Car Guide

Common Car Import Scams

2012 Volkswagen GLI Sedan

There is a lot of money to be made in the importing and exporting of new and classic cars. Before you make the purchase of a foreign car, beware of several common scams that have plagued car importers in the past. The agents at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are already skeptical of vehicles coming in from overseas, and falling prey to one of these schemes can spell certain doom.

Unclear Title

Cars can only be imported into the USA if the title is clear. You may think you’re getting a clear title only to find out when it hits the shores that it is ineligible to enter the country. Do you research and make certain the title is clear before getting involved.

Photo source: Daily Express

Disregard of Safety Standards

One critical step in importing a car in the USA is making sure that it meets all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards. Foreign cars that are built to these specifications will have a note on the engine block written in English attesting to such fact. But some scammers promise such standards are met but deliver a substandard vehicle, leaving the purchaser on the hook to get the car up to date or surrender it to the authorities.

Alternative Payment Methods

As with making any purchase through indirect means, make absolute certain that your money is reaching the seller of the vehicle in the location of the vehicle. Be wary of sellers asking you to use an intermediary or a money transfer service with which you are unfamiliar. In any case, check with your bank or financial institution before sending off any money to an unknown entity.

Waived Taxes

If a seller is telling you they can waive import taxes and fees, watch out. These are assessed on every item imported into the country, regardless of who is buying or selling. More likely the seller is omitting paperwork to attempt to sneak the vehicle into the country. The taxes assessed on an imported vehicle can often make the purchase twice as expensive, so even if you’re the type who cuts out Turbotax coupons, you should know that paying this tax is inevitable.

Indeterminate Vehicle Location

Just because a car was made in Italy doesn’t mean the car you are buying is necessarily located there. Be sure to carefully research where the seller is located and what import rules apply to that country. Likewise, watch out for shipments that move between several countries en route to you. This can not only raise some red flags with the CBP, but it can substantially delay when you receive your vehicle.