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What to Look for In a Facebook Marketplace Used Car

Contributed By Timothy Boyer

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Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on “Zen and the Art of DIY Car Repair” website, the Zen Mechanic blog and on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites and Facebook for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.

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First off, IMHO, one of the worst places to buy a used car of any make or model are those advertised on Facebook Marketplace. Please note, however, that this is regarding non-dealership transactions between a seller with a single car to unload and a shopper looking for a good deal. Used car dealerships sometimes use Facebook Marketplace—which can be a can of worms of its own, and one we will not get into with this article.

I know that there are some who will disagree with this absolute, however, rather than wonder why an individual is selling that used car, you should really be wondering why they are resorting to selling it on what has to be the last refuge of all financial transactions second to Craigslist.

Related article: Consumer Reports on How to Assess a Used Vehicle’s True Value

The most probable short answer to that query: Because there are no real protections if you get scammed into buying what are considered to be As-Is transactions.

Sometimes…sometimes you can return a used car sold As-Is from a used car dealership. But even that is rare. In Facebook Marketplace, many purchases are not protected.

Related article: Car Lawyer Explains Myths, Scams, and Risks of Buying a Used Car

Which Purchases Are Not Protected

According to the Facebook Marketplace website the following items and situations are not covered by their Purchase Protection Policies:

  • Any products or services that are prohibited by our Commerce Policies
  • Products marked as received
  • Vehicles
  • Real estate
  • Financial products or investments
  • Precious metals and gemstones
  • Equity or debt in a business
  • Custom or made-to-order items
  • Services
  • Donations
  • Industrial machinery
  • Perishable items
  • Buyer’s remorse
  • Items shipped using an intermediary or freight forwarding service
  • Items where the exchange of the purchased item happens in-person
  • Orders that have already been refunded or charged back by the buyer’s bank
  • Damage that occurs to items after they are delivered
  • Items bought through onsite checkout with a purchase price over $2,000
  • Tickets
  • Antiques and collectibles

So you’ve been forewarned.

The Rare Exceptions

However, there are rare exceptions where a used car might actually be in decent shape and whomever is selling it just wants the easiest way to unload a car they may have inherited from a dead relative and pocket the cash. Fair enough. That is the best possible and most positive view to hope for.

However, too often it is just the opposite, of which someone has a problem car and is seeking to unload it with a “sin of omission” type of sales tactics along with some hidden damage or other used car trickery.

That was the message in a recent Stoney Ridge Farmer YouTube channel episode where the host showcases how he “got screwed” on a Facebook Marketplace ad for a used car model he was interested in that had less than 30,000 miles on it: a 2007 Honda Element.

The value of this video is that at the very least it is a good reminder of what not to do and what to look for when considering buying a used car anywhere that does not offer buyer protection.

That said, here is the video and be sure to check my take on the video afterward.

I was so stupid! Got Burned on Marketplace Car Purchase! Learn from my mistake!

My Take on the Video

While I found it a little hard to believe the host would have fallen for such chicanery on the part of a seller; however, it does serve as a good example of what can happen to the uninitiated Facebook Marketplace used car shopper.

Furthermore, what we were not shown or was it discussed, the actual running condition of the engine. It is possible that it was fine and not a bad deal after all—especially with today’s inflated used car prices.

However, the not disclosed welded on catalytic converter mismatch, the non-disclosed paint job, the questionable CARFAX report, and the Triple-A sticker on the battery were all red flags that merit a closer inspection by a licensed mechanic before buying.

In short: Always take the time to have that all-important vehicle pre-purchase inspection regardless of who is doing the selling and what that first impression says (or lies) to you.

If you interested in some useful and short answers to questions about buying a car on Facebook Marketplace, here is an informative article from the Motor Ask dot com website.

For additional articles related to used car shopping, here are a few for your consideration:

Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on  “Zen and the Art of DIY Car Repair” website, the Zen Mechanic blog and on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites  and Facebook for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.

This article originally ran on TorqueNews.com