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What to Avoid When Buying a Car from a Facebook Seller

As of this writing on April 2023, I am looking to replace my aging 2010 Subaru Outback with 65k miles on its odometer.

The Outback has served me very well, and although it has very little mileage and runs well, I think the aging process is slowly taking its toll (my town uses an obscene amount of road salt during winter).

Ideally, I want to replace it with another Outback made between 2015 to 2019 with 50k-80k on the odometer. I do not want an Outback from 2020 to 2021 due to them not being made well during the pandemic.

I have purchased many used items from Facebook marketplace so I naturally look there to see if I can find an Outback I wanted.

2017 Subaru Outback

Here is a nice looking 2017 Subaru Outback with 71k miles and the seller is only asking for $12,800. With the pandemic and Carvana scooping up a lot of used cars, I guess that the price is about $7k less than the current going rate.

When I click on the listing, I am presented with lots of pictures with a car that is pretty much in immaculate condition.

The seller states that the car “runs and drives great has no issues“.

The seller posted about 20 pictures and the car looks great.


So do I need to jump on this right away?

When buying a car, caveat emptor or buyer be ware is so true. If the deal seems to be too good to be true, it most likely is and it is better to move on rather than buying a possible lemon.

So here are few things to watch out for when buying a used car from Facebook Marketplace:

Warning # 1 – Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is not mentioned in the listing

Now, to be fair, the seller did include a photo of the VIN plate attached to the door sill, but if you are relatively new at this, you will not know what to do with that plate as it contains a lot of information

VIN is absolutely crucial to see if the vehicle has a rebuilt or salvage title. Once you have it, you can use a free online tool mentioned in my post Free VIN Check to Detect a Salvage or Rebuilt Title to verify.

In this case, the National Crime Information Bureau (NICB) informed me that the car has a salvage title due to a collision.

At this point, since the seller has not been honest, it would be best to walk away but I would like to mention few more items.

Warning # 2 – Watch out for inconsistent gaps between body panels

When looking at pictures, pay a special attention to the gaps between body panels. The spacing should be consistent all around.

Notice how the gap by A is tight but the gap by B is wider

Gaps from the side view

In addition to the front fascia not lining up, take a look at the passenger side gap vs the driver side gap on the rear hatch:

Take Aways

Regardless of where you buy, purchasing a used car is not an easy process, especially if the seller is being less than 100% honest.

All we can do it to pay attention to detail and be willing to walk away if there is any doubt.

Remember, don’t fall in love with a particular car!