Do not Gamble On Buying a Used Car


Cars with outstanding finance of more than £13 million were fraudulently sold in 2011.

As part of this year’s Car Crime Awareness Week, the Finance and Leasing Association (FLA) – the trade association for the motor finance industry – is advising people to be cautious when buying a used car to ensure they don’t become the latest victim of fraud. Otherwise they could be at risk of having their car repossessed by the finance company which actually owns it, and losing the money they have paid.

One in every three vehicles which is checked reveals some kind of hidden history, whether mechanical or financial.

So how do you know that the car that you are buying is what it is claimed to be?

  • Do a history check with Experian (, HPI ( or CDL ( and make sure you buy a full history (see note). It’s a small cost compared with the cost of the car and will give you peace of mind. A comprehensive car history check will give you a full description of the car and its past ownership, and should tell you if there is outstanding finance on it. It will also tell you the mechanical history of the car – whether it has been in an accident or scrapped, whether it has had its mileage adjusted, and whether it has ever been recorded as stolen.
  • When buying a car, new or used, do your research. Know what to expect from the make, model and age of the vehicle – if the deal looks like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Check the car thoroughly for damage, and make sure the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) match the documents.
  • Take the car for a test drive. If buying a used car, consider having it checked out by an auto mechanic.
  • Consider in advance how you will pay for the vehicle. Cash can be dangerous, particularly if meeting a private seller at an unfamiliar address. Always meet the seller at their residential address, and never – for example – in a pub car park or petrol station.
  • If buying a vehicle on the web, ensure you’ve done all your checks before transferring any payment.

Paul Harrison, the FLA’s head of motor finance, said:

“It’s important to do a history check when buying a used car. Checks are available for a fraction of the total cost of a car, and provide reassurance that the car is what the seller says it is. It’s better to do the checks than risk driving an unsafe car, or a car that remains the property of a finance company – which they’ll want back.”

DCI Mark Hooper, Head of the ACPO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, said:

“If you’re buying a used car, you need to make sure it has not been stolen, written off, or still have finance owing otherwise you could lose both the car and the money you paid for it. Most people don’t do these simple checks, yet many who do find something hidden about the car’s history. Make sure that you do your checks before parting with any money and make sure you can trace the seller should you need to later on. Don’t be a victim of criminality.”