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Don’t get ripped off buying a used car


Buying a used car? Before you part with your hard-earned cash, be sure to check the car’s history online.

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Hidden history

HPI checks in 2009 found one in three cars have some form of hidden history, be it a failed MOT, incomplete finance agreement, mileage discrepancies or number plate change.

Most alarming is the fact that one in 25 cars checked are insurance write-offs. A seller does NOT have to tell a potential buyer that a car is a write-off unless specifically asked. 

But if you do not tell your insurance provider, whether you are aware that the car is a write-off yourself or not, it could invalidate your car insurance policy.

Luckily, it is simple to check a car history online. Firms charge from £3.95 per car and you can get a ‘peace of mind’ full report from The AA or HPI Check for £19.99 per car, with instant online results. 

You can also get discounted rates if you check multiple cars.

Check the MOT

Since 2005, all MOT results have been computerised and can be checked on the GOV.UK website. 

Make sure you have the car’s registration number to hand, plus the certificate number from the last MOT or the document reference number from the V5C registration certificate.

You can also check the MOT status on the GOV.UK website to double check the validity of any MOT certificate provided by the owner, plus the date that the next MOT is due.

Check the car's value

You can also use our free  tool to discover how much the car should be worth. 

All you need to know is its registration and mileage. Obviously the price may vary depending on its condition and so on. 

But this should give you an indication of how much it should be selling for.

Attack of the clones

Car cloning is like identity theft – criminals replacing a car’s number plate and forging documents to give it a clean history.

Some figures estimate that there are as many as 10,000 cloned cars on our roads, most sold on through newspapers and online classified ads.

Like write-offs, if your car is a clone it can invalidate your insurance policy in the event of an accident.

Avoiding a clone can be tricky but the following steps are recommended when buying a new car:

  • Location: If you’re buying privately, make sure you view it at the registered keeper’s address (as shown on the V5/logbook).

  • Provenance: Always check the provenance of the car. One vital check the buyer can do is to find all the VIN/chassis numbers on the vehicle to make sure they match, and then use the HPI Check to ensure they tally with the registration number of the vehicle.

  • Documents: Check the vehicle’s V5/logbook. Stolen V5 documents are currently being used to accompany cloned vehicles but the HPI Check includes a unique stolen V5 document check as standard. This will confirm whether or not the document is one that the DVLA have recorded as stolen.

  • Price: Know the car’s market value. If you are paying more than 30 per cent below the retail market value, then be on your guard. No genuine seller will want to lose money on their sale.

  • Payment: Don’t pay with a substantial amount of cash, particularly if the car is costing you more than £3,000. Some cloners will take a banker’s draft as part payment, because the cash part is sufficient profit without ever cashing the banker’s draft. Most crooks selling cloned cars would rather walk away from a sale than take a payment that could be traced back to them. Despite strong advice to buyers to pay via the banking system, reports suggest many buyers pay in cash and subsequently find out that the car is a clone, losing both their money and the vehicle.


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