Is it safe to buy a car on Facebook Marketplace?

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Words: Matthew Hansen
24 Sep 2020

It used to be that you’d buy a black and white classifieds rag from the petrol station down the road if you wanted to find a bargain — many of them lurking in pages with no imagery, just four lines of text. “1983 Toyota Corolla. Mint. Drives perfect. As is where is.”

Nowadays buying a car can be quite a complicated exercise, even before you consider things like finance and insurance. And the advent of Facebook Marketplace as a tool to truly rival a juggernaut like TradeMe has only further stirred the pot.

The social media website’s trading section has become a target for some scam artists. One of the latest cases concerns Auckland man Tony Bing. Speaking to Stuff, Bing was surprised to find the 2008 BMW 335i that he has listed for sale on TradeMe has also been listed for sale on Facebook Marketplace under the name of a complete stranger, and for less than half the price.

“The buyer contacted me wanting to negotiate the price down to $6000, which got me a bit confused because I had listed it on Trade Me for $15,000. I eventually figured out the buyer was referring to a Facebook listing which I had no idea about,” Bing told Stuff.

“It’s a little frustrating that no one’s been able to do anything. My concern is more for other people who could potentially fall for it and pay money to buy my car, and they lose money. The only contact they have if they’re scammed is mine on my Trade Me listing or the car registration, which points back to me not the person running the scam.”

While classifieds websites like TradeMe and eBay have a raft of safety nets for buyers and sellers who fall foul of scammers, Facebook Marketplace isn’t nearly as complex or regulated. Bing struggled to get the fake vehicle listing removed, even after contacting Netsafe, the police, and Facebook.

Unlike Facebook, a website like TradeMe has a feedback system, payment alternatives like Afterpay that can automatically perform refunds if buyers are unhappy with products or if things don’t show up, and many other protections.

While Facebook Marketplace is clearly not perfect, there’s a raft of things you can do as a buyer to help ensure that your experience is scam free.

When it comes to cars, make sure you try before you buy to ensure that the lister and the car are actually connected, and to make sure the car functions as described. Research the car before committing so that you know what to look for. And, if you get a hunch that you’re being shafted, know that you can walk away at any point.

 

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