Is It Safe to Buy a Car on Facebook?

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Contributing Writer

Bethany Hickey is a graduate from the University of Michigan-Flint, with a bachelor’s in English-Writing. She is a content writer for Auto Credit Express, CarsDirect, and many other automotive blogs, as well as the Poetry Editor for UM-Flint’s writing magazine.


, Contributing Writer - November 16, 2020

Buying a car online is becoming more popular in recent months due to the global COVID pandemic, and the desire for social distancing. But what about buying a vehicle through Facebook with online paying systems like PayPal or other peer-to-peer payment platforms?

It may not be the best idea.

Facebook Marketplace and Car Buying

You can buy most things online these days, including a car! But how safe is it to buy a vehicle on Facebook from a stranger? Well, it can work out in your favor, but it may not. And what happens if you do get scammed or the car isn’t really what you wanted?

Sellers can list vehicles on Facebook Marketplace, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to pay for the car online or organize the transaction through that platform. The bad news is that Facebook doesn’t protect the purchases of vehicles in their purchase protection policy. If you file a claim with Facebook saying that the car wasn’t what you expected or you never got it, you’re probably out of luck. You can still buy it, but it can be risky.

There are 21 items in their purchase protection program that Facebook doesn’t protect, six of them are:

  • Vehicles
  • Services
  • Real estate
  • Equity
  • Buyer’s remorse
  • Collectibles

If you do go through a car purchase through Facebook Marketplace and you regret the purchase, buyer's remorse isn't enough of a reason to make a claim with Facebook. It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with their purchase protection policies before you decide on something big like a vehicle.

Facebook may review a purchase if it went south, and may even block users that deliberately scam others, but that’s probably the most they can do. The payment system that you used to buy the car online can determine whether or not you can get your money back, too, if you didn’t pay cash.

Using Online Payment Systems for a Vehicle

Looking for a vehicle on social media platforms like Facebook isn’t automatically unsafe or a bad idea. What’s not safe is using online paying services to pay for the car with the Facebook seller.

If you find a vehicle you’d like to buy, and the seller asks you to pay with PayPal or another online payment method, consider these risks:

  • PayPal – While PayPal has a purchase protection program, it doesn’t cover car purchases. If you use PayPal through Facebook – which they support – you may not be able to get your cash back. You wouldn’t be able to open a case for review to get your money back if you bought a vehicle over Facebook and used PayPal to pay for it. Facebook may report the scammer, but as far as your money, it’s probably long gone.
  • Peer-to-peer paying method – If you paid for the car with a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment services, like Venmo, then you may not get your money back if something goes wrong, either. These P2P platforms state that you should only give money to people you know personally, and their platform shouldn’t be used to pay for goods and services. If they find out that someone is using their platforms to accept cash for vehicle transactions, they may even suspend the account.
  • Gift cards – Avoid sellers that ask you to pay with gift cards online, too. Never pay for a car with a gift card. In fact, don’t pay anyone online for anything with a gift card. Once you buy the gift card, it’s nearly impossible to get that money back if you’re scammed, and once it’s cashed out, say bye-bye to your money. This is exactly why many online scammers state they take gift cards as payments, as they know they’re likely to keep that money once the scam is revealed.

Buying a Car With a Private Party

If paying for a vehicle with online payment systems is risky, what’s the safest way to buy a car from a private party?

Meet with them in person to do an exchange of money, and if you can help it, don’t buy a vehicle sight unseen. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a listing for a car on Facebook or any other site and contacting the seller that way, but don’t pay for the vehicle with online payment services – your cash may not be safe.

Before you give the seller any form of payment, schedule a test drive for the car to make sure it’s really what you want because vehicle sales don’t usually come with a return policy. Most private-party car sales are “as is,” so if something goes wrong, you’re probably stuck with the vehicle.

Be sure to fill out a bill of sale, check out the car’s title to make sure there isn’t a lien on it, go to the Department of Motor Vehicles or Secretary of State to transfer ownership, and secure auto insurance. Be vigilant while looking at vehicles online, and keep your wits about you. If something smells fishy, or the seller seems reluctant to accept cash or meet in person, then walk away (or log out!).

Consider a Dealership

Another option to consider is shopping with a dealership instead. Private-party sales can be less expensive than buying from a dealer, but a car from a dealership has likely been inspected, and you can usually purchase extended warranties for used vehicles.

Dealers can also offer certified pre-owned (CPO) cars, which can offer more peace of mind. CPO vehicless are rigorously inspected by a manufacturer-certified mechanic for quality, and they must meet a list of standards set by the automaker to earn the stamp of a true CPO.

Dealerships can also offer add-ons like GAP insurance or extended warranties or service contracts, and many dealers are signed up with auto lenders to suit borrowers in all types of credit situations. The ones that are teamed up with bad credit lenders are called special finance car dealerships, and they're experts in assisting borrowers in tough credit situations. If this is the kind of help you need to secure financing for your next vehicle, get with us at CarsDirect.

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, Contributing Writer

Bethany Hickey is a graduate from the University of Michigan-Flint, with a bachelor’s in English-Writing. She is a content writer for Auto Credit Express, CarsDirect, and many other automotive blogs, as well as the Poetry Editor for UM-Flint’s writing magazine.


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