Buyer Beware

Many car purchasers each year end up falling foul of unscrupulous sellers, purchasing cars that are far from what they believed they were buying. In these times of the 'credit crunch', with many feeling the pinch financially, sellers may not always tell the full story or might not disclose histories that a car may have had at point of sale.

There are many reasons why you should always check a car prior to purchase. Put it this way, 'Would you buy a house and not carry out a survey?' If your answer to this is 'No' then a car check works on a similar principle. Unfortunately we still see consumers buying cars in 'good faith' assuming that everything is fine with the car. Later on they realise that they have made a terrible mistake. It is always going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get your money back once you have already handed it over.

Know Your Facts Prior to Purchase

Below we have listed our top ten crucial things that we feel you will need to consider or undertake before purchasing a car.

  1. Only ever buy from the Registered Keeper of a vehicle.

    The only exception to this would be when buying from a bona fide Motor Trader (Garage, Dealership, Auction House) or motor trade organisation. Remember that the Registered Keeper may not be the owner, if so, ask for other proof that they have had legitimate possession of the vehicle - a bill of sale, service history, MOT certificates etc.

  2. Only buy a vehicle where there is a full V5C (Log Book) available.

    The Log Book needs to correspond to the address you are going to purchase the car from. No Log Book, no sale! How can you ever prove you have bought from a previous Registered Keeper if you cannot verify the details?

  3. Always buy from the seller's address.

    Do not accept a meeting in a neutral location like a supermarket car park etc. This is very risky as, in this situation, you cannot verify the Log Book details. Furthermore, if the seller has insisted on a cash sale, are you going to feel safe doing the transaction where 3rd parties could see you handing over a large amount of cash?

  4. Always insist on receiving a 'Purchase Contract' signed by the seller.

    You can download a template for this free of charge from our website. This effectively turns any verbal agreement that may have been struck into a written contract and provides evidence in the event of someone selling the car fraudulently on to you.

  5. You must physically check the VIN / Chassis number on the car itself

    This should correspond to the Log Book and it can be located in several places on the car. If you do not check this physically you have no chance of safeguarding yourself against stolen/ cloned cars. If you are struggling to find the VIN / Chassis number, call our Call Centre. We will be happy to tell you where it is located on the car you are looking at.

  6. Check the seller's identity

    Before you part with any funds for any car, always ask to see the card copy of the seller's driving licence. The photo and the address on this should enable you to match the seller to the details on the Log Book and the address you are looking to purchase from. It will also reassure you that the funds are being given to the Registered Keeper, not a 3rd party posing as them.

  7. Check the vehicle's value

    Always check car sales websites and trade publications to ensure that your potential purchase is valued correctly, compared to similar cars. If the car seems unreasonably cheap for what it is then this can be a tell-tale sign that things are not what they seem. If you are unsure about anything, get a second opinion.

  8. Don't forget the Road Test

    This might be the single biggest factor that can influence a decision. Always take the seller with you in case something breaks. This way you cannot be held accountable if it does. After you are happy (or not) that the car performs as you want it to, then go over the car with a fine-tooth comb. Check everything works and take a note of what does not. Does it come with a lengthy MOT? Does it come with Road Tax? Are both sets of keys present? Any service history documentation? Are there tools? Is there a spare wheel?

  9. Always see the vehicle before handing over money

    Watch out for distance selling scams, where a legitimate car is advertised, but the seller does not own it nor have it in their possession.

    • Be suspicious if the seller will only communicate by email.
    • Do not accept their insistence that the car is UK registered, even though it is presently with them in a foreign country.
    • Never transfer money to a 3rd party holding account on the promise that the car will be shipped to your location.
  10. If in doubt, walk away

    Finally, probably the best advice we can offer is 'If it doesn't feel right to you before you buy it, don't buy it.' A car provenance check will probably provide you with THE FACTS of a car's history but it is your money on the line, and nobody can really advise you on how to spend it. If you have any doubts in your mind over any car purchase, don't buy it. You might miss out on a potentially good deal but if you have doubts and unanswered questions prior to purchase, spending money will not give you peace of mind or answer questions.

    If you are unsure about anything, wait until you have found answers to your worries or concerns before you part with any money. Always remember that you have far more power and influence in any car purchase up to the point of when you pay for it. After that, it is going to be very difficult to change or rectify any outstanding concerns you may have.