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Buying a used car?

The following 12 tips will help when buying a used car.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

Check that the 17-digit vehicle identification number (sometimes know as V.I.N or chassis number) match each other round the vehicle.  Typical locations are:

  • inside the driver's door jam
  • driver's footwell
  • boot
  • near to the suspension strut top
  • under the bonnet
  • engine block
  • scuttle panel under the bonnet where the bonnet meets the windscreen
  • interior dashboard on the passenger's side, viewable through the windscreen
Look at the quality of any VIN stickers. Do they appear bright and freshly printed? Do they look fuzzy or distorted? Both may be an indication something may be wrong or cloned.Check the stamped numbers are all lined up.  Crooked of uneven lines of numbers may indicate tampering.

Keys

Most stolen vehicles are only ever taken with one key. Be cautious if buying a car with only one key. Make sure the metal part (which may be inside the actual fob) fits the door lock(s) and opens the vehicle. If the metal key part is missing from the fob or doesn't open the car mechanically, be wary.

Check online

Carry out your own vehicle check on the gov.uk vehicle enquiry page. Also contact any garage that has carried out service ot warranty work and confirm the details. Check the quality of the paper documents. Look closely and feel the paper. Could it be false or made up?

Photo of seller

Take a photo of the seller with the vehicle. If the owner says no - don't be surprised but do try to at least get pictures of the care outside their address.

Photo ID

Ask to see some photo ID and check the name matches the name in the vehicle's log book. As with the documents, check the quality of this and if in doubt contact the issuer to verify.

Streets and car parks

Don't buy a car from a car park or street. Attend the seller's home or business address. Ask to see utility bills to confirm that this is their address. Does the location fit the deal?  There have been reports where flats have been used that don't appear lived in.  When buyers have entered to complete the purchase, they report it seemed in a poor state with little or no furnishings and unlikely to be the seller's home address.

HPI check

Make sure you do your own HPI check online to be sure there are no outstanding finance agreements. Use a reputable company that offers some guarantee of the checks. Some of the free check apps offer no or little recompense if things go wrong.

What's it worth?

Do your research and find out that the vehicle is worth.  If it is too good to be true, be extra cautious. Look at more than one vehicle, even if you don't intend buying it.  Beware of so-called bargains. Rogue sellers will often drop the price if the cannot provide a documented service history.  Remember the car will have cost them virtually nothing so any price they sell it for is criminal financial gain.

Paying

Avoid using cash payments. Using a debit or credit card offers the buyer more purchase protection.

Why are you selling?

Ask the seller why they're selling the vehicle. Does it sound believable? Beware of sellers selling on behalf of 'friends' or 'relations'. Check with the previous registered keeper and offer to pay a small deposit to secure the vehicle to give you time to do this.  If the seller refuses then ask yourself why.

Keep the advert

Keep a printed copy of the advert with the vehicle's other documents and any other documents that relate to the purchase. This may assist the police in tracing the seller if things go wrong.

Cloned

Remember. Any cloned vehicle will still belong to either the true owner of the vehicle or their insurance company and may be returned to them. Be extra cautious with your purchase if you find any of the previous tips apply.

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