Motorhome scams appear to be the latest “get rich quick” scheme! Unscrupulous rogues reassure buyers that all is well before disappearing off into the sunset with the deposit, leaving the buyer with no van and no money.
Most of us out here are decent people. Genuine sellers have sound vehicles for sale. BUT how do you know that you are dealing with one of the goodies?
How do you avoid motorhome scams?
Firstly, look at the advert. If it all seems too good to be true, chances are IT IS! There are bargains, but not at ridiculously low prices. By all means check out the van which is several thousand pounds cheaper than others of a similar spec, but proceed with extreme caution!
It could be a financial scam, or there could be something nasty lurking under the bonnet or in the motorhome hab area.
Having decided upon the make, model, layout etc. of your perfect motorhome, see how much they sell for. As well as giving you your financial target, it will guide you towards recognising a potential scam.
If you query the price, you may get the saddest story ever. Of course. you’ll then be quite happy to give them thousands of pounds of your money for nothing won’t you!
Here is our gallery of older motorhomes to give you ideas on what may suit you.
Look again at the advert. Are the photographs all taken at the same time of day, in the same place? Even at the same time of year? Check the weather matches picture to picture – are the trees bare or in leaf? A scammer does not often actually have the vehicle, so they need to get photographs from the internet. They may copy from several sources which is a giveaway.
If all the photos are from the same time, look behind the vehicle. Is there a dealer’s signage? Has a dealer’s watermark been cropped off? Just be a detective!
Do not trust an advert with only one photo!
Use the DVLA website
Ask for the registration number and check it on the DVLA website. That may show you where the vehicle has been for MOTs. You can also check to see if it has been reported as stolen, written off or has outstanding finance.
Even if you can show invoices and think you had genuinely bought the vehicle from its owner, if it is stolen you will lose it. And if there is finance outstanding, you then assume responsibility for the debt. Being the victim of motorhome scams gets you sympathy, but not your money back.
Do an online search for the model of van you’re looking at. Make sure the same photos are not posted elsewhere by someone else.
Don’t be fooled by a business name and address. These can be fake. Check online. See if there is a website. Look for reviews of the company. Search for a positive social media presence.
Some scammers steal the good name and reputation of a vehicle sales company.
Is the business based where the RV is?
Call the number on the website rather than the one in the advert and ask for a video tour of the vehicle. If you get any excuses, prepare to step away! A genuine dealer will be able to show you around.
A private seller should also be able and more than willing to show you the vehicle via video. Ask to see inside and out…anyone can walk up to a parked van and video it! Ask questions about it to make sure they know the van and its little quirks.
Our inspection checklist for older RVs
There are facebook posts from a dealer who claims to have a forecourt damaged motorhome. Instead of undertaking minor repairs, they are selling the vehicle on for a crazy price. What do you think?
No dealer. No motorhome. Just someone trying to get a deposit out of you.
Other posts state that if you “like, comment and share” a post, you’ll stand a chance of winning a motorhome. Ask yourself, why would a dealer do this? You know the answer – it is a scam! The post will not be on the dealer’s official account – and the idea is to obtain personal information about those who DO like, comment and share.
Sometimes a marketplace advert is stolen and re-posted with drastically lowered asking prices. A check reveals that the business is real, that they have good reviews. Or that the seller has loads of posts and friends and is a decent soul. So you pay the deposit. Once any money has been handed over, the phone numbers are changed and the buyer hears nothing more.
The answer is to ALWAYS view the vehicle before handing over money. AND to call a business from a number on their website, not the advert.
Lastly, some Facebook giveaways are simply to gain “likes” for a page. The page is then sold to an unsuspecting victim as a vibrant, active business page.
We Hobos were nearly scammed!
One seller we visited had no idea whether his van had seatbelts in the back and just kept insisting that he was selling the vehicle for his mother.
Another red flag in this case was that the registered address on the V5C was not where the lovely Autotrail Royale was parked. This can indicate a stolen vehicle. The issue here was that the engine had something nasty going on. It cut out twice during the test drive and needed more than the service the vendor recommended. The real seller was a probably a garage which was not prepared to offer a warranty.
It was my dream motorhome, surely not one of those scams! IN MY DREAMS ANYWAY!
I wanted that van. It was beautiful inside. Yellow, with original matching crockery with sunflowers on. And virtually unused. But Gav was sensible and said even before the test drive “I’m not buying it” due to the discrepancy in the addresses.
I’m a scammer’s dream! I would have been left with a huge mechanic’s bill, despite the sunflowers!
How To Find Your Perfect Motorhome We have written an ebook to guide you through the potential pitfalls and expensive mistakes when buying a motorhome.
Arrange an independent survey
Tell the seller that you will be arranging an independent survey of the van. A genuine seller will be confident enough to allow that. If they won’t wait, start to worry!
If you get pressured with “I’ve had a lot of interest, you’ll need to provide a deposit” don’t!. DO NOT PART WITH ANY MONEY BEFORE SEEING THE VEHICLE! EVER!
Check out email addresses
If the communication is via email, have a look at their email address – does it look like a business address? Look it up on google to see if anyone else has had a problem.
Are they sending you links? Do be careful with those! If they are requesting payment via a link, they are possibly phishing for your bank account details. Check out the domain – it is most likely a scam.
If you are using ebay or similar and the seller offers you a discount for finalising outside the selling platform as it saves them paying the fees, refuse. By taking the transaction off the platform you lose all your rights and protection. NOT that there’s much buyer protection in the motor vehicles section.
Remember that! Motorhome and van scams are increasing, but ebay offers little to no chance of your retrieving your money. So do not get complacent!
Don’t trust the vendor who suggests that you place the deposit into a “holding account” for release only after you’ve seen the vehicle…it’s likely that you’ll never see that van or your money again.
Some people have reported that the seller has insisted on delivering the vehicle – after requesting a deposit. Don’t fall for that one. Firstly, they may simply take the deposit and run. They may want to bring the vehicle to you as it is stolen or seriously faulty. They don’t want you knowing where they live. You cannot check that the addresses match or report them to the police if you don’t know the address!
The seller may tell you that the van is in storage – they’ll get a delivery company to bring it to you. No!
So…go to view the van before parting with any money. If it is a private sale, make sure that the V5C address and the viewing address are the same. The address on the seller’s driving licence should be the same!
If this is a dealer posing as a private seller to avoid giving a warranty, they will not be able to show you any of these.
Make sure that the number on the V5C matches the VIN on the plate.
Always have a test drive. Some owners will not allow you to drive the vehicle due to insurance. If you damage their valuable investment, it may be months before they can sell it. But it’s up to you whether you accept that or not. If they refuse to drive it with you as passenger for a decent test with emergency stops, hill starts and a “fast”pull away etc, see that as a huge red flag. “Not insured” is not good enough – what is wrong with the van?
Take a passenger with you to sit in the back and listen for unusual noises.
Could it be a scam?
Always be on the lookout for scams when buying a motorhome, RV or van. The VW T5 is a current favourite apparently – but look each and every gift horse right in its mouth!
Check MOT and servicing documentation…is the MOT only a few weeks away? If so, insist that the van must pass before you’ll buy it. Preferably at a garage of your choice as rogue garages pass vehicles which should not be on the road!
Does the mileage as noted on the MOT certificates seem right? Are there places where the steady increase in mileage stops? Has it been clocked? Especially if it is a panel van or similar used for work.
How would you like to pay?
If you are using ebay and paying via paypal you may have some level of protection provided you stay on ebay/paypal, although vehicles are usually excluded from such schemes. Just remember that it is easy to fake paypal messages. Log into your account from the internet rather than clicking any links sent to you.
If not on ebay, make them aware that you will be paying via credit card, cheque or (if necessary) bank transfer ONLY after the test drive and any other checks you want to make. If they insist upon cash, look again at those documents!
Your credit card provider may offer some financial protection should you be scammed. And banks are sometimes sympathetic.
Of course, it is difficult for the private seller to accept cards, and cheques can bounce or be cancelled. So they may insist upon transfer or cash – but be very sure that the vehicle is as advertised before handing money over. It really is worth getting an independent check.
A professional check can save you from making a huge mistake
We had our Van-Guru Dom professionally check our Autotrail T4 Cree over before we bought it. He found some serious issues with water ingress and advised us to either take off some of the repair costs from our offer price or walk away. The back corner needed rebuilding. But this was no con. We knew the owner wasn’t scamming us. A valued friend, she was unaware of how badly the habitation end was damaged. Another winter without repair could have meant the end of the road for our noble Cree.
Buying an older motorhome – 13 things you must check
It is impossible to buy a vehicle which will never breakdown. And a breakdown does not mean you were scammed. It’s just one of the joys of owning a classic van – consider it an adventure!
It is also impossible to say that you will never be scammed. It is an unfortunate fact that stealing money from innocent victims is a job role these days. Motorhome scams are easy money! Keep your wits about you and trust your gut. Even if the motorhome has yellow sunflowers on the curtains and crockery!
Motorhome scams : checklist
- FIRSTLY DO NOT SEND ANY MONEY before viewing the vehicle!
- Is the price too good to be true?
- Is there only one photo?
- Are the photographs from the same time? By the same camera?
- Can you see a dealer’s sign in the background of a private sale?
- Are the photos anywhere else on the internet?
- Check the registration number with the DVLA – look for stolen, written off, outstanding finance
- If it’s a dealer, look them up online. Social media too
- If you are emailing, check out the email address
- Call the number on the website, not from the advert
- Ask for a video tour inside and out
- Ask a private seller about the vehicle – it’s quirks and attributes
- Do not send any money!
- Go and see the vehicle for a test drive
- Private sale – see the van at the address on the V5C which will be the same address on the seller’s licence.
- Check the number on the VIN plate matches the V5C document
- Look at MOT certificates and servicing invoices – advisories and mileage, damage repairs
- Be highly suspicious of links
- Finally, never ever send money before you have seen the vehicle
If you get scammed –
If the worst happens and you find yourself the victim of a scam, tell whichever platform you used for the financial transfer. They may be able to stop the payment or offer you a refund. Vehicles are often excluded but it is worth asking.
Tell wherever you saw the advert too – the social media platform or the shop who hosted the advert.
If it was a scam falsely using a business’s details, make sure you tell them!
Tell the police: give them email addresses, phone numbers, anything that may put these people out of business.
Lastly – tell everyone else! Get your story out there! Post it in social media groups! Comment below. RANT if you like! Help prevent it happening to anyone else. Sure, there will be some who say they would never have fallen for it – leave them sitting on their golden cloud and just help the rest of us!
The vast majority of the vanlife community are decent and caring souls. You’ll get usually sympathy and understanding if you share your story – and thanked for the warning!
Sellers can be victims of motorhome scams too!
Scams involving the purchase of a motorhome are on the rise too.
A buyer claims to have sent too much money. They then request that they have the excess paid back. Of course, once you do this, their payment fails!
Another way that sellers are robbed is when someone calls them to say they have the perfect buyer and will be the liaison for a fee. Once the fee is paid the middle-man and the buyer disappear.
And finally, don’t part with money to ensure that your sales advert appears at the top of internet searches! It won’t.
A buyer offering to pay cash could use fake notes. Should they pay via cheque, make sure you wait until that has cleared before releasing the vehicle. The safest way is bank transfer so you can see the money in the account before your precious van disappears down the road.
Always accompany the buyer on a test drive. Many sellers refuse to allow anyone else to drive their vehicle. A dent or scrape will reduce the amount they can get for the it. It could mean that they would have to delay the sale pending repairs. So you may decide not to allow them to drive it, trust your instincts. You can take the wheel and they can give you instructions as to what they want see the vehicle doing.
They may insist on driving – it is up to you whether you allow it or lose the sale. Gav says he would not buy any vehicle without driving it himself. I though can understand the vendor’s reluctance to risk damage to their van.
Do you have a vehicle scam story or a handy trick to prevent scams?
Are you the victim of a motorhome scam? Maybe you have other advice to prevent motorhome scams. Tell us about your horror stories and your best ideas in the comments section below.
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