More than seven million used cars are sold in the UK every year. That’s more than three times the number of new cars. Unfortunately, there are plenty of disreputable sellers around. And they’ll try every trick in the book to convince unwitting car buyers to hand over their hard-earned money for a dodgy motor. Here are some of the more popular used car scams that buyers from private sellers should look out for.
“The car’s cheap because it’s from abroad”
Be very wary when buying a used car that will be imported from abroad, particularly if it seems unbelievably cheap. Once you’ve chosen your car, you will be directed to a vehicle and freight shipping website which will deal with the transaction. Except it’s a website used by organised criminals. This will take your money and arrange for the car to be transported to you. It will never arrive.
“Don’t worry, they all drive like that”
It’s not unusual for people to sell cars that have been badly damaged in accidents or floods without declaring it. Trust your instincts: if a car feels, looks or smells wrong, it probably is wrong. Walk away and find another one.
“You’ve paid for the car so you own it”
Having the keys and the paperwork saying you’re the registered keeper doesn’t mean you’re the legal owner. If the car has been stolen and had its identity changed it still belongs to the original owner. And if it’s got an outstanding loan against it, the finance house has legal entitlement and can reclaim the car to recover its costs, leaving you without a car or the money you paid for it.
“It’s such a bargain you’ll have to move fast”
Making out there’s a finite amount of time on a deal, or that whatever is being offered has numerous potential buyers are the oldest tricks in the sales book. If there’s so much interest that buyers must move quickly, the law of supply and demand suggests the seller should put the price up rather than settle swiftly.
“It’s not illegal to sell a write-off”
This is half-true. Vehicles are written off because it’s not economically viable for the insurer to repair them. Insurers classify a write-off as either Category A or B, which means they must not be put back on the road again, or Category C and D, which are allowed to be made roadworthy again.
“Let’s meet somewhere convenient and public”
It suits car criminals selling stolen or cloned vehicles (a car that has essentially stolen its identity from a similar make and model) to meet somewhere neutral, so the buyer will never know where they live. Always view a used car at the same address as the registered keeper on the V5C vehicle registration document.
“I’m selling the car for my wife”
A vehicle can be classed as stolen if it is not bought from the registered keeper. That means a husband has no legal right to sell his wife’s car, or vice versa, unless they give their permission. Always ask to meet the registered keeper and remember to check their ID and compare with the V5C.
“The paperwork is in the post”
All relevant documents must be present and correct before you pay for the car, and available to take away with it. Whether it’s the V5C registered keeper form, the car’s MOT certificate, its service history or a warranty, don’t believe anyone who says they’re in the post. They probably won’t be.
“It’s low mileage because I’ve had a company car”
It could be true. However, fraudsters often use this line if the car has been clocked – which means falsifying its true mileage. Despite digital odometers being common place now, tampering with the recorded miles happens frequently. Do a thorough check of the car’s paperwork, such as the MOT records and service history. Or speak with a dealer who can look up and confirm a car’s service history. Either can help flag up a clocked car.