Car clocking, buying stolen – what used car buyers must look out for

Car clocking

Digital mileage counters were supposed to stop clocking. They haven’t

Car clocking is on the increase. One in four used cars are sold with outstanding finance. Thirty stolen cars are sold every day. Scam emails from the DVLA. Dodgy V5C log books. Despite all the checks in place, the used car buyer has never been more at risk. We outline the threats and how you can combat them.

Car clocking

The practice of rewinding a vehicle’s mileage to boost its value increased by 10 per cent in 2015, according to the Local Government Association (LGA). In the last eight months of 2015, the LGA claims that millions of miles were wiped off car mileage clocks by dodgy car dealers.

How do you spot car clocking?

MOT history check

A car’s mileage is noted at every MOT. Doing an MOT history check is simple and can alert you to a clocked car if the current mileage is lower than at any stage during its past.

Service history

A car’s mileage at the time of the service should also be noted in its service record. Check this before you buy. If the service record isn’t present, servicing dealerships sometimes have records.

Get a history check

Anyone buying a used car should consider a vehicle history check. They will alert you to any outstanding finance, whether the car might have been declared an insurance write-off, and mileage discrepancies.

Give it a good look over

It’s difficult to tell if a car has been clocked because there is little physical evidence. But look at the pedal rubbers, steering wheel and gear lever. If they’re shiny and worn but the car is being advertised with a relatively low mileage for its age, be suspicious. Equally, if it’s an older car with brand new pedals rubbers, gear lever knob and so on, it could have something to hide.

Read more about clocking

Outstanding finance

The increase in popularity of buying cars on finance hasn’t done anything to cut the number of cars being sold with outstanding credit. It is illegal to sell a car with outstanding finance on it and not tell the buyer. But according to car history check services, around one in four of the 7.2 million used cars sold in 2015 had a debt secured against it. What some sellers do is apply for a replacement V5C, perhaps claiming they’ve lost theirs. They can then use the car as security to raise money, handing over their original V5C – called a logbook loan – and sell the car using their second document.

How do you spot a used car with outstanding finance?

The most full-proof way is to have a car history check. Another less reliable tip is to check the car’s registration plates. If it’s owned by a finance company, that firm’s name or the name of a leasing company may well be on the bottom of the number plate. Remember that the V5C registration document shows the registered keeper NOT the vehicle’s owner.

Scam DVLA emails

Car drivers are being targeted by a fraud that involves receiving emails claiming to be from the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). This points them to a website designed to look like it belongs to the DVLA. It asks for personal information, including credit card details.

How do you spot the scam emails?

The DVLA will never ask you for personal details or for payment via emails or text messages that link to a website.

Selling stolen cars

Although this is becoming increasingly difficult, not least because cars are harder than ever to steal, it is still a problem. And it’s one that particularly affects easy-to-nick classic cars.

How do you spot a stolen car

First check that the details on the V5C registration document are the same as the car that’s in front of you, including the 17-digit chassis number and 10-digit engine number. Also check that the details on the registration document tally with those held by the DVLA. You can do this on the DVLA website. Again a vehicle history check – they cost around £20 – is a full-proof way of satisfying yourself the vehicle isn’t stolen.

Forged or stolen V5C

Car clockingGiven the quality of modern home printers it’s not difficult to forge a V5C to match the details of a stolen car. This enables the crook to pass off the stolen motor as legitimate. In 2006, there was also a theft of 400,000 V5Cs.

How to spot a stolen or forged V5C

The current document is blue and red (as above) and has a DVL watermark running through it. The stolen documents were all blue. Although they were stolen 10 years ago, there are still some in circulation, waiting to catch out the unwary.

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