Unscrupulous websites are charging customers to declare their cars off-road - a service they can get for free
It’s fifthly, slightly scratched and incredibly messy inside (thanks to your kids) but your family car is actually more appealing to thieves than you think.
A recent survey has shown that car thieves are changing their habits and targeting your average family car instead of the prestige vehicles such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes. It’s all down to the recession.
The struggling economy has caused car buyers to tighten their belts and search out a bargain, pushing car thieves to adjust their targets. It now appears that lower value cars are just as valuable to the car thieves as the fancy sports cars, including your battered Vauxhall Meriva.
How can you protect yourself?
Luckily, advances in car security have made new cars harder to steal than ever but crime figures are still on the rise. Theft by the stealing of car keys is up to 80% and more and more car thieves are resulting to burglaries, car-jackings and muggings just to get their hands on your car keys. Scary stuff!
Many owners are now investing in a GPS vehicle tracking system to protect their vehicle. If your car is stolen, GPS technology pinpoints the exact location of your vehicle, allowing the 24 hour operating centre to liaise with Police, Security and Recovery services.
Some car security systems even arrange for a security guard to wait with your vehicle until recovery can be arranged.
It does appear that some things never change however, with the BMW X5 remaining as the most commonly stolen car. London and Greater London also remain as the hot spots for car theft with Essex and Greater Manchester following closely behind.
Make sure you’ve locked the car door!
Buying a used vehicle is serious business. By making you aware of the following advice, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) can help you reduce the risk of buying a stolen vehicle.
Here are some top tips to consider.
If you’re buying a used vehicle from a private seller, dealer or auction house, make sure you know your consumer rights.
To find out more about your consumer rights, warranties or if things go wrong, follow the link below.
Step 1: Before seeing the vehicle
Here are some things to consider before you see the vehicle:
- be careful of mobile phone numbers – owners are hard to trace
- watch out for adverts giving a landline number and times to call – criminals often use phone boxes
- check the market value of the vehicle – if it’s offered much cheaper, ask yourself why
- check the Vehicle Identification number (VIN) and engine number against the registration certificate (V5C) – your main dealer can help you locate them
- arrange to see the vehicle in daylight at the seller’s home and not in a public car park; always consider your personal safety
- ask if the seller is the registered keeper, so you can view at the registered keeper’s address (shown on the V5C)
Vehicles can be clocked to reduce their mileage and get a better price
- be careful, some dishonest dealers pose as private sellers to offload unsafe and ‘clocked’ cars
- consider taking a qualified vehicle examiner with you – a number of companies provide this service if you don’t know anybody with sufficient knowledge of vehicles
- ask the seller for the registration number, make and model of the vehicle
- ask the seller for the expiry date of the tax disc, and the MOT test number
- check whether the vehicle has outstanding finance or has been stolen or written off
You can check this information before you see the vehicle. The link below gives details of companies who will do this for you. You’ll need to check with the companies what services they provide.
Step 2: Checking the vehicle’s registration certificate (V5C)
Thieves can change a stolen vehicle and its paperwork to make it look like a real one (this is known as ‘cloning’).
Hold the V5C up to the light – there should be a ‘DVL’ watermark.
Make sure the seller has the right to sell the vehicle. If the seller has had the vehicle for some time, they should have any of the following:
- a bill of sale (receipt)
- service records
- MOT certificate
Remember, the V5C is not proof of ownership.
Make sure the V5C matches the vehicle’s details and all other documentation provided.
Look out for stolen V5Cs. If the seller has a blue V5C with a serial number in the following ranges don’t go ahead with the sale and contact the police when it’s safe to do so:
- BG8229501 to BG9999030
- BI2305501 to BI2800000
The serial number is in a white circle in the top right hand corner of the V5C.
Be careful, even if the serial number doesn’t fall within the above ranges. Don’t buy the vehicle if you think the serial number has been altered, or if part of the V5C is missing.
After 15 August 2010 the V5C will change. Changes include a new colour and improved customer information.
Follow the link below for further information.
Step 3: Checking the vehicle
Don’t buy the vehicle if the VIN has been tampered with or is missing
Before buying a vehicle you should check:
- if the engine has been changed in any way
- that all locks open with the same key – thieves change locks that have been damaged
- if there are two keys available – clones are rarely sold with both
- that the VIN and engine number match those on the V5C and that the surrounding areas have not been altered or covered
You should also check the condition of the vehicle.
If you decide to buy the vehicle, avoid paying in cash. Pay by a banking system and get a receipt.
You can print the checklist below and take it with you as a reminder of what to look for when buying a vehicle.
When buying a car, you really need to make sure that you’re getting exactly what you pay for – and nothing more
(e.g. unexpected nasty surprises) or less (a car actually worth far less in real terms due to being clocked for example).
Following HPI’s recent announcement that one in 17 cars have been clocked in the UK, here are motorists’ tips and advice on how to avoid being scammed.
This high figure is a warning sign to customers buying second hand cars. Illegal clocking is a quick and easy way for unscrupulous car sellers to make money and those buying second hand cars need to be very wary. Not only is buying a tampered car a waste of money, a clocked vehicle is dangerous to the driver and other road users, as cars with incorrect mileages have often missed important services and part replacement dates, making them unreliable and potentially un-roadworthy. If motorists are in any doubt as to whether or not a vehicle may have been clocked, they should always seek expert advice before making a purchase.
A recent investigation by the BBC put the spotlight back on car clocking, revealing that winding back the odometer on a high mileage car, is one of today’s most common car crimes.
When purchasing a second hand car, drivers should look out for the following warning signs and plan ahead by doing some basic maintenance checks on the vehicle in question, to avoid being cheated by rogue traders:
Common sense should be exercised at all times – worn pedal rubbers, lots of chips on the bonnet, a shiny steering wheel and excessive wear and tear in the car’s interior, all indicate a well-travelled vehicle.
Original copies of the logbook, the car’s service history, MOT details, registration number, vehicle identification number and a valid tax disc, should all completely up to date and accounted for upon inspection of the vehicle. If any of these documents are missing or invalid, walk away from the deal.
Motorists should input the car’s registration number into official mileage-check websites such as the HPI or AutoCheck from Experian. For a small cost, drivers can be safe in the knowledge that they are buying a vehicle that hasn’t been tampered with.
Always remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Buying a used car is not an entirely safe exercise; we highlight some of the scams to watch out for and save you heartache and money.
Hundreds of thousands of vehicles are on sale across the UK from used car lots, private vendors and auctions among others. However, not all of them have a clean record – in fact, one in three used cars has something to hide, according to HPI Check.
In the first part of this series, we looked at some of the scams and pitfalls to watch out for including deals that are too good to be true and vehicles with unpaid debt. In this part, we look at some other scams to be aware of.
By appointment only
You should be particularly wary when you see the phrase “by appointment only” on any advert for a used car. This can often be spotted on private sellers’ advertisements.
It may just be there to give the seller time to make themselves available so you can view the car. But on the flipside, it could also be a sign of a scam. Why does the seller want you to view the car “by appointment only”? It may be that he or she does not have a car to sell and wants time to make available a vehicle matching the one being advertised.
Having seen it and even test-driven it, you may just like it enough to want to buy it as soon as possible, only to end up losing your money – so be particularly vigilant when dealing with private sellers.
‘Legitimately’ clocked cars
Car clocking is “a practically untraceable and perfectly legal, activity”, according to HPI Check. The activity involves unscrupulous sellers essentially turning the clocks back on the mileage readings of their cars to mislead buyers into thinking they are much younger and have covered much less distance.
“Winding back just 1,000 miles on a car can add an estimated £100-£400 to its value, so a seller would only need to take 2,000 miles off a £2,000 car to almost double its value – offering a profit many unscrupulous sellers can’t resist,” explains Kristian Welch, consumer director of HPI.
Six out of every 100 vehicles checked by the company show a mileage discrepancy and with dodgy sellers increasingly coming up with new ways of clocking in recent years, it’s going to be harder to identify such vehicles.
Although altering a vehicle’s mileage is not illegal, the seller has to declare to any potential buyers that the mileage has been changed. There have been increasing calls for mileage correction companies to be regulated or even banned as a recent Office of Fair Trading report found there are very few legitimate reasons to alter a vehicle’s mileage.
Insurers routinely write-off cars that have been involved in an accident because the damage caused is substantial enough in relation to the value of the vehicle. This means the insurer finds it cheaper to declare it a total loss, rather than repair it.
But some of these cars find their way back onto used car lots. While some of these cars can be legitimately repaired and returned to the road, others should never be allowed back, but this is not an issue for dodgy sellers.
Nicola Johnson of HPI explains: “A vehicle that has been declared a write-off by an insurer is not straightforward – category C and D damage can be repaired safely and represent a possible bargain, but those in categories A or B should never reappear on the road.
“However, it can be tempting for the criminal to gloss over the damage and try and sell on these potential death traps which have been disguised as a dream buy.”
Buying a stolen used car is very easy, especially if you do so without carrying out any history checks. HPI says it uncovers more than 19 stolen vehicles every day through its checks which use information from the Police National Computer.
Criminals use tricks such as ‘cloning’, which involves disguising the identity of a stolen car using the identity of another legitimate vehicle, making it easy for unsuspecting buyers to be deceived.
Buying a stolen vehicle can be costly – once the car is discovered, it will be impounded and you will lose your money whether you knew about its history or not. So it’s important to ensure you are fully aware of a car’s background before buying it.
An HPI check will reveal whether the car is stolen, written-off, has a discrepant mileage reading or has outstanding finance
- When buying from a private vendor, meet the seller at their home rather than a pub car park or lay-by
- Be wary of a vehicle that appears considerably cheaper than the going rate for similar cars of the same age
- Ask for the V5C registration document of the car to make sure the seller is the registered owner
By Robert Adungo
Research from the team behind the AA Car Data Check reveals that 20%* of used car buyers would pay three quarters of the value of a car in cash to secure a potential dream purchase.
Why should you not do that?
Simple. Cash is a ‘gift’ for scammers who could then be keen to vanish into thin air after the dodgy deal has been completed.
“Despite continued warnings to people about the potential consequences of paying in cash for vehicles, it’s clear from our survey that consumers continue to place their trust in sellers. This is particularly true if it looks like they will get their ideal car for a bargain price, which is a time when they should be on their guard the most,” explains Jeremy Tiffany of the AA. “Paying in cash to complete a deal is a risky decision to make and one that is not really necessary.”
The AA advises car buyers that they have a couple of payment options available to them today – banker’s drafts are still generally accepted or, the most common method of transferring money in the modern age – simply transferring funds via online banking.
Tiffany continues, “If you have cash burning a hole in your pocket there is the temptation to make an impulse purchase before you have had time to conduct the proper research. But bringing cash with you to collect a vehicle leaves you open to several threats. The most obvious one is that carrying a large amount of money is always dangerous, as the seller could simply take the money with no intention of handing over the car. More importantly, there is no ‘Proof of Purchase’ when you pay for a vehicle in cash, meaning you have no comeback with the seller should something go wrong.”
Each year, thousands of unsafe cars are put back on the road after accident repairs and many more are stolen.
Over a third of stolen cars aren’t recovered and could be sold on to the public. Read on to find out why and how you can protect yourself from car fraud.
So, you’d be wise to protect yourself by having the car’s history checked out. The police can take the car away from you if it has been stolen and although in theory, you’d be entitled to a refund of the price from the person who sold you the car, you’d have the practical problem of getting it. (For example, can you locate the seller, and even if you can, are they worth suing?)
If you buy a car which has outstanding credit on it, whether you, or the finance company, own the car will depend on whether you knew about the outstanding credit when you bought it. If you did, the car will still belong to the finance company. If not, you’ll be the owner of it.
What can you do?
Just remember, prevention is better than cure. Check the car’s history before you buy it, so you don’t end up later forfeiting the car to the rightful owner.
Your check needs to cover:
Information from the PNC (Police National Computer for recorded stolen vehicles), the DVLA and the Association of British Insurers (recorded accident damage).
Check whether the registration is recorded as stolen & recovered.
Avoid the loss buying a vehicle that may be:
- Subject to Outstanding Finance
- Stolen (Police Interest)
- Stolen & Recovered
- Write off / Total Insurance Loss (Recorded Accident Damage)
- Scrapped by the DVLA
- Subject to Plate Transfers
- Colour Changes
Also check the following is correct.
- Make and Model
- Number of Former Keepers
- VIN (Chassis Number) Check
- Engine Number and Size
- Date First Registered
- Year Manufactured
DVLA is warning motorists to check the V5C registration certificate when buying a used vehicle.
Motorists are advised not to purchase the vehicle, and instead report the matter to the police, if the serial number of a V5C registration certificate falls within the following ranges:
BG8229501 to BG9999030
BI2305501 to BI2800000
Motorists are also reminded not to proceed with any purchase if a V5C has no serial number, or looks to have been altered or tampered with, or the vehicle is accompanied by only a part of the V5C registration certificate
If a member of the public wishes to check if a serial number of a registration certificate is within
Information supplied by the DVLA.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport (DfT).
How to notify DVLA if you buy a new or used vehicle
The seller will usually notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that you have purchased your vehicle.
The way in which the vehicle is registered to you will depend if it is new or used, if a registration document or certificate is available or you may register it yourself.
If you buy a used vehicle – registration document or certificate available
The way in which the DVLA is notified that you have purchased your vehicle will depend on the registration document or certificate available.
TWO PART REGISTRATION DOCUMENT V5
You should be given the top half when you purchase the vehicle. You must tell DVLA as soon as you buy a used vehicle – do not wait until you need to re-license it. Tell DVLA by completing the back of the registration document.
THREE PART REGISTRATION DOCUMENT V5
The person selling the vehicle must complete ‘your details’ in the top (blue) section. Both you and the seller need to sign the declaration. It is the responsibility of the person selling the vehicle to send it in to DVLA. They should then hand you the V5/2 green section appropriately filled in. The DVLA must be notified as soon as the vehicle changes hands.
REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE V5C
The person selling the vehicle must complete section 6 ‘new keeper or new name/new address details’ of the V5C. Both you and the seller need to sign the declaration in section 8. It is the responsibility of the person selling the vehicle to send it in to DVLA. They should then hand you the V5C/2 green section appropriately filled in. The DVLA must be notified as soon as the vehicle changes hands.
If you buy a used vehicle – seller does not have a registration document or certificate
If the seller does not have a V5 registration document or V5C registration certificate, you should register the vehicle in your name by using form V62 ‘application for a registration certificate’. You can get one by download from the vehicle forms link below or from any Post Office® branch or a DVLA local office. DVLA will then send you a new registration certificate in your name.
What will happen next
DVLA will aim to deliver a registration certificate to you within two to four weeks of receiving the application. If you have applied on a V62 application form, this may take up to six weeks as special checks have to be made. Please allow six weeks for the registration certificate to be delivered before contacting the DVLA.
When you receive your new registration certificate
When you receive your registration certificate from DVLA, it is your responsibility to check that all the details are correct.
If you buy a brand new vehicle
The dealer will usually arrange for the vehicle to be registered for you.
The head of the police’s vehicle crime unit says there needs to be a shake-up of the way second hand cars are bought.
Crackdown on car cloning scam
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Hooper says too many people are becoming victims of a practice known as car cloning – in which they are tricked into buying stolen vehicles.
Police and car crime experts recently called for a review of the current vehicle registration system which they fear is fuelling an alarming rise in car cloning and personal identity theft.
Across the UK, police forces have reported a rise in the number of licence plates being stolen and then used to disguise identical vehicles which are sold to unsuspecting buyers or used in other crimes. Often innocent drivers whose plates have been copied don’t find out about the scam until they are hit with fines for speeding and parking offences committed by drivers of the cloned cars.
The rise in licence-plate thefts has been attributed to the tightening of procedures that make it difficult for criminals to obtain duplicate plates legally. Superintendent John Wake, of the newly formed Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, said more needed to be done and yesterday called for an improved licensing system, a central issuing body for registration numbers and for all cars to have tamper-proof plates fitted.
According to police estimates, there were more than 40,000 sets of number plates stolen in 2008, a rise of almost 25 per cent on previous years. The used car market is worth almost £30m a year, making it an attractive money-spinning scam for gangs who often invest proceeds from cloned car sales into other criminal enterprises.
See our guides on buying a second hand car: Never Ever Get Shafted When Buying a Used Motor
Buying a Car
If you are about to buy, or are thinking of buying a new car, there are some practical things that you need to look out for. Be careful if you are buying a second-hand car. Do not buy one that could be stolen or be a likely target for thieves.
- Ask to see proof of the seller’s identity and address – an official letter or driving licence, for example.
- Make sure the car’s VIN (vehicle identification number) matches that on the registration document.
- Let the seller bring the car to you, as you may need to confirm their address details.
- Buy a car without the registration document.
Check it out
- If in doubt, ask the AA, RAC or another reputable organisation to inspect the car before agreeing to buy.
- The vehicle identification number (VIN), formerly known as the chassis number, is a unique 17 character number issued to every vehicle by the manufacturer. The VIN could be:
- Stamped on the body chassis or frame.
- On a manufacturer’s VIN plate under the bonnet or fixed to the post between the front and rear doors.
- On an additional plate fixed securely to the top corner of the dashboard where it can easily be seen through the windscreen. This is called a visible VIN.
- When buying a car, always check that the VIN has not been tampered with and that it matches that on the registration document.
Buying a New Car
We advise you to consider the following security features for any new car that you purchase:
- Electronic engine immobilisation
- Locking wheel nuts
- Secure in-car entertainment
- Lockable fuel caps
- Central locking
- Security etching
Some systems may reduce your premium and you can find out more information from your insurer. We recommend that your car has as many of the above-mentioned security features as possible.
Think about fitting a vehicle tracking system if you are buying a particularly expensive car or one that might be attractive to thieves.
For security advice call the National Vehicle Security Helpline on 0990 502 006, or speak to your local police Crime Prevention Officer.
For a list of recognised security products call Sold Secure on 0800 192 192.
For information about vehicle inspections call the AA on 0800 234 999 or the RAC on 0990 333 660.
To check the status of a second-hand vehicle, call Equifax HPI on 01722 422 422.
For a free copy of the Car Buyer’s Guide, published by the Home Office, contact your local Crime Prevention Officer.