way to get you to sell your car for less than its market value.

This is most likely to occur if you’re already at the auto junk yard. Perhaps you were given an offer over the phone. Now they’re trying to push you into handing over your car and accepting whatever figure they’ve offered.

Always keep in mind that you’re absolutely entitled to walk away at any point. The more pressure involved, the less likely you are to be getting a good deal.

Payment Method

Make sure you know how you’re getting paid.

Generally, cash is the safest way to get the worth of your car. Checks could bounce, and other forms of payment might never appear in the first place. Don’t expect to see the money if you’re not being paid at the point of handing your car over.

Signing over the title of your car means you no longer own it. If you don’t receive the money by this point, you won’t be able to do much about it.

If you are accepting payment by some other method, be sure you’re with a reputable dealer. Dealers with a strong reputation are rarely going to try anything so obvious.

Never accept any kind of installment plan for your payment! Your car should be sold for a single lump sum. You have no way to police installments yourself, so you can’t take action if the buyer refuses to pay up.

Be wary if you’re told your money will be held in escrow. Escrow services should be third-parties that exist to protect a transaction. But there are fake escrows that only exist to cheat people. You’ll discover the money has vanished when you come to claim it.

Operating Without a Licence

If an auto junk yard is operating without a license, walk away.

A license isn’t always a guarantee that you’re dealing with a trustworthy business. But the lack of a license is a definite red flag. If the business is legitimate, then why wouldn’t it have a license?

Don’t be afraid to ask for your auto junk yard’s license. This should be perfectly normal for them. A genuine merchant will be happy to provide the information to put your mind at ease.

Moving the Goalposts

Bad dealers know how to think on the fly.

One of their sneakiest tricks is to play ‘shell games’. This involves deliberately confusing you as a way to get around the decisions you’ve made.

For example, let’s say you’re selling your car as a trade-in. They’ll make sure to offer you the price you want. But at the same time, they’ll also increase the cost of the car you’re purchasing.

Or this trick might get flipped. The dealer will lower the price on the car you want. As soon as you’re  interested in the savings, he’ll lowball the trade-in cost of your car. Suddenly, the generosity has disappeared.

You’re still getting what you want in theory, but in practice, you’re being swindled. Again, take the time to understand the math of what you’re being told. You’ll often be pressured into making a poor decision if you let the trader blind you with numbers.

Revising the Offer

Used car dealers are very good at getting people to the yard.

Just like when it comes to selling cars, they’ll say anything to get you to turn up. Often this means quoting a high figure for the car you’re selling or trading in.

When you arrive, that figure will mysteriously change. They’ll say the car is in poor condition, or is a less popular variation on the model.

This is especially useful to out of the way auto junk yards. They know the more effort you’ve taken to get there, the less you’ll want to walk away empty-handed. They also rely on your desperation to get rid of a car you no longer want.

Try to keep your patience. Don’t sell just because you’re already there. Take your car to a more reputable auto junk yard and leave the dishonest dealer out of a profit.

Doing You a Favor

Have you been told your car isn’t worth anything, but they’ll take it anyway?

If so, you’ve been conned. The vast majority of cars will have value as scrap metal, if nothing else. But most will have more value than that.

After all, the dealer wouldn’t touch it if it wasn’t worth anything to them. If your chosen auto junk yard tries to feed you this line, find another one. It’s a sure sign of a dishonest buyer.

Buyers will often try to undervalue your car. This tactic has two purposes. First, it makes you feel like you’ve got a good deal when you negotiate your way up. But really you’re only getting what the car’s worth – if you’re lucky.

Secondly, the dealer can use this to work out how much of a sucker you are! If you accept their valuation without question, they know they can exploit you.

No Demand

It’s in the interest of the buyer to convince you that your car isn’t worth anything.

Many buyers will say they just don’t have a demand for the model you’re selling. Then they can get away with quoting you under the going rate for your vehicle.

The best way to combat this approach is by doing your research in advance. Is your car popular in your area? Does it often get used for spares? Many shady dealers rely on their victim’s lack of knowledge, so they’ll quickly back down when you tell them the facts.

But even if you get them to budge, you should shop elsewhere. If they’re prepared to try this trick, then they’ll probably try many others.

Too Expensive to Repair

Related to the above, auto shops will sometimes convince you that your car is too expensive to repair.

In this case, auto shops will offer to take your car off you for scrap, once again. But this time, they’ll just fix it up and sell it on for a profit. Not only are you down a car, but you might have the displeasure of seeing your car for sale at a later date.

This may also be a sign that the yard is in the business of washing titles. They want the car to be sold as scrap so they can sell on a serviceable vehicle elsewhere.

The Paperwork

If you’re selling your car, be sure to cancel your registration and remove the plates.

Don’t ask the auto junk yard to do this for you. Some dealers will fail to cancel the registration. That means anything that happens with the car will still be traced back to you.

Some dealers even have the nerve to charge previous owners for storing the car on their lot.

So What Can I Do?

You might be asking this after reading a list of ways you can be scammed!

Thankfully, the majority of junk yards are honest businesses. They’ll be upfront with you and treat you as a customer. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to find junk yards with good reputations. They should also have few complaints lodged with the Better Business Bureau.

But you should also stay informed. Even with an honest business, you could get unlucky and deal with an unscrupulous member of staff.

The best way to avoid scams is to research. Know what your car is worth and stick to that figure. If you’ve been told your car is repairable, don’t accept an offer to scrap it.

You should always be as honest as you can with a dealer to avoid surprises. Even an honest yard may have to revise the price if you haven’t told them everything.

Finally, make sure to cancel your registration and remove your plates before selling your car on. You don’t want to be liable for anything that happens after you’ve sold it.

Be Smart at The Auto Junk Yard

There are more cons than those listed here. But if you keep the above in mind and stay informed, you should be able to avoid the worst the industry can offer. Seek out a reputable dealer and get the full value on your car.

Be sure to follow our blog for more tips on selling your car to an auto junk yard, or contact us for a free quote.

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About the Author

Picture of Marc

Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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