5 Biggest Car Loan Scams and Ripoffs to Avoid | Finder Canada

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Learn about 5 car loan scams and compare legit lenders

See our list of quality car loan providers, learn what red flags to avoid and what to do if you've been duped.

Frustrated couple checking finances at home on laptop
Canadians lose over $100 million every year to scams, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). While there are plenty of reputable car dealers, there are also those who try to make a quick buck at your expense. Below is a list of legitimate car loan providers, plus the top 5 car loan schemes and tips to avoid them.

Which car loan providers are legit?

With so many car loan providers on the market, it can be difficult to know which ones are reputable. So to help, we’ve rounded up a list of some legitimate, quality car loan providers in Canada. The table below lists these providers along with some of their stand-out features and a link to our comprehensive review on each of them.

Car loan companyIs it legit?Stand out featuresOur car loan provider review
Loans Canada

Loans Canada Car Loans

Check markLoans Canada is not a direct lender, but instead sends your information to different lenders who try to woo you into a loan agreement. You get great rates because lenders have to compete for your business.Read ReviewGo to site

CarsFast Car Loans

Check markWhile CarsFast allows you to pre-qualify for loans from multiple lenders and compare your rates, one of its best features is that it gives you easy access to financing, even if you have bad credit.Read ReviewGo to site
Car Loans Canada Logo

Car Loans Canada

Check markSearch thousands of vehicles online, including $0 down options, from dealers across the country and get matched with affordable financing options, even if you have bad credit, consumer proposals or bankruptcies.Read reviewGo to site
Picture not described

Carloans411 Car Loans

Check markCarloans411 is an easy-to-use online platform that lets you get financing from a local dealership near you. All you need to do is fill in some basic personal information, and it matches you with a loan provider.Read ReviewGo to site
loan connect

LoanConnect Car Loans

Check markLoanConnect's search engine shows lenders with highest likeliness of positive results.Read ReviewGo to site
Auto Arriba logo

Auto Arriba Car Loans

Check markAuto Arriba offers peace of mind when completing your transaction, with on-site inspections for new purchases, lien searches and a review of the CARFAX report for any damages.Read ReviewGo to site
Picture not described

Fairstone Secured Personal Loan

Check markFairstone offers secured personal loans up to $35,000. Once you’ve been approved, you should have access to your funds within a business day.Read reviewGo to site
Lending Mate logo

LendingMate Personal Loans

Check markLendingMate loans are only available to residents of Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. If you live in a different province, you’ll need to find another way to help finance your car.Read Review

See our A-to-Z list of car loan provider reviews

The 5 common car loan scams

Some dealerships or sketchy car loan providers are just interested making money, even if it’s at your expense. If you’re not working with one of our trusted providers listed in the table above, keep an eye out for these 5 car loan scams

1. Yo-yo financing and spot delivery scams

Yo-yo financing (or spot delivery scam) is a tactic used by many dealers to get you into a new car and off the lot the same day you walk in — whether your loan is approved or not. If the dealer can’t sell your loan off for a profit, you’ll be informed that the financing has fallen through. You’ll either need to renegotiate your terms or return the car.

If you’ve settled on a monthly payment plan of $250, the dealer may call you up after a week and tell you that you’ll need to pay $350 in order to get financed, otherwise your new car will be repossessed. The dealer might claim that it’s already sold your trade in or it will call the police if the car isn’t returned immediately.

  • How to avoid it: Look for language in your contract that says your loan is subject to approval. A dealer shouldn’t allow you to drive off the lot until it knows you’ll be able to pay.

2. Guaranteed approval

As with other types of loans, there’s no such thing as guaranteed approval, but many dealers will use this to get buyers on the lot. They’ll run your credit, and chances are you’ll be approved — for outrageous terms.

Why do dealers run these car loan scams? There’s a chance that a buyer has decent credit for a loan at a moderate, yet affordable rate. And some borrowers may need a car regardless of the terms they’re offered.

  • How to avoid it: Steer clear of any dealership that offers a guaranteed approval.

3. Upfront fees

No matter if you get your financing through a dealer or an independent lender, upfront fees are a bad sign. Lenders may encourage or coerce borrowers to pay a fee before the application is processed or before the funds are distributed. Don’t be fooled — these car loan scams are an attempt to get you to pay, regardless if you get the loan or not.

Upfront fee scams typically happen online where you can get lured into paying the fee and then never hear from the lender again.

  • How to avoid it: Cease contact and report any lender that asks for fees upfront. Reputable lenders won’t ask for any fees before you sign a contract.

4. Packing payments

Some call it a scam, some may just see it as a dealer trying to rip you off, but either way, packing payments change the price you pay for your loan.

A dealer encourages a buyer to focus on the monthly payment, not the total cost of the vehicle, and then packs on unnecessary extras that only change the monthly payment by $10 or $20. Over the life of a multi-year loan, however, that $10 or $20 becomes thousands of dollars.

  • How to avoid it: Keep the focus on the price of the car, not how much you’re paying per month. Keep this in mind, and the salesperson will have no room to tack on extras.

5. Loan modification scams

A loan modification scam happens after a buyer takes out a loan and struggles to make payments. Seeking relief, you may turn to businesses that claim to negotiate with the lender for a small upfront fee, usually a few hundred dollars.

As with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Victims of loan modification car loan scams are often told to stop making payments to their lender because the loan modification company is going to take care of negotiations. This never happens, and the victim can’t get in contact with the company after paying for the service.

  • How to avoid it: Stay away from companies that claim to modify your loan. If you’re struggling with payments, contact your lender directly and explain your situation. Many are willing to defer payments or extend your loan term.

Car buying scams sometimes work a lot like mortgage scams

If you’re also on the market for a home, keep these scams in mind. Loan modification scams are particularly common with mortgages as well, according to the FTC. Whether you’re buying a car or a home, be wary of advanced fees

More common dealership car-buying scams

Although not technically considered car loan scams, some tactics dealers use can cheat you out of your money.

  • Low-balling the value of your trade-in. Dealers are trying to make a profit, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for a bad offer. You can visit multiple dealers to see what they’ll pay for your old car so you can be sure the dealer you choose is giving you a good price. You can also use multiple offers to negotiate better deals among competing dealers.
  • Hiding problems that could cost you down the road. Some disreputable dealers will attempt to hide problems to sell you the car at a higher price. Have your purchase dependent on an inspection by a mechanic to avoid being fooled by a good paint job. Also, make sure you get a vehicle history report from a reputable company like CARFAX or AutoCheck.com to study your vehicle’s maintenance history, accident records and ownership status.
  • Title washing. Some dealers transport salvaged vehicles to a different province that doesn’t recognize that brand. You can make sure that your used car isn’t worthless by looking at its record online. Viewing a vehicle’s history can save you lots of money down the road and help you avoid buying a lemon.
  • Implying your credit score is low. A dealer may try to tell you your credit score is lower than it actually is in an attempt to offer you a high interest rate. Check your credit with companies like Experian, Equifax or TransUnion before you visit a dealership so you know where you stand financially.

What’s my credit score?

How can I avoid a car buying scam?

A reliable way to avoid being scammed or ripped off by a dealer is to arrange your own financing and to know your credit score.

  • Arrange your financing. Browse our guide on car loans before visiting a dealership to get your financing in order — it gives you more negotiating power and could help you lower the cost of your purchase.
  • Know your credit score. Your credit score will influence how much a lender will let you borrow and the interest rate you can get. Checking your credit score before buying a car will help you avoid dealers trying to offer you a bad loan.

How do I know if I’m the victim of a scam?

You might be a victim of car loan scams in one of the following situations:

  • You’re paying more than you were told. If your original loan documents don’t match up with what you’re being charged, you could be a victim of a scam.
  • You paid for something you didn’t receive. Another common sign you’re being scammed is if you paid for a service or product upfront before the lender all but vanished.
  • You’re being threatened. Lenders that threaten you with a lawsuit or even jail time might be covering up a scam. If you’re afraid of what your lender might do, do some investigating — it might be illegal.
  • You can’t get in touch. Scammers often provide fake contact information so you can’t reach out.
  • There were blank spaces on your contract. Sometimes scammers offer contracts with wide blank spaces that they can fill it in with terms and conditions you would never agree to.

What to do if you’ve been scammed

It’s always best to educate yourself and avoid a scam altogether. However, if you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, you have a few options:

  • Report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. The centre is run by the Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP and the Competition Bureau. File a report easily online or by phone.
  • Contact your bank or credit union. This may be a necessary step, especially if you’ve fallen for a loan modification scam. Make sure your bank or credit union locks your account to prevent withdrawals.
  • Contact the major credit bureaus. Have TransUnion and Equifax issue a fraud alert for your credit reports. This helps prevent any new credit accounts being opened in your name.
  • Change your passwords. If you applied for a car loan online and later found it was a scam, change your passwords for all your important financial accounts.
  • File a report with the police. A local dealership running scams needs to be reported to the police so that they can be held accountable for their harmful practices.
  • Contact politicians. Enough complaints from consumers can also lead to an overhaul of local and even federal regulations.

Can I sue a lender over a scam?

Possibly, if your lender has clearly broken the law. Reach out to a lawyer for a consultation to find out if you have a case.

Generally, you have 2 options when it comes to law suits: You can either join other victims in a class-action lawsuit or sue on your own. If you decide to go solo, be prepared for some steep legal fees.

Compare features of legit car loans

Check out details from our trusted car loan providers in the table below, like loan terms, rates and credit score requirements. You can compare two or more providers side-by-side by checking the compare box beneath each provider you’re interest in.

Name Product Min. Loan Amount Interest Rate Loan Term Min. Credit Score Requirements
Car Loans Canada
3.99% to 29.95%
12-84 months
Min. income of $2,000 /month, 3+ months employed
Search thousands of vehicles online, including $0 down options, from dealers across the country and get matched with affordable financing options. Auto loans are also available to those with bad credit, consumer proposals and bankruptcies to help rebuild credit.
CarsFast Car Loans
4.90% to 29.90%
12-96 months
Min. income of $1,800 /month, 3+ months employed
Browse thousands of vehicles from dealers across Canada and get matched with financing that meets your needs. Apply online to purchase a new or used vehicle and get the vehicle delivered to your door.
Loans Canada Car Loans
0% to 29.99%
3-96 months
Min. income of $1,800 /month, 3+ months employed
Get access to financing from multiple lenders across Canada through a single application with Loans Canada. Bad credit, CERB and EI borrowers are considered.
Canadian Auto News
4.49% to 29.90%
12-84 months
Min. income of $2,000 /month, 3+ months employed
Answer a few simple questions to get matched with affordable financing options. Auto loans are also available to those with bad credit, consumer proposals and bankruptcies to help rebuild credit.
Canada Auto Finance
3-96 months
Min. income of $1,500 /month, 3+ months employed
Canada Auto Finance is a broker that connects borrowers with partnered local lenders. Financing for a new or used car is available for borrowers with bad credit, no credit, CERB, EI or bankruptcy.
Carloans411 Car Loans
1.90% to 19.99%
Up to 72 months
Min. income of $1,600 /month, 3+ months employed
Get connected with suitable lenders through CarLoans411. Finance your next car, van or truck with loans available in amounts from $500 to $50,000. Check eligibility for this loan through LoanConnect.
LoanConnect Car Loans
9.90% to 46.96%
3-120 months
No min. income requirement
Get access to 25+ lenders through LoanConnect's brokerage. Receive pre-approval in as fast as 60 seconds and get your funds in as little as 24 hours.
Fairstone Secured Personal Loan
19.99% to 23.99%
36-120 months
Established credit history and own your home
Fairstone offers secured personal loans up to $35,000.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Your best defence against scams is knowing what to look for before visiting a dealership. Many common dealer scams target buyers with poor or bad credit scores, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle. Our comparison of the best car loans in Canada can help you sift through your options and find the best deal for you.

Frequently asked questions about car loan scams

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