When selling a car, what driver doesn’t want to get the most money for their motor? That’s why each year nearly three million people choose to advertise their car for sale and handle the process themselves. They can cut out a dealer – or more significantly, the dealer’s margin – and secure the best price for their used car.
However, police and the largest online classified car retailers are warning drivers to beware of bogus buyers.
Car thieves are posing as legitimate used car buyers, as they seek easy prey. And drivers are being warned that if they don’t take sensible steps to protect their vehicle, few insurers will settle any subsequent claim against theft.
But what measures can drivers take to stay safe when selling a car? Here are tips from the experts; if you know anyone selling their car, pass them on.
Don’t give out sensitive information over the phone
When making arrangements for someone to view your car, never give out sensitive information about the vehicle, such as its vehicle identification number (VIN). The Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group (VSTAG) – which includes the Metropolitan Police, Action Fraud, Auto Trader and ebay – says it could be used to create a cloned car or fraudulent advert.
The experts at VSTAG also stress to never send scans or photographs of documents such as the vehicle registration certificate – known as the V5C – and don’t allow buyers to make copies when viewing the car.
Conduct the test drive yourself
It may seem blindingly obvious. However, some sellers may not appreciate that they can insist they conduct the test drive with the potential buyer accompanying them in the passenger seat.
You can stress this in any advert, or when contacted by prospective buyers who wish to arrange a viewing of your car.
Serious buyers are unlikely to be put off by such an approach. And it should deter unscrupulous sorts who are scheming to distract or hoodwink a seller.
You can still demonstrate that the car pulls away, accelerates, steers and stops perfectly well to prospective buyers. If someone protests that they can’t buy a car without a test drive, you can either send them on their way or agree on assurances, including proof of insurance and identity (see below).
Insurance and identity checks for a test drive
If a buyer says they would prefer to test drive the car, you’re perfectly within your rights to insist that they must provide proof of insurance, a valid driver’s licence and passport, and a utility bill with matching home address.
Kees Deacon is a sales executive at Paragon Porsche, in Sussex. Although most of its customers are known to the Porsche sales and servicing specialist, Deacon says that it is prudent and necessary to check the credentials of strangers that arrive at the dealership unannounced.
For private sellers, one way of doing this is to ask buyers that they come prepared with a DVLA licence check code. This will allow you to verify that their licence is current and they haven’t been banned from driving.
When they arrive to view the car, ensure the documents correspond and carry out a driving licence check, using the DVLA’s free, online checking service, which will require that you enter the code that the buyer should have generated. It sounds complicated but only takes a minute.
Never let the buyer keep hold of the keys
Regardless of whether you’re going to show someone around your car, start the engine outside your home, or take them out for a test drive, the golden rule is to never leave the buyer with the keys to your car. Ben Howarth, of the Association of British Insurers, says it is vital sellers never let a potential buyer spend time alone in the vehicle. Few insurance policies will cover drivers for theft if they allow a prospective buyer to handle the keys.
The ‘mileage check’ trick
Experienced fraudsters will be as cool as a cucumber in person. So they will seem perfectly convincing when they innocently ask if they could check the claimed mileage figure of the car you’re selling.
This is a classic ruse. They are trying to get themselves into the driver’s seat, whilst the car keys are in the ignition. At that point, they’ll speed off into the sunset. And again, you won’t get any payout from your vehicle insurer.
Don’t hand over the vehicle until the money is in your bank
The safest way to accept payment is to have the funds paid into your bank account. Only after your bank confirms that the funds have cleared should you hand over the vehicle. VSTAG advises sellers to avoid payments via PayPal or an escrow account.