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Imported car nightmares and how to avoid them

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It’s easy to be seduced by the promise of saving thousands of dollars on a gleaming new imported car. You know, the one you’ve set your heart on.

It’s the car that’s calling you from the window of that shiny, expensive-looking garage. And it’s got your name on it.

But breathe deeply and take a step back.

At present, motor vehicle dealers, including parallel importers, do NOT need a licence to operate in Singapore.

What’s the worst that can happen?

The largest import scam happened in 2014 when just one garage, Volks Auto, cheated 182 people out of more than $6 million. One of the culprits, Koh Chek Seng, 35, has just been given a 10-year jail sentence. His other two accomplices are still at large. 

The onus is on YOU to do your homework and deal with a reputable trader. Easier said than done, but there are ways you can minimize the risks of being duped.

So how do you know if I’m buying from a reputable trader? 

  1. Find out if the dealer is on the alert list of the Consumers Association of Singapore - CASE. Call them and get their advice. If they’re not on the alert list yet, then check if anyone has lodged a complaint against the company? Call CASE on 6100 0315.
  2. Proceed with particular caution if it is a new company. Look them up online and get as much info as possible. It’s not enough to have a fancy Facebook page or an advert in the newspaper. You want to see real reviews.
  3. Are they registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority ACRA? All legitimate businesses should be listed.
  4. Transact with parallel importers that are part of the CaseTrust Accreditation Scheme. These dealers are required to maintain a bond to protect consumers’ fees and deposits.
  5. Make sure they are members of the Singapore Vehicle Traders Association (SVTA). There is a list of members here at:
  6. If you do go ahead with a deal, collect as much paperwork from them as possible including a log card. You can double-check this by logging onto one.motoring with your Singpass.
  7. Finally, if that deal sounds too good to be true then it probably is. And don’t get lured by the freebies on offer either.

Reasons to be concerned

  1. Despite all the warnings to consumers, sales from parallel importers are on the rise. This makes it even more difficult to distinguish the good guys from the bad.
  2. On average there are approximately 120 new reported cheating cases each year. Customers are losing anything from $5,000 to $30,000, which can amount to life-savings for some.
  3. More on the largest import scam to date in Singapore here.
  4. Cases are still pending after a handful of garages were shut down at the end of 2016. Again, scores of people were cheated out of thousands of dollars each. The loss to them and their families in some cases has been devastating.

For more motoring warnings and tips, look out for regular posts in this series.

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