1 in 3 have a hidden history
1 in 7 are insurance write-offs
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Car Buying Advice

The best advice you can getWhen buying a used vehicle privately there are many points to take into account, to protect yourself from not only getting ripped off, but being left with a useless car. Have a read through the following bullet points for items to look out for:

Things to look out for in classified ads and during the viewing process

  • You should favour classified ads that give a home phone number. If just a mobile number is given, you should ask for a land line. If you run into any trouble with the vehicle, mobile phone numbers can be very difficult to trace without the proper authorities.
  • Does the ad specify an exact time to call for enquiries? This could mean that the seller is operating from a phone box, or other temporary location, and you may have difficulty getting hold of them should you need to get in touch in the future.
  • When arranging a viewing, try to do so in daylight hours. Not only will allow you a better look at the vehicle, but may also increase your safety. You should also insist on viewing the vehicle at the seller's house.
  • If the seller attempts to arrange a viewing at a public place such as a warehouse car park, or wishes to bring the vehicle to your own house, say this is not acceptable. If the seller is not willing to compromise then you should walk away from the deal.
  • Make sure that the seller is properly familiar with the car, and can get it started, open the boot, and perform basic operations without fault. If the seller does not seem to know much about the vehicle, they may be attempting to sell a stolen vehicle, or one which is not theirs. You can either ask them why this is so, or simply walk away.

Check the Vehicle's Documentation

  • A vehicle's registration certificate should always be supplied for any car you're interested in buying. Do not buy if it is not present. Some sellers may say it has been posted to the DVLA for updating; if this is so, tell them you will wait until it is returned. A legitimate seller will have no problem with this.
  • Make sure the V5C is legitimate. A DVLA watermarks should be visible when you hold the document up to the light. Attempted forgeries may just have a watermark printed on them.
  • Check the name on the registration certificate. If it does not match the name of the person selling you the vehicle, ask why this is. There are legitimate reasons for this, such as selling the vehicle for a friend or family member, but you should check just in case.
  • If you doubt the legitimacy of the seller, ask them relevant questions you would like answering. If they are evasive or seem to be lying, it will probably be best to walk away from the deal.

Check the Vehicle is as Described

  • Do a little research before viewing the vehicle to make sure you know where it's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) will be. Then you should ask the seller if you can take a look at it.
  • Check that the VIN on the vehicle is 17 characters long, and matches the one featured on the vehicle's registration certificate.
  • Check for scuff marks or scratches around the VIN. This may be a sign of tampering, which may mean that the vehicle you're looking at is cloned or a ringer. You should question the seller in this case.
  • Check the windows for any numbers etched into them. If there is a registration mark or a partial VIN etched, make sure it matches the one on the registration certificate and on other parts of the vehicle.
  • Locate the engine number on the engine and make sure it matches the one on the vehicle's registration certificate.
  • Have a look at the door locks. Do they appear damaged or look to have been replaced? Do they all match? Damaged or mismatching locks can be a sign of a stolen car.

Paying for the Car

  • You should never pay with cash. Not having any sort of paper trail means there is no proof you have purchased the vehicle. Also, should you unwittingly be buying a stolen car, you'll soon lose it along with your money.
  • Make sure you are 100% sure that this is the car you want. This includes running a full car check on it to reveal any hidden history. If you are not completely happy with the deal, then look elsewhere; there are thousands of cars out there for you.
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