Select Page

Used Car Buyers Guide | Never, Ever Get Shafted When Buying a Used Car … What the Criminals Don’t Want You to Know!

Thousands of people get ripped off every day by unscrupulous traders in the used car industry trying to make a fast buck.


GAUK Motors Publish Ground-Breaking Used Car Buyers Guide

Compiled with the help of police, car buying professionals, and even ex-car criminals, GAUK Motors used car buyer’s guide is probably the most comprehensive guide to buying a secondhand motor ever written…

Steve Jones is among one of the country’s most successful used car dealers. He shares with GAUK Motors his honed and perfected, step-by-step system used when buying stock – it has not let him down in 15 years… After all if he gets it wrong its his lively hood!

Malcolm, a reformed car criminal, now advises the car industry and GAUK Motors on car security. A misspent youth saw him involved in all aspects of car crime, from theft to ‘ringing’ (changing a car’s identity), from bodging together insurance write offs to selling them on.

Malcolm is defiantly the person to advise you on what to look for in the used car markets!

GAUK Motors Used Car Buyers Guide exposes the secrets and ‘tricks of the trade’ when buying a used vehicle which could save you thousands in a costly mistake when purchasing your next car. The guide has been written with a worldwide audience in mind – after all a stolen car is a stolen car, no matter where it’s being sold!

Car Auction Feeds

We interviewed senior police officers, car dealers and even those who made their living from car crime.

GAUK Motors Undertake Intensive Research Program

A couple of years ago GAUK Motors undertook an intensive research program. We interviewed senior police officers, car dealers and even those who made their living from car crime.

The original brief was to uncover the ‘tricks and secrets of the trade, the public ought to know’.

The result of that study is a no-nonsense guide which has to be the most comprehensive ever written.

GAUK Motors Used Car Buyers Guide guide gives you the facts: We get straight to the point and stay there!!!

The guide takes the innocent car buyer on a step-by-step inspection of the prospective vehicle. It teaches them everything the professionals look for when trying to establish the authenticity of a motorcar.

World’s largest source of vehicle information

The guide is broken into 5 easy-to- follow sections:


The first contact you have with the seller of the car will probably be over the phone. You can save yourself a lot of time and wasted viewings by sorting the dogs from the genuine article in the comfort of your own home – just by asking the right questions.


Recent police figures suggest that 1 in 3 cars have a hidden history!

Most cars will have some sort of knock during their life; this is a normal part of driving on today’s roads. The problem arises when you’re sold a motor that has been in a bad accident then repaired in a back-street garage and passed off as being straight.

There’s a lot of money to be made in bodging together a badly damaged vehicle, so unfortunately for you, there are a lot of people at it!


One of the most common car crimes these days is that of winding back the odometer on a high mileage car – ‘clocking’ in the trade. GAUK Motors have researched thoroughly the art of mileage adjustment by talking to those in the know … and we show you exactly how to spot them!!!


A massive, and growing problem faced today is that of car theft. The odds of buying a stolen car are stacked very high … against you!

GAUK Motors have worked closely with the police force and interviewed criminals to learn what the car thieves are up to. In the course of our information service we will pass on to you, the car buyer, that very valuable knowledge.

We feel that if you know how the criminals work you know what to look out for…    


You can always trust the vehicle checking organisations … Can’t You?

There are vehicle checking organisations out there but they can only go on the information given to them by you and their computers. Unfortunately, there are numerous ways to fool their checks; they don’t have the car in front of them and it’s not their hard-earned cash on the line. The buck stops with you!

Every day you hear about horror stories in the media – With GAUK Motors you won’t be one of them!!!

Redressing the balance of power

Discover how to spot:

  • Ringers – Cars with a new identity
  • Cut and Shut – Cars that are actually two different vehicles welded together 
  • Clockers – Cars that have traveled many more miles than is recorded on the dashboard
  • Clones – Cars that carry the copied licence plates of a similar car 
  • Accident Damaged – Cars that have been in bad accident then ‘bodged’ and resold
  • Death Traps – There are many criminals out there willing to put YOUR life at risk for a quick buck!!!
  • Ex-Public Service Vehicles – Cars and vans that were once, Taxis, Ambulances, Police cars… and disguised. Believe us, they don’t make good second hand cars

This report is about redressing the balance of power

If they want to fight dirty then you have two choices:

  1. Lay down and take it.
  2. Fight them on their terms.

It’s up to you!!!

the car search engine


GAUK has developed powerful aggregation software that is monitored by real, live humans and only sources clean data.

car auction search


Search ALL vehicles coming up for auction at the country’s leading sale rooms.

car classifieds search


Each day we gather up-to-the-minute information from multiple car classifieds websites across the internet


Search, save and compare car dealer vehicles across the entire UK.

Never, Ever Get Shafted When Buying a Used Car … What the Criminals Don’t Want You to Know!


The first contact you have with the seller of the car will probably be over the phone. You can save yourself a lot of time and wasted viewings by sorting the dogs from the genuine article from the comfort of your own home – just by asking the right questions.

Instinct and intelligence are the two major factors which affect your success rate when you’re looking to buy the car you really want.

This includes your senses. Your senses are affected by your emotions – so never go car hunting with your emotions out of control, e.g. after an argument, or with something other than car purchase on your mind. Not everyone has finely tuned instincts.

The GAUK Motors V.U.It-Check-List (available Free to registered users HERE) puts your conscious on hold and allows your subconscious, to tune into the way the seller presents himself and his car.

On the phone there is no visual contact, or physical presence, to distract the focus of your attention.

Your attention is focused down the line. And that means land-line. Interference from mobile and remote phones can disturb your flow of conversation – as well as distract your attention. This is an unnecessary intrusion.

Not what gets you into MENSA, but MI5.

Intelligence gathering is planning, organisation and patience. Not everyone has the inclination to plan and organise – but everyone remembers patience as a virtue.

So in a nutshell GAUK Motors:

  • Increases your instinctive awareness
  • Gives you a planned routine each time you call a seller, and quite literally talks you through your routine
  • Organise your inquiries, so you don’t get your facts confused.

Without the Talk-U-Thru-Check-List (available Free to registered users HERE) you can waste your time and money chasing rubbish across six counties.

Once you’ve tracked down something and all your initial phone questions have been answered satisfactorily you’ll go out to a viewing where you’ll be armed your V.U.It-Check-List

Without the V.U.It-Check-List you can get swamped by detail and miss vital clues…..and undergo an experience, not unlike the writer’s last purchase, in which a medium-sized, strong, reliable car was required.

After six months of indecision, there was an urgent and increasing pressure for a result in this quest. Two absolute no-nos for car hunting.

If you want to pay over the odds and/or buy a dog, go car hunting under these constraints.

Buy when you want to – not when you have to.

There were just so many three and five series from which to choose. However, the writer fulfilled this task within four weekly issues of the Exchange & Mart (local car trader magazine), eventually settling on a 525e.

It was a lovely car but the level of cleanliness aroused immediate suspicion. The seller was private.

During the course of the viewing he revealed a reasonable knowledge of the car. His ‘wife’ had owned it in her maiden name for four years; the car was registered at the viewing address; the seller was at home. The car had been serviced under the seller’s name, two years prior, by the local BMW main agent.

He was stretching the truth, however, about recent maintenance with a list of repairs which had allegedly, been completed by a moonlighting BMW engineer. All the visible parts had been replaced, but I later found the invisible ones hadn’t.

There were no garage bills and forgetting to ask to see the parts receipts just compounded the issue. I took his word as an honest John – just how gullible can one get.

It was a lovely clean car but it cost an extra £800 to get the fantasy changed to reality. The asking price was £4,900. The drive away price became £4,500. Not low enough to cover all the repairs. But it could have been worse!

With hindsight, it was obvious a trader had primed the seller. The facts were mixed with fantasy to fudge the issues. And there were too many variables with which to cope, without the V.U. It-Check-List.

This was the last purchase made without this checklist.

When the time comes to pool your arguments to get a realistic price, your mind can be a torrent of truths, half-truths, uncertainties and whatever else. This is when your V.U.It-Check-List takes over. It has all the facts written down waiting for this moment.

Initially practice on your current car, your friends’ cars, your parents’ cars, or any car you’re under no stress to buy. This way, you’ll realise that although all cars have a basic similarity in function and structure, the mechanics and layout can vary.

When you’re familiar with the car you want, you can start hunting for your own.

Although the Talk-U-Thru-Check-Lists allow you to track more than one make and model at the same time, just concentrate on one model, trim level, engine size and year.

Unless you know about cars you’ll just get confused.

You’ll require two other publications:

If you don’t know what you want, try a used car review site. It tells you what to avoid and gives you ideas around what you can afford.

Next, phone round some dealers or traders and take V.U.It-Check-List to their car lots. For viewing only.

Just get a feel for dealing – it could save your thousands in the long term.

It’s easier, and more fun, to take someone with you when you view – even if he or she knows less about cars than you do. You’ll be amazed by what an unstressed observer will notice.

With GAUK Motors and moral support you won’t get fooled so easily. You’ll realise how quickly you can analyse a car. But leave your money, cheque book, credit cards, ID and urge to buy, safely at home.

This may seem like a waste of time, but it’s part of the learning process. At the end of the day it’s more comforting to have your money in the bank, than to have your car in the repair shop and no money in the bank.

It’s historically accepted that most car dealers were – and are probably still – adept at pressurizing and leading potential buyers into buying the car they want to sell. What happens to the buyer at this crucial moment?

He goes fish: his mouth gapes; his eyes don’t blink; his brain freezes over. He can barely nod his chequebook and sign his head.

It will be to the successful business man, buying his first Rolls Royce convertible and inquiring if the aircon worked with the top down!

Moral of the story is to follow the system.

Ultimate Used Car Buyers Guide

The Non Invasive Phone Technique

Motoring Used Car Guide: Talk-u-thru-check-list

Buying a used car on the phone. Why each question is important. What do the answers mean?

First of all, don’t expect everyone to tell you the truth. It’s the writer’s experience that very few people feel comfortable telling the truth at the best of times, never mind when they are trying to shift several thousand pounds worth of wheels.

Some people are over effusive when they stretch the facts, others speak volumes by saying nothing. Both types give themselves away. But if you can’t spot when someone’s lying – buy a new car. If you can’t afford one, either get a bus pass or pay more attention to the people around you.

From each advert that appeals to you, write down all the facts or cut it out and attach it to your V.U.It-Check-List. (Downloadable master copy at checklists page)

Ensure these facts include the make, the model, the price asked, the phone number/s.

Include also the publication and issue date for your own reference. Use a red ball pen. You may not agree, from reviewing your bank statements, but two reasons banks use red is, because it’s historically lucky, and it signals impending danger.

Remember that typographical and spelling errors are common. Cars are either described inaccurately by a typist’s mistake or ignorance and unfamiliarity by the seller.

  • Identify the car, down to the last letter
  • Know exactly which model the seller is selling

There are important reasons for doing this:

  • More than once, the writer has traveled across six counties to view the wrong car.
  • You don’t have to be intelligent to buy a car, but if you don’t sound a little knowledgeable, then a seller may decide you’re just a time waster and lose interest.
  • Popular cars generate lots of interest. A seller can receive lots of calls. To a busy person, this is an intrusion on his precious time, so speak clearly, be polite and sociable.
  • Be familiar with all the standard fittings. If a seller informs you that this model didn’t have XYZ it’s probably because it doesn’t work. And not because it’s a special order or special edition.

Phones, source, date…

Learn to recognise mobile phone numbers. The seller may not necessarily be trying to avoid being contacted if there’s a problem, but why take chances with your hard-borrowed cash.

Traders posing as general public can be so plausible you have to be on your toes to avoid being taken in by them. Minor entertainment can be had from spotting their devious stratagems – provided you haven’t been stuffed by one. Learn to recognise inner-city area codes. It may just be a personal preference, but the writer prefers cars that haven’t spent the most recent part of their lives overheating in traffic jams.


Always confirm the advertised asking price.

Check out a car buyers’ price guide to ensure good value.

” Hello!”
” Do you still have your car for sale?” … “Good!”
” Do you have time to talk?”

Don’t mention the make to double check he’s got only one car for sale. He may be a W-BT (would-be trader – a disreputable dealer posing as a private seller) with more than one for sale.

Pause and wait to be asked what you want to know.

If a seller starts off with a stream of ‘facts’, he’s probably a W-BT. If you’re really keen on the car, wait for him to pause for breath, then ask one of the questions on your list – not covered by his monologue. Once you control the conversation, revert to the checklist order.

There are important reasons for doing this.

As you become more familiar with the Talk-U-Thru-Check-List, you will develop a natural, polite, conversational inquisitiveness. Engaging a seller in this open manner will often result in the seller expressing himself in a similar way.

How he responds will tell you as much about himself as the car he’s selling. Allowing a seller to prattle on gives you little opportunity to settle into your investigative technique.

If a seller:

  • Won’t let you get into your technique
  • Is reticent about answering questions
  • Says all the facts are in the advert and is reluctant to expand on them, save your breath. You are, after all, paying for the call.

Just thank him and hang up!

But he has the time to talk and he is listening so, for a couple of minutes, do your best to be as polite and as pleasant as possible.

Confirm all the facts you wrote down from the advert as you go through the following list. A lot of the answers are straightforward Yes or No.

The acceptable answer is in bold print and always first. An answer followed by an asterisk * means that you are into, or approaching a suspect deal.


  • Stop; thank him kindly and hang up, or
  • Be extremely wary; or
  • Get uncharacteristically heartless and beat the seller’s price to the floor; or
  • Carry on and listen to the spiel from a real hustler and gain some valuable pointers on their behaviour and mannerisms

If the responses you receive don’t make sense, keep pressing on that question until they do.

Questions with a T – you don’t need to ask a trader.


This group of questions establishes basics.

1a. Is it Right- or Left- hand drive?
If it doesn’t say – ask. Assume nothing!

Traders love it when buyers assume. It further reduces their commitment to the truth.

1b. Which model and cc is it?

Just another lead-in to double-check that there is only one car for sale and not three or four. And to ensure that the model on offer is the one for which you are looking.

1c. T Is this your car? Y N*

If it’s No*, thank him, then hang up!

Unless it’s a proper trader, in which case a pre-purchase inspection engineer is essential for the final stage of purchasing. Traders are obliged by law (UK) to declare so – or to place a T at the end of their adverts.

Frequently, however, they forget to do so. Or perhaps it’s only the ones who’ve been rumbled who do. The number of sellers with cars belonging to someone distantly related to them, leading you to believe that the seller has known the car for some time, will astonish you.

These sellers are best avoided for they may be something other than that which they claim.

Don’t buy cars from sellers who aren’t the registered keepers. Avoid ads like ‘call Dave or Mick between 5.00 and 6.00 p.m.’ This could be a codename and pay phone anywhere. Avoid mobile phone numbers. Don’t leave your number.

1d. Is it on finance? N Y

Almost all nearly new cars are on some form of never-ever. If the seller says No and your call to the security check company says Yes, then don’t touch it. The seller must have his reasons. You don’t need to share them.

1e. (Europe) Is it EU registered? Y N*

It’s legal to sell an EU (EEC) registered car in the UK. If it’s over six months old, no duty or VAT is payable. It’s illegal to sell a non-EU registered car. Ask first!

1f. Do you have the registration document to hand? Y N*

If the answer is No*, ask why or hang up!

Most of the following group of questions can be verified on sight of the
registration document.

2a. Is it Manual or Automatic?

2b. Is this stated on the registration? Y N*

It’s highly likely that it should be.

But when you play in the car game – never make assumptions. Ask first! If it’s automatic and it’s not stated, thank him and hang up!

2c. What is the registered colour?

2d. Has it been resprayed? N Y*

This gives the seller the option to tell you the truth, because you’ll find out easily enough when you view. To perform a proper respray all the trim must be removed. This takes time and costs lots of money. It’s financially viable only on really expensive cars, or when an insurance company is picking up the bill. If this isn’t so, then it would be reasonable to assume the paint job was not done properly, ‘on the cheap’.

Perhaps it was an innocent enough respray to repair hooligan damage, or perhaps it wasn’t so innocent. If the car is unique go and view.

Otherwise it’s best not to take a chance. Hang up!

2e. What colour is the interior?

2f. Any cuts or wear on the seats? N Y*

Traders and some private sellers view their vehicles with such reverence and attachment that you can be made to feel as welcome as a home wrecker. An admission by them that the family Rottweiler has removed the upholstery stuffing is akin to shopping their offspring for tax evasion. So be particularly attuned to admissions of ‘ever so small marks, scratches or holes’. Unless you have feral tendencies, hang up!

N.B. You have to push traders hard to remember if the seats look worn.

2g. Has it been in any accidents or been subject to any paid insurance claims? N Y*

Don’t stress serious accidents, since the crumple zone quality of today’s cars makes the word ‘serious’ superfluous.

Body shops may be able to work miracles with total wrecks. However, if you have a choice you don’t need have first-hand experience of these unless the price reflects it. If the answer is Yes*, and the damage repair is extensive, thank him and hang up!

Some cars, with damage limited to body panels and doors, can be so
expensive to repair that insurance companies will write them off as total
losses. There are three classes of total losses: Scrapper, Breaker and Salvage.

  • A Scrapper is a car with no value. The Vehicle Identification Numbers are removed, declarations are signed, the car is crushed and its entire ID is returned to the insurers.
  • A Breaker is one, which for various reasons, insurance companies don’t want on the road again. The parts and VINS are removed, declarations are signed and the vehicle is crushed. What often happens is that the breaker sells the whole car for parts, intending to retrieve the body shell later – but ‘forgetting to do so’.

This breaker then becomes a ‘ringer’ – i.e. fixed up to look a year or two older, given another ID and sold to people who know no different.

  • A Salvage can be repaired. Either by bodging and chancing that you won’t bother running a security check. Or by dismantling and rebuilding to its original specification, then taken down to a vehicle inspection unit to be compared with the model’s original structural specification. If it matches, its write-off status is cancelled in the write-off register and the car is then adjudged a non-write-off.

But it is still kept on the write-off register (UK).

N.B. Unlike the dealer and trader, the private seller does not have to declare the car has been subject to an insurance claim settlement, written-off and subsequently repaired.

Unless you ask first!

If the claim was on a fully comprehensive insurance policy, any security check agency would reveal this. If the claim was on a third party, fire and theft policy for a stolen/damaged/recovered – then it won’t.

* Even though the insurance company has paid out on it, this write-off could be resold as anything but!

Yet another instance of the car industry policing itself and leaving a less than pleasant aroma around in the process. No doubt the trade will have its reasons for this, the perfect logic of which will escape the comprehension of the rest of us. If a car has been a write-off from a settled insurance claim and it hasn’t been rebuilt, then the price must reflect this. If it doesn’t, inform the local Trading agencies and forget it!

There’s a list of companies on the last page who will check vehicle ID, if there’s outstanding finance or if it’s been stolen and written-off by an insurance company. But they won’t reveal to you if it’s been reclassified on their list of write-offs.

Unless you specifically ask them.

* The exceptions are when a public service vehicle, or a corpse is involved in a crash. In this event the car is crushed.

2h. How many previous keepers are there?

Good vehicles tend to be looked after better by fewer owners. Ideally one, two at a push. If your budget is tight, the longer the last owner has owned it, the better.

If he has owned it for two years or more, and the only bills are for changing the oil, oil filter and plugs and it’s still wonderful, tread warily. Either it hasn’t been driven much while in his possession and been kept in a heated garage or there’s a serious reality gap here.

2i.T Is your or your partner’s name on the registration? Y N *

A double check on in-laws, siblings, girlfriends, business partners and ‘friends’. If you can’t talk to the owner/driver, the chances are you’re talking to a W-BT – or worse. Hang up!

2j.T Is the car kept at the registered address? Y N*

2k. T Is this your home? Y N*

If it’s an amateur sale, ensure that you view the car at the address recorded on the registration document. If the answer is No* and there is not a VERY good reason – hang up!

If a car is registered at a business address, ensure that there are no transport affiliated businesses being run from there.

2l. Which month/year was it first registered?

Always confirm the exact age of the car. Know which model you are going to view.

2m (UK). What is the MOT number?

On the reverse side of MOTs printed in 1995 and later is the phone number of the MOT ‘Hot Line’. For about 50 pence per minute you can check if this MOT is ‘genuine’.

The writer checked this facility twice and it took less than 30 seconds to get an affirmative identification of its authenticity in ‘It’s OK’. Unfortunately this service can’t identify the VRM of the car to which this MOT relates. So it can’t identify dodgy MOTs or just duplicated MOTs.

On the positive side, it has reduced MOT theft and forgery. Since only an idiot would attempt to sell you a car with a forged or nicked MOT with the Hot Line verification phone number on it.

Security on MOTs will be tighter still in a year or so. Already MOT testing stations are taking delivery of computerised kit that will hook up to DVLA to send in an emissions analysis, mileage and car ID.

Three-year-old vehicles require an MOT. MOTs normally last for 12 months, but can be extended to 13 months. All they state is that the car was roadworthy at that date.

It is important that you buy a vehicle with a full MOT. It means that the seller has made some attempt to comply with the Road Traffic Acts, so some work may have been done on the car to ensure its safety.

A car without an MOT may be very cheap but best avoided. Legally it cannot be driven on public roads. If you have an accident and the car has no MOT, your car insurance is invalid.

2n (UK). How much road tax is on it?

It’s only a few quid compared to the value of the car but people are funny about selling their car with too much road tax. Traders rarely sell cars with road tax. If there is more than one month of tax on the car they’ll claim it back from DVLA.

A dealer might lure you with a year’s road tax. But be suspicious of anyone else offering a car with lots of tax. Unless he has been disqualified. In which case ask if they have proof.

N.B. You’ll be checking these answers with the V5, MOT and insurance documents, including the VIN which you will ask for later, should you decide to view the car.

This group of questions establishes usage, trade connections, fuel consumption and mileage.

3a. When did you buy it?

3b.T How many miles have you put on since?

You can confirm this mileage by asking the previous owner, whose identity and whereabouts are on the registration document.

3c.T Do you drive for a living? N Y*

3d.T What do you use it for?

3e.T How much city driving do you do?

The trade reckons 10,000 miles per year as an average for a privately owned car, and 20,000 miles per year for a below average car. If a car has been driven for social, domestic and pleasure use for most of its existence, in the worst possible driving conditions, i.e. in one of our sprawling cities, allow 6,000 miles per year.

A car that has been driven by a countryside community health worker, making house calls, can clock up 20,000 miles per year, covering 80 miles per day in ideal driving conditions.

With the extended motorway and dual carriageway systems today, driving 50 miles to work and 50 miles back home again is easily done. That’s 20,000 miles per year before any other driving is considered. A car that has been driven by a company area manager can clock, up to 40,000 miles per year, with the majority of the mileage at steady speeds on motorways.

Now is the time to find out what the seller does for a living, and where he does it. If you don’t have both the work and home phone numbers – ask for them now.

3f.T Are any members of your household, traders, or involved in the car business in some other way? N Y*

That’s better!

There’s no point in beating about the bush. Just ask if there’s anyone in the household, who has the slightest connection with any aspect of the car game; be it taxiing, chauffeuring, transporting, couriering, leasing, trading, repairing or car financing.

3g. What is the average fuel consumption?

3h. And in town?

3i. Can we check it on a full tank? Y N*

Well, it’s not really what they say but the way they say it, especially if it leads into opinions/lies.

And about now, they start to creep into the conversation.

Traders are strong on opinions. They use them to confuse. If you feel this happening, proceed no further!

The same applies, if you sense him coming on like a Jack-the-Lad. Traders ‘never lie’. They’re just extremely economical with the facts or they plead our version of The Fifth Amendment in ‘Dunno mate!’

Even if the car has computerised fuel consumption display, it’s not unreasonable to come to an arrangement over a full tank of petrol, such as, if you buy the car you pay for the gas. If you don’t – well he’s paid already. This will give you a clear indication of the average fuel consumption.

Any resistance to this arrangement indicates that the car, either isn’t capable of delivering this fuel consumption, or isn’t being used and probably isn’t insured for driving in public. Either way, it’s unreasonable and the conversation should end here.

3j. What is the clock mileage?

3k. Do you believe this is accurate? Y N*

For a car that has been driven by any associative car trade, you make no allowances. You hang up!

N.B. Any car, with the possible exception of a one-owner car, bought from that owner, could be ‘clocked’, i.e. the mileometer mileage has been reduced to give the buyer the impression of low use.

However, the mileage could be genuine.

It could have been used for the school run five times a week at two miles per trip. It could look lovely, but the engine might be so glued up with tar – from the lack of a regular thrash up and down the local by-pass – that the engine is knackered. Or it could be a Channel Islands hire car with a knackered engine.

Or the clock might have been wound round from 60,000 through 99,999 to 25,000 miles. If challenged the seller could claim it had been round the clock. But you’ll have to view to find this out.

If the seller sounds a little vague, thank him and hang up!

High-mileage motorway miles are probably the closest you’ll get to ‘honest miles’. Trader’s’ ads claim everything with high mileage as ‘motorway miles’. A car like this should exhibit no visible wear anywhere, except on the front, where stones have flicked the paint off at high speed as well as swirl marks from the car wash.

So a minicabber’s favorite, with high mileage, is best avoided. Unless you especially want to witness first hand, chipped back door edges; worn out rear seats; multi scarred ashtrays; smooth steering wheel and gear knob; metal visible on the pedals; holes in the carpets and extra aerial holes, suction or clamp marks on the body.

Once you have the VIN, and the ID of the main dealer who supplied the car new, you can call them to find out its original level of trim and colour. Do this to ensure that if anything has been changed on the specification, after it left the factory gates it can be accounted for and there are receipts.

This isn’t fail-safe, it just makes car fraud a little more difficult for your less-than-honest seller.

This group of questions establishes the care, the attention and the amount of money, spent on the car.

4a. Do you have a full service history? Y N Part.


Without qualification. Not yes, except for the last 20,000 miles. Full service history can mean the car is genuine and has been looked after. This means all the regular service work, which has been done to the car, is in the service record. And paid for on original stamped paid receipts.

Repairs and parts should be on suitably aged, paid receipts – VAT – registered ones carry greater credibility. Traders expect us to regard FSH in much the same manner as the stock market regards blue chip stock. But if there aren’t paid receipts for all the servicing – it’s all pure fantasy.

Which is the same as “Up until two years ago when my mate who works for XYZ did it on the side. No receipts, no bills, just my word for it and a list of what’s been done”. If you don’t want a big bill soon, hang up!

Bearing this in mind – if you really want the car – inform the seller now, that no way can he claim the price he’s asking. Do this firmly and reasonably.

If he agrees, then get down there. If not, hang up!

It doesn’t take long to get sucked into believing the seller’s rehearsed scenario and lies.

Occasionally service books do get genuinely lost. So, if there’s none, or only Part FSH, then suitably aged, paid, VAT-registered bills – covering all parts, labour and servicing will suffice – providing they cover the previous period between and including the last two major services.

4b. When was the last service?

4c. Was that a Major or Minor service?

The most important aspect of any car’s service history is its last 25-35,000 miles. If the seller has all the original service receipts, stamped paid from reputable companies, to cover this period, then the car must be mechanically all right. Even if the minor servicing isn’t done by the main agent, so what!

If the car requires some serious technical know-how, then the last two major service receipts from an approved agent will suffice. All the supplementary bills for parts and repairs should be on authentic, original, aged looking bill paper with the VAT number and a paid stamp.

4d. Is that with a Main dealer, Approved agent, Local garage or Yourself?

4e. Who, and where are they?

Double-checking invoice numbers, or his name, with the servicing agent/s for authenticity should only take a few minutes. Some makes keep centralised service records and make life easy, with one phone call revealing all.

With others, you have to phone each main dealer or agent. You can even buy a service copy from them. But if you can’t get corroborating facts and figures off their computer, and before you forget it, give the local Trading Standards Office the benefit of your discovery and send them a copy of your Talk-U-Thru-Check-List for evidence.

And don’t believe that main dealers resist temptation. In the car game, when there’s fast money to be made, everybody can get tempted.

Always inform the local Trading Standards Office when you unearth some dodgy deal. You never know, it might be your family in front of it when a front suspension unit collapses at speed. It’s still easy to get a new service record book from most main dealers or distributors. Tell them your car has done more miles than the service book can record and they’ll send out another. This is perfectly legitimate.

Unscrupulous traders, however, will obtain a fresh service record and write it up to create a ‘new’ history for the car. Or, if they are too lazy they’ll just steal a real one. So don’t keep yours in the car.

And always ask for original bills – not copies. Ones that have been stamped paid and carry a VAT number are credible. If there is one authority that traders really fear, it is VAT MAN.

Later, you’ll be prompted to ask for all the receipt numbers and dates. If the car is close to, or overdue a major service, find out how much it will cost. You’ll deduct the cost of this at the final reckoning in the V.U.It-Check-List.

There are enough approved agents or specialists in every make, who supply excellent service, often superior to main dealers, and who charge way below main dealer rates.

If the car has been looked after by the local garage for its major servicing, as well as for the mundane oil changes, then tread warily. Local garages can rarely be as familiar with all the intricacies and complexities of modern cars, particularly the electronics, as main dealers, specialists or approved agents.

But if it’s a basic uncomplicated car you’ve found, carry on.

A great cop-out for admitting nothing has been done for 30,000 miles is for the seller to claim all the routine maintenance has been done by himself. If he tells you what he has done, ask him how long it took to complete each task.

Strike up a little rapport here, to find out how genuine he is, checking at the end of each task, he still has the receipt for the replaced part in his possession.

If he claims to do the major servicing, too – and if you decide to view – check out his garage.

Look for a hole in the garage floor to stand in, or a heavy trolley jack for raising the car quickly, a large tool box on wheels and a very thick, heavily thumbed and grubby workshop manual for the model.

4f. Is there any evidence of . . (specific problem with this model)? N Y*

Historically, mass-produced cars invariably have some serious failure point(s) which are costly to fix. Ensure you are aware of them. To find out, join the appropriate car-owners club. One of the club’s officials should be able to help you. ‘Or he’ll know a man who can.’

Obtain a copy of Practical Classics car magazine (or equivilant). It contains listings of car clubs for around 350 marques and specific models. If it isn’t unique and the answer is Yes*, just thank him and hang up!

4g. Will anything serious require attention soon? N Y*

No matter how alluring the description may be – if it isn’t unique, and the answer is Yes*, hang up!

4h. Is it all mechanically sound? Y N*

Apart from listening for rising vocal tremors in the replies to the last three questions – what you want to hear is, the owner/driver/seller has some slight working awareness of the mechanical object which is on offer.

He appreciates that moving parts wear out and he changes the engine oil and filter every 5,000 miles, with paid receipts and corresponding service stamps on the service history book. Engines and gearboxes sharing the same oil require oil changes every 2,000 miles. If the answer is No* and you like fixing cars, go for it, otherwise thank him and hang up!

4i. Does it have a tow bar? N Y

4j.T What do you pull with it?

Every car with a tow bar the writer has bought, the previous owner has professed to never having used it. It’s acceptable on large powerful cars, but have a look around to see if you can see a 10 metre yacht, a caravan or a trailer around the seller’s house should you decide to view.

4k. What’s the bodywork like?

4l. Any rust or paint bubbling anywhere? N Y* [If any, where?]

Any mention of rust must be pursued until you have a Technicolor clear picture of what and where it is. Unless you’re prepared to spend serious money – rust is this conversation’s stopper. But if all you need is a cheap rust-bucket for a year, until it fails its next MOT – go for it.

Needless to say even tiny rust is a good price reducer. Again, admission of failure – this time to fend off corrosion – is difficult to accept by the seller. Get ruthless!

Remember it’s your time and money you’re spending.

Stress, that if the car is absolutely clean, you’ll pay his asking price. Any rust must reduce the price drastically.

That’s why unscrupulous sellers will go to great lengths to conceal any on the car they are intent on stuffing you with.

N.B. The word used was conceal, and not eliminate. Since, whatever they do, will only conceal the rust for a month or two. And it could be anything up to a day of your time you waste, to go and see it.

4m. Is all the chrome bright and free of scratches? Y N

It’s a small point but if the chrome has dents or heavy scratches on it, you’ll feel the same way as buying a can of beans with a large dent in it.

4n. Does it have original manufacturer spec tyres fitted? Y N

Which ones?

4o. Does the spare match? Y N

4p. Are they all good? Y N*

The chances of being told the true state of the tyres is open to speculation. Unless the new tyres are the best part of the sales pitch. But at least you’ll know if you’re dealing with a liar, should you decide to view. Receiving an okay and no further response, probably means there is not a lot the seller can say about them. If it isn’t unique and all the answers are No*, thank him and hang up!

4q. How recent is the exhaust?

4r. Is that a Dealer, Original, Factored, Pattern or Used part?

Assume nothing. Just ask! Original parts bought from the dealer will be genuine parts. ‘Original parts’ bought at a heavy discount from elsewhere, are probably counterfeit. The only attempt to match the original specification is the colour and description on the packaging.

And worse in terms of reliability and strength than even pattern parts. Factored parts are made to a certain specification. Sometimes, they are a close match to lower specification, original, non-mechanical parts like headlamps, radiators and body panels, but they won’t match hi-spec., original parts, like inside the engine bits. But they are cheaper.

Pattern parts have no specification and are cheaper still. Often they don’t match the parts they are supposed to replace. They won’t last as long as original or factored parts and can be more trouble than the money you think you save. Used parts are sometimes more expensive than pattern ones and with no guarantee they are original parts.

4s. Has anything else been replaced? Y N

Lots of repairs with no bills, then bells must ring. In fact, if there are just lots of repairs, particularly for mechanical parts, alarm bells must ring. Because it sounds knackered. If it isn’t unique, just thank him and hang up!

4t. Do you have the receipts for these? Y N*

This elicits the amount of care and money spent on the car. It will paint a pretty, or less than pretty picture of the car under your scrutiny. There’s a tendency in the human condition to appreciate and look after good things one intends to keep for a while.

Lack of maintenance/repairs/manufacturer’s parts suggest the seller, either can’t afford to maintain the car, or is neglecting it, or both. Be straight with him. Let him know he can’t get anywhere near the price he wants, without receipts.

If he doesn’t agree, thank him and hang up!

N.B. Some sellers are naive enough to believe that they can. While some sellers are devious enough to lull you into believing you might get a good deal.

This group of questions establishes the level of equipment and if the car has been modified in any way – much of it can be established from the advert but double-checking .

5a. Does it have.

AWD• all wheel drive
ABS• anti-lock brake system
PAS• power assisted steering
(R) Al•/Immob• (remote) alarm/immobilizer
CL• central locking
(e)SR• (electric) sunroof
(e)W• (electric) windows
(e)M• (electric) mirrors
(e)SF&R• (electric) seats front and rear
AIRCON• air conditioning
Airbag• Driver’s/Passenger’s
Alloys• alloy wheels
Leather• leather seats
H/L W/W• headlight wash wipe
RAD•Tape•CD•CD box• radio, tape, compact disc, compact disc multiplayer
CRUISE/ASC• automatic Speed Control
Fogs• foglights
Phone• car phone

Roof Rails• to attach roof bars to fit roof box.
Roof Box• extra storage.
Self-Level Suspension•
Rear W/W• rear wash-wipe
Extra Rear Seats•

5b. Is this all factory fitted? Y N*

If they aren’t, there could be problems repairing, or finding parts for them. Or even with your insurance company claiming the car had been ‘modified’ without their knowledge – with the subsequent rip-off hike in insurance premium – or even cancellation of the policy.

If all the extras work well, they make the car more desirable. These points paint a similar picture in your mind of good car maintenance.

If the goodies don’t work, for whatever reason – they will be expensive to fix. And when you come to sell it, the defective extras will deter potential buyers.

Either get the price down low now or thank him and hang up!

5c. Has the car been modified in anyway? N Y

Insurance companies appear to enjoy making ex-clients of those whose policies they have just cancelled, because of undisclosed modifications – especially after a claim.

Don’t give them this satisfaction. Ensure that you know. Just ask!

5d. Which music system is fitted?

5e. Is it Pull out, Face off or Fixed?

Impressive car stereo – whether budget or high quality – is an apple in more than one car thief’s eye. Ensure you can either remove the whole unit, or at least get the front of it off. Security coding can be broken in 15 seconds.

Car stereo also features highly in the trader’s advert.

These questions establish that you might be seriously interested in this car.

6a.T Sounds good: why are you selling?

‘It’s a rusting death trap. I need a bank loan to fill up the tank every day’ is a sales pitch that ranks second to none in disarming candour, and strangely, it’s rarely heard – even though every word might be the absolute undisputed truth. It’s the overworked silvery porkers that slip so sublimely off the forked tongue of the seller. Like it’s just:

  • Too big (for the wife/us/family)
  • Really too small (for the family/us)
  • Too fast (for the wife/me {original})
  • Not fast enough, and on and on.

Historically the car game was built on dreams and promises and sustained by bigger promises, blatant lies and ever-increasing bills.

6b. What’s your lowest price?

This is the point where your desire for the car – for which you have spent six months searching – and the seller’s greed, converge. And there are exceedingly few situations, where the dangling of cash, just out of reach of the most hard-nosed negotiator/seller, does not weaken his resolve.

But don’t be tempted to wave cash around in the street, and don’t tell the seller you’re bringing cash. Less-than-honest sellers can still have their car and your cash, if they think you’re carrying it.

6c. I’m really interested. I need the VRM, the VIN, the engine number, the previous registered keepers’ name and address. I need also, the original main dealer to security check it and confirm any service record (and warranty).

Before you spend any money on security searches, phone up the dealer who supplied the car new. His name should be first on the service record.

Give them all the details you want confirmed; model, body style and colour, engine size and number, trim level and colour and confirm the VIN and VRM relate to it all.

Next, ask them the likely locations of all the VIN stamps on the car, if the windows were security etched and how many keys there should be. Write this down.

Any resistance to this request, can be countered, by discussing with the manager/owner of the garage, the article you are writing for one of the local papers on ‘The car trade’s co-operation in cutting down car fraud’ – in your capacity as ‘a freelance journalist’. Of course if he denies the existence of this car, don’t take it personally, just thank him, hang up, and look for another.

It’s unfortunate that the essential authority on vehicle ‘keepership’ – DVLA – is still out on whether they will authenticate V5 particulars on the phone. However, once you’ve confirmed the ID of the car, contact one of the security check firms who provide this service, to ensure that it hasn’t been:

  • Reported stolen
  • Subject to an insurance settlement claim, i.e. written-off
  • Subject to HP/charge with outstanding debt
  • Subject to a warrant being issued for its seizure for unpaid parking fines

There’s a list of these companies on the last page.

For a small additional premium, an insurance can be effected, to cover the possibility of any of the supplied data being incorrect, e.g. the car has been nicked but not reported yet. You lose the car, but not your money. And you have the joy of doing it all over again.

But contact the previous keeper, to find out its condition and what mileage was on it when he sold it. If it was within a year or two, he should remember the servicing arrangements he made for the car.

In the event of any discrepancies in the facts, he should be able to shed the most light on the car’s history. If he can’t, ask how old he is. You never know, he might be old and genuinely can’t remember. But if he doesn’t sound genuine, or you can’t locate him, you may have found yourself a ‘ringer’.

A ‘ringer’ is a car, which for one dubious reason or several – too varied to catalogue – has another car’s ID, is illegal and is therefore highly undesirable. However, any reluctance to reveal this information saves you a wasted journey.

The seller may have his reasons to withhold this information, but you have no need to know them. So, thank him and hang up!

6d. When will it be convenient for my inspection engineer to check it over?

If you feel that the car is good, and this is your only source of expertise, then use it.
There’s a list of companies on the last page that provide this service. Even if you know enough about cars to dispense with this service, it’s a good line to lead the seller into thinking a serious engineer is coming, to unmask his secrets.

By this time, if the seller isn’t quivering – with fear, not excitement – you’re probably on to a good thing.

If the seller is genuine, he should agree, and possibly arrange for a viewing facility on a ramp with a local garage. But, go and see the car for yourself first. Just in case he’s been having reality lapses. This is when GAUK Motors really saves you lots of money and lots of embarrassment, by placing a good used car in front of your expert first – instead of a dog! On the day of inspection, confirm that the car is still unsold and available.

6e. Is it insured to drive? Y N*

If the seller says Yes and you don’t have your own insurance, then it’s insured to drive.

Any problems are down to him. If you have current car insurance, check that it covers you for third party when you drive another car. If you have an accident, you’ll be obliged to pay for his damage. If neither of you have insurance, the car cannot be driven legally on public roads.

6f. I need directions to get to you.

Make them brief and draw a crude map. It’s quicker than writing, and easier to visualise.


UK Traders are obliged by law to declare so, by displaying, either the letter T after an advert, or stating ‘Trade’. A lot of them do. A lot of them don’t. Those who don’t, can be grouped with the professional liars, crooks and thieves, who aren’t required by law to declare they’re trading, but who are selling cars for their girlfriends, boyfriends, mothers-in-law, relations, business partners and anyone else whose names and addresses aren’t the same as theirs, but with whom they allege some tenuous connection.



The used car industry has developed its own short code and language. This is also the category which will include stolen cars, so care must be exercised when dealing with these types. It can only be repeated, that not all car traders are devious, amoral, under-handed creatures of the night. But why take that chance with your hard earned, or borrowed cash?

Here are a few ‘give-away’ clues from the WBTs who don’t declare they are trading.

The colour is invariably quoted as from the new car sales brochure, e.g. Diamond Black, Lachs Silver, Island Green and so on. Somewhere in the dimmer recesses of the collective T&W-BTs subconscious, probably lurks the specter of The 1968 Trade Descriptions Act, to which these out of- character declarations pay homage.

With little variation, the model on offer is a superlative example. Where do they find them?

  • Coachwork – instead of body – totally unmarked.
  • In stunning/pristine/fabulous – the colour
  • Superb/outstanding/showroom condition.
  • Lovely inside and out – but probably not underneath.
  • First to see will buy. Playing on your insecurity. A list of the standard equipment – as well as the genuine extras – to lull you into believing this car is somehow special.
  • Very rare. Attempting to capitalise on an unpopular model – which you shall find out when you trade it in – unless it’s a Type 23 Bugatti.
  • Any inspection welcome. Trust me! No need to call the AA/RAC – or anybody.
  • Mechanics A1. Body isn’t too appealing.
  • Motorway mileage. Complete with tachographic proof?
  • Expensive stereo. Always gets a mention. Disconnected remarks like possible p.ex, finance available, ‘viewing welcome’, ‘genuine reason for sale’ – of which only the impending hefty repair bill carries any credibility.
  • No canvassers. Those companies who phone up advertisers to help them sell their cars. And, of course, a W-BT does not require this help.

Finally, we come to the pièce de résistance in used car parlance: the word HENCE. Used to convey the act of ultimate self-denial. For some reason or another, the car is virtually being given away and implies no further negotiation on the sale price is possible. The similarity between these worded adverts and those ‘T’ marked adverts is chilling.

Mundane facts such as its exact age; the exact mileage; the exact number of registered keepers; the exact length of the MOT and road tax; its average mpg or range per tank are all omitted.

So an advert reading:

2 door, 1988, auto, VGC, FSH + bills, one owner, 97,000 miles, dark green, almost fully equipped, no aircon, no leather, economical 28 MPG, £3,500.Tel 123456789

Would appeal to the writer, because it deals with unalterable priority facts, such as the model and body style, the year, the gearbox, the condition, the service history and bill receipts, the number of owners and the mileage.

If you’re looking for this model, the ad assumes you know a little of the car, so the standard equipment isn’t listed. Compared to the awe-inspiring image creation of the trade, this advert wastes no time. It states what exists and does not confuse us with non-relevant information.

This sounds like a very nice car. One owner must have looked after it for eight years, mileage isn’t too high by comparison with some, the full service history may not be by BMW, but so what!

Pouring quality oil into the engine and changing the oil filter every 5,000 miles requires only the assistance of any one of the service companies on the last page of the manual. And the bills for parts and servicing, covering the period between and including the two previous major services, is proof enough of the state of the car – provided they’re on the usual authentic, original, aged looking bill paper with the VAT number and a paid stamp. But be quick. This advert will have the traders lining up.

The more attuned you become to what sellers say, and how they say it, the less time you’ll waste on trips to see rubbish cars. In fact, you’ll get so used to reading between the lines, that you won’t bother phoning some ads, because they’ll scream ‘BOGUS!’

Or, when you do, you’ll know as soon as the seller opens his mouth, you’ll be wasting your time. It’s an adventure in low-life-land with the demimonde, without leaving your front door.

The combination of Information Technology and car thieves is a nightmare combination unfolding as you read this. No matter how tempting, never buy cars from publications which update their adverts daily, nor from computerised find-a-car agencies – since you have no idea from where the car is coming.

Weekly publications slow down car thieves. So, don’t be too keen to get next week’s adverts by fax, before they’re published.

If speed doesn’t kill you…the rip-off will!

V5 details can be obtained from DVLA Swansea, under false pretences. A new log book can be produced on a colour photocopier and all the details printed up in a couple of minutes. Your call to any one of the car information companies will not confirm the authenticity of the V5 details. Your call to DVLA, or your local VRO, will not confirm the authenticity of the V5 details.


Some small legislative obstruction called the Data Protection Act. Hastily written, poorly interpreted and frequently abused, this data to which the VRO/DVLA are zealously guardian, is the same data anyone can obtain by applying on form VQ3, bogusly or otherwise.

Q. What can DVLA do for you, the potential buyer?

Not enough, obviously!

DVLA is efficient in its way. It co-operates with the police, insurance and car information companies, on cars which are reported stolen, written off or crushed. The problem lies with cars, that are not reported stolen.

Because their owners still have to discover they have been stolen: because the owner is either on holiday for two weeks, or he’s in the supermarket shopping for an hour. Car fraud can happen as fast as that.

When all the answers on paper present an image in your mind of the car you want, don’t hang around. Get down there. ASAP!

The more rubbish you go out to look at, the more frustrated you will become, until eventually your patience snaps along with your concentration, and suddenly you find yourself the less-than-proud owner of a ‘dog on wheels’.

Achieved, solely through your frustration and wasted effort looking at one rubbish car after another – because the seller has deceived you and you haven’t picked up on it.

Ultimate Used Car Buyers Guide


Recent police figures suggest that 1 in 3 cars have a hidden history!

This can mean a number of things.

One major problem faced by you the car buyer is being sold a motor that has been in an accident and that important information is not disclosed during your call and pre-inspection investigations. There are online checks that can be made before viewing a vehicle. An HPI check is always a wise investment.

The HPI Check report is a fully comprehensive vehicle check, arming you with vital information about the car you want to buy to protect you from motoring scams and fraud. However, not all issues are found and there is no substitute to inspecting the car on the ground.

Most cars will have some sort of knock during it’s life, this is a normal part of driving on today’s roads. The problem arises when you’re sold a motor that has been in a bad accident, then repaired in a back street garage and passed off as being straight.

There’s a lot of money to be made in bodging together a badly damaged vehicle, so unfortunately for you there are a lot of people at it!

Damaged cars can be bought very cheaply because to put them right can cost hundreds, if not thousands of pounds if done properly by a main dealer using manufacturer’s parts. What most people don’t know is that pattern or replica parts can be bought for a fraction of the cost – often they are a fraction of the quality too.

There’s nothing wrong with buying an accident-repaired motor when the work has been carried out by a good professional just so long as you know exactly what you are buying. A vehicle that has been in a significant accident then repaired will be around 20 – 30% cheaper than the equivalent straight car.

Things start to go wrong when the person selling you the accident-repaired car tries to pass it off as good. They will do this because of the large profits to be made.

You can phone the Vehicle Check organisations, they can be of some help. They will tell you if there is outstanding finance but are not always so accurate when it comes to accident damage. The problem is many cars don’t end up as insurance claims therefore don’t end up on the accident register – a lot more than you think!

A very obvious loophole is when a driver is only insured 3rd party, they have an accident with a wall which is their fault and hey presto, they’re not insured.

Result – a damaged car that can be bought for peanuts, repaired cheaply and sold on to you. Try phoning a vehicle check company and you will be told the motor has never been in an accident. You see the checking company can only check the information it has been given; they don’t have the luxury, as you do of having the vehicle in front of them. Any good professional will take a few minutes to look over a car and confidently tell you if it’s had an accident and been thrown together or not.

The professional knows exactly what to look for. The thing is what he looks for is not difficult to spot; in fact it’s all very easy. Anyone can find the clues to accident repair if they know what to look for.

So what do you look for?

Before you go to look at any vehicle take a look out the window and see what the weather is up to, Always view a car in good daylight and dry conditions – you wouldn’t believe what a few spots of water can hide.

Now that you’re with the car stand back and take the whole thing in. The main thing were looking for is evenness in the body panels, make sure all the gaps between wings and doors, between wings and bonnet, between boot and body etc. are all even.

On a good car all these gaps will be straight and even. When you look at the bonnet there should not be a much bigger gap on one side than the other. Walk around the whole car studying the gaps looking for that symmetry.

Happy with the gaps?

Now take closer look at the paint work, is the colour even all over. Compare each panel with the one next to it; you’re looking for shade differences. It’s quite difficult to get a perfect colour match to the original. As you walk around the vehicle let the light pick out any blemishes or dents. Filler work will be easy to spot when it hasn’t been done well.

You will see the uneven line between filler and the original body. Stand at the front and look along the sides, move slightly from side to side and you will see the light pick out all the faults. While you are standing at the front squat down about 10 feet away from the car and look at the wheels – all four should line up perfectly. If they don’t then the car has had a major crash

Look at the tyre treads for signs of irregular wear. If one or both are worn on just one edge it may mean the car’s tracking is out, or there may be more serious problems.

You need to get it checked out.

This is something a garage would have to do. If it is just the tracking then a few pounds will put it right, if it’s not then the bill will be somewhat bigger an you will know for sure the vehicle has had a major thump.

Seeing as you are at the front of the motor go and give it a bounce at each corner. Do this a few times before letting go. If it bounces more that twice then a shock absorber is faulty.

If everything looks OK at first glance we’re going to take a closer look.

Walking around the motor take each panel in turn. The best way to describe the next trick is to try to look through the paint work, look deeper and if a panel has had a repair you will usually see the sanding scratches picked out by the light.

When a vehicle has pinstripes/coach lines/go-faster stripes look at them closely.

A common trick is to paint up to a stripe. For example if a car has had damage along the whole side below the pinstripe the motor is masked up so the paint meets the stripe. It saves paying to paint the whole car. The giveaway is that when you look closely you can see where the ridge of paint has met the masking tape along the bottom of the stripe.

We’re now going over the vehicle more closely, open and close all the doors bonnet and boot. They should operate smoothly and close properly. You’re also looking for signs of over spray, this is where the paint has coated places it shouldn’t. It shows up best on black trim and especially around the window rubbers. It costs more to take the rubbers and trims off so normally garages don’t bother, they mask them up.

Fortunately for you it is a skilled job to mask perfectly so look out for that ridge of paint. Make sure you go over the whole car looking for over spray, inside door shuts, engine bay, under wings, everywhere.

Next look in the boot and lift the carpet to reveal the bodywork. Look at the joints where one panel meets the other. Each joint should not look tampered with, if there are lumps of painted weld then there’s been a badly executed major repair. The same goes for the engine bay, all joints will be clean and original.


Another little known trick is to look at the glass. Every window has a manufacturers mark printed in the bottom corner. It should be the same mark on all the windows. The only excuse is a window was broken at some stage – but the question is, was the window broken to steal the car, take it for a joyride and wrap it round a lamppost?

Look at the trims, do they look about the same age as the car or are they new?

The same goes for headlights, bumpers, stripes and decals (manufacturers stickers).

Eventually you’ll take the vehicle for a fifteen-minute drive. A car that you are not used to will feel strange at first so take a few minutes to get accustomed to it. Find a straight, empty bit of road. Apply the brakes at low speeds; if everything is in order try them at progressively higher speeds. (Up to 40 – 50 MPH)

Hold the wheel tight in case you get a strong pull to one side. The car should always come to a smooth controlled stop without using excess pedal pressure.

There should be no excessive noise and no pulling to either side.

Drive the car in a straight line at around 25 30 MPH. Turn the wheel gently from side to side, if it feels sluggish and unresponsive then there are serious problems.

If the bonnet rises and falls over uneven surfaces then there is a problem with the front suspension. It’ll feel as though you’re carrying a heavy load in the back.

When you use the system you have just learnt you will usually spot a problem car now you know what to look for.

If you feel there is a problem do not be persuaded otherwise by the seller.

If you want the motor get a second opinion from someone you trust. If the seller won’t agree then walk away and put your money into a car you feel happier about.

The whole process only takes about 30 mins including the test drive, although I would suggest that in the beginning you spend more time. You’ll find you soon get the hang of it.

As I said there is nothing wrong with buying an accident repaired vehicle so long as you are aware of what you are buying and the price has been adjusted accordingly.


One last thing to look out for is the ‘cut and shut’. The extremely nasty and highly dangerous practice of welding two halves of DIFFERENT cars together. Dangerous for the driver that is!

Recent crash tests on cut and shut vehicles produced some very frightening results – from ineffective crumple zones to the whole car tearing apart into its respective halves.

So how do you spot them if they are not on the write off register?

Firstly don’t think this is something that will only be done to expensive cars – if there’s a profit in it the criminal will take it.

The bodywork checks will reveal the first telltale signs – the car will have had a total respray.

Then you need to hunt for the weld seam – it will run right through the floor pan and pillars. Lift all the floor carpets and rear bench seat for starters. If there is no seam then get it up on the ramp.

  • Go over the underbody and concentrate on the central section. Look out for fresh underseal. Don’t be put off if it’s old and look for the telltale ridge. If there’s a weld seam that runs from one side of the car to the other I’ll guarantee it’s not been put there by the manufacturers.

When buying a car privately you have virtually no rights within the law. LET THE BUYER BEWARE. Go through your checks and if everything is OK you have greatly swayed the odds in your favour of buying a good clean car.

The best advice I could give would be to treat every car as stolen, ringed, clocked and chopped – until proven wrong.

And if all that’s not enough you can always get a professional opinion.

Bring along a trained mechanic with you to the viewing. In many cases, they will have a very good idea of what a car is worth and will be able to assess it fairly quickly. They will also be able from their experience and knowledge to identify any major defects or faults quickly.

Many mechanics or trainee mechanics will provide this service to you on a part-time basis for a relatively nominal fee. This is money well worth spending and an outlay of £25-£35 can save you extreme grief later on, and indeed help you buy a better car than you might otherwise have done.

Ultimate Used Car Buyers Guide


One of the most common car crimes these days is that of winding back the odometer on a high mileage car – ‘clocking’ in the trade. GAUK MOTORS have researched thoroughly the art of mileage adjustment by talking to those in the know.

We have learnt how they avoid buying a ‘wrong car’ as they are called from those who sell them. These last 3 sections are designed to give you a step-by-step system that most traders use when buying a used motor. It is proven to work because if it didn’t they would all be out of business!

High mileage cars can be bought for many hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds cheaper than the equivalent car with an average mileage and service history.

It is often a very simple task to adjust the mileage and can be done in a matter of minutes. Don’t be fooled by digital readouts either, a machine is on the market that can do the job in seconds.

Once clocked the car is then re-advertised and sold putting a profit into the pocket of the seller. It is because the profits are so large that the practice of clocking is commonplace.

OK so you go for a motor with all the MOT’s and a full main dealer service history. The vehicle is showing 56 000 miles has every service stamp and the car has had one owner from new.

Perfect, you pay full retail price for a motor that has done many more miles than is shown.


All the owner did was to disconnect the speedo cable between services. You’ve been had and soon you are digging into your hard earned money buying a very expensive part or worse.

A good trader will be able to tell the mileage of a car to within 5 – 10 000 miles in just a few minutes.

This ability is not a God given gift or something that comes from 20 years in the business. It is arrived at because they know what they are looking for.

Like any detective he follows a set of hard and fast rules. There are many clues and when assessed and evaluated give him a very good idea of the cars true history and mileage.

These systems, if used in conjunction with your phone investigations will route out virtually every con know to man.

You see the problem most car clockers face is that to fully disguise a motor’s extra wear and tear will take profit out of it. By the time he’s finished hiding all the clues he might as well go and buy a straight car – so to doesn’t bother, he relies on the fact that 99% of you don’t know what you’re looking for.
So what are you looking for?

Anyone can evaluate the authenticity of a car if they follow the rules.

Most traders have a more or less similar routine.

Let’s start with: What is the car telling us?

  • What is the mileage on the odometer?
    If it is showing average miles for the year we start our detective work. We want evidence to back up what the car is saying. As soon as we have looked at the mileage we look at the odometer itself.
  • Are the digits all lined up correctly?
  • Are any of the numbers, especially the 10 000 numbers, scratched or marked in any way?
  • Make sure the zero reset button resets as this can often be damaged when the mileage is altered.
  • Do all of dash lights work when the ignition is switched on?
  • When you drive the car make sure the speedo needle does not flicker excessively.
  • Make sure the console fits properly and all the plastic trims are in place.
    Some people are clumsy when putting a dash back together. Often clocking is a rush job because the clocker does not want to be spotted taking a dashboard apart.
  • Check that the heater controls work and all the switches are Ok.
  • Look for scratch marks on the dash where someone has slipped with a screwdriver.
  • Next take a look at the little black screws that hold the dash together. When these screws are tampered with the screwdriver will often knock off the paint revealing the silver. If these screws are damaged ask yourself why?If the screws are Ok it doesn’t mean the mileage is correct, we need to keep looking.

The very nature of driving a car will put wear and tear on certain parts, every time you touch something you wear it a little so it stands to reason the more it is used the more worn it becomes.

car clockingIt is physically impossible to drive a car without steering it and an excellent indication of a motors authenticity is the steering wheel. Most wheels are made of plastic and have some sort of molded grip.

Look at the wheel carefully especially the top section; this is where the most wear occurs.Start at zero wear on a new car and by 100 000 miles the average wheel is almost smooth. Anywhere in-between 0 and 100 000 miles the amount of wear should be compatible with the mileage shown. This wear is not difficult to disguise so keep on looking.

  • Look at the gear knob and gaiter use the same rule of thumb. By 100 000 miles we are normally looking at a smooth gearshift, although this does not apply to autos. Look at the gaiter, these crack and perish with use. Now compare the gear knob with the wheel is the wear about the same?

Can you see how we are starting to build a picture, putting together a jigsaw and how everything should have it’s place. If certain parts do not fit you have to ask yourself why?

  • Next look at the pedals and floor mat. Here we get heel and toe wear, if a car is showing 30 000 miles how has the owner managed to dig a hole in the mat and wear through the accelerator rubber.
  • Now look at the drivers seat, remember the more miles a driver does the more he is in the seat. If there are seat covers on the seats why is that?They can hide a multitude of sins. Look under them and check the fabric. A rough guide is that the material is usually holed after 100 000 miles.
  • Check the armrests another place often overlooked but they do get used.

Ex-taxis are a clockers favorite. They are usually newer cars with lots of miles, well over the 100 000 and can be bought at auction for peanuts. Luckily they are easy to spot when you know what to look for.

The dash normally has screw holes where the radio and meter were housed and will be scratched where the driver used to put his microphone.

  • Check the rear bumper for 2 small screw holes where the carrige licence plate was mounted,. The back seats will be worn more than average, a normal car gets very little use of its back seats. Look at the roof for scratches where the taxi sign was attached or suction cup imprints.

The same can be said of ex police cars, if you suspect the car was either a taxi or police car make sure it’s very cheap.

Ex-driving school cars are another favourite and can be very difficult to spot because they are well looked after. Because there are so many different drivers things aren’t worn in the same places.

There is one clue however. Look for a very worn seat on the driver’s side. If the passenger’s side is equally well worn we have found our giveaway. The teacher spends as much time in the passenger’s seat as the pupil spends driving.

Car traders love smokers!

A smoker can only get through so many cigarettes in a day so it stands to reason the more time they spend in a car the more fags will be smoked.

  • On newer cars look for excess nicotine stains and over use of ashtrays. Look for cigarette burns. When a car has been driven by an average smoker after around 50 000 miles the smell starts to become quite strong (worse if they are cigars).

If you are a smoker yourself you may have trouble with this one but keep an eye out for the burns and a well-worn push-in lighter.

  • Now before you get out of the car look through the windscreen – how many stone chips do you see? The more miles covered the more chips!

That more or less concludes our look through the interior but don’t be fooled if everything looks and feels right, all the things we have talked about can be disguised. We must look at the car as a whole. The more a clocker veils mileage the more money he has to spend so invariably he will draw the line somewhere.

  • Now take a look at the exterior.

Start at the front. Look for excessive stone chips on the bonnet and headlights.

How many did you see on the windscreen before you got out?

  • What is the general condition of the paintwork?

As a car is driven it faces the great harsh weather and if it’s not cared for the paint will fade. Look for a dullness, this dull sheen will be very noticeable in a car over 50 000 miles if it has not been cared for. The dullness will polish out so keep hunting for clues.

Take a walk around the car. Keep a keen eye out for over spray, this can be found normally on window rubbers and black trim. Look closely at the paintwork, we are looking for the telltale ‘orange peel’ effect that is often seen on newly painted cars, it is where the paint is not flat. It looks ripply like the skin of an orange as it catches the light.

As with the accident test compare each panel with the one next to it.



Stolen cars advertised for sale in the car classifieds is massive and growing problem faced today. Car theft and scams can be hard to spot,especially with the relatively faceless proliferation of the use of sites like eBay Motors.

Number of motor vehicle theft offences recorded in England and Wales

I have personally sold only two cars in the last couple of years and both times I was subjected to potential scams and on another occasion I inquired about a car that appeared on the surface to be an incredible deal.

These experiences rang immediate WARNING BELLS

I had one guy who wanted to buy my car but leave it registered in MY NAME whilst he drove it around France.  Another wanted me to drive the car to the docks where he’d hand over the cash and another simply ridiculous story.  These scams were fairly easy to spot  BUT criminals come in a variety of guises, from the downright stupid (as in my examples) to the very sophisticated.

Anything, and I mean anything, that just doesn’t stack up needs to ping your caution button.  Even something as subtle as your gut feeling about the person selling the car.  Criminals who sell stolen cars are inherently bad people and even if everything about the car seems kosha, there may just be something you don’t trust about the seller.

The odds of buying a stolen car are stacked very high … against you!

GAUK Motors has worked closely with the Police Force and interviewed criminals to learn what the car thieves are up to. In the course of our Information Service we will pass on to you, the car buyer, that very valuable knowledge. We feel that if you know how they work you know what to look out for.


We all know how easy it is to steal a car these days and the chances are that at some stage you will lose yours. The criminal is only one step behind the car manufacturer; it never takes long before a thief has learned to bypass a manufacturers super new security system. Once they have learnt they’ll have that car away in seconds.

Thieves steal cars for many reasons. One of them is to sell it on to you.

Once handed over you’ll never see your money again. Even if the thief is caught you’ll be very lucky if he gives you your money back. The worst thing about the whole sad scenario is that the car is returned to its rightful owner so not only do you lose your money you haven’t got a car either.

A very determined criminal will go to great lengths not to get caught but thankfully most criminals are only out to make a quick buck – desperate people do desperate things!

To disguise a stolen car and pass it off as a genuine vehicle takes a lot of preparation, determination and costs money so you’ll find the average criminal will only disguise as much as he thinks he can get away with.

When buying a used motor what can we look for and how can we best protect ourselves – how can we be forearmed?

Before you even start to look at the car be aware of the person from whom you wish to make a purchase.

Always make sure you go to their home or place of business. NEVER, I repeat NEVER buy a car off a car park from a stranger, no matter how genuine they might seem.

If they won’t meet you at their home or give you their home number ask yourself why?

This is where you phone questioning comes into its own. Ask the owner about insurance, what group is the vehicle etc. If they seem vague then maybe they’ve never insured the car, maybe they’ve not had it as long as they say they have!

Maybe it’s not theirs to sell at all!

The first thing to do when you get to look at the car is take in its general condition for the year.

You already know what to look for when assessing the car’s mileage. Often a stolen car will have had its mileage altered as part of the disguise. If you can spot that the reading has been altered then you may not only be walking away from a ‘clocked’ car but a stolen one too.

If the condition is satisfactory take a closer look at the documents. Do they look genuine? MOT’s and Log Books carry watermarks, hold them up discreetly and see if it’s there.

Now, very importantly, we check the vehicle’s identification numbers. You checked them when you had your head under the bonnet (hood)!!

  • Do they all match up on the paperwork? Is it the same number on the MOT as the registration and service books?
  • Is the car the same colour as described?

A silly point you may think but it could save you thousands of pounds.

  • Check that the service intervals tally with the MOT mileage also that the mileage between MOT’s is consistent with normal usage. Average mileage covered in a year is between 10 – 12 000 miles.
  • Make sure the service book has no missing pages and bent centre staples. They are often forged so look closely.
  • Look through the history. Check addresses on invoices to see if they tally with where the car has supposedly come from.

All cars have two places where the Vehicle Identification Number or VIN can be found.

The first place is on the small aluminum plate normally to be found in the engine bay. Sometimes this plate is in a different position, if in doubt a main dealer will tell you where it is.

Do not confuse the VIN plate with the other small aluminum plate that can be found, this is usually the paint code and bears no resemblance to a VIN.

Make sure the number matches the paperwork. Check the plate itself, two rivets hold it down.

If they are brand new or a lot newer than the plate, be on your guard but don’t walk away yet, you need to keep looking. Sometimes the plates are removed for paintwork if the car has been in an accident. Sometimes they have been swapped from another car. Spotting accident damage has been covered in full, in previous sections.

  • Now check the VIN, which has been stamped into the car chassis. This stamp can be found on different places on different cars, again if you have trouble the main dealer will always help out.

Be alert and satisfy yourself that it hasn’t been tampered with. New numbers can be welded into stolen cars so be on the lookout for weld seams around this stamped number (sometimes up to several inches away). If, as in Fords the number is stamped in the floor, lift the carpet to get a good look at the area surrounding it.

The other important number to check is the engine number, this can often be difficult to find or in an obscure position but if you can find it check it.

  • Take a quick look at the tax disc (UK) on your way round the car; making sure everything is in order.

The points we have gone through so far are the most obvious clues a criminal will disguise. As I said before the more a criminal disguises a stolen motorcar the more it costs in time, effort and money so they will draw the line somewhere. It’s the smaller clues that can often give away the big picture.

  • Look at the security etchings on the windows; these are often carried over onto the lights and sunroof. Make sure they all match and are correct.
  • Look at the locks. If they look like they’ve been replaced why is that?
  • Look at the cowling around the steering column. Is it newer than the rest of the dashboard?
  • Is the steering wheel original?
  • Are the number plates brand new, if so why?

They could have been replaced because the old ones were cracked but take note, it is very rare for both number plates to be replaced at the same time. See if the plates still carry the dealer’s name.

  • Make sure the car has the right specification for that model. For example a VW GTi has all the associated GTi extras.
  • Make sure the motor is the right model for its registration prefix for example a Mark 1 Escort will not carry a G registration letter.
  • Do the alarms work?
  • Is the alarm remote missing?
  • Turn on the stereo to see if it works. If it is one of the new coded types is it asking for the code to be programmed in? The owner should know the code if they have had it some time, if they don’t see what excuse they give and satisfy yourself that it’s a good one.

All the clues given are points to look out for. Each negative point on its own does not mean you are looking at a stolen car but if too many pieces of the jigsaw do not fall into place be on your guard.

Remember vehicle check organisations can only give you the information they have been given. They do not have the luxury of having the vehicle there in front of them.

Go through the checks you have learned and although the whole thing might seem a little daunting it really is very easy to spot the giveaways. You can always practice on your own car before you go out into the market place.

Always reliable

“The GAUK Motors app has been a gift. I used to waste hours a day searching different sites and monitoring emails. Now I just set up a search and I’m done”

Joel Marchant

Car Dealer

Easy to use

“I used the free service for a while and it wasn’t until I upgraded that I realised just what a fantastic app you’ve built. I’m a customer for life.”

Great Company

“Hey GAUK. Awesome app. I use it on a daily basis and just bought my first classic car … an EType Jag of all things”

Well done!

“I never usually write reviews but after watching GAUK grow I just wanted to say well done and keep up the great work”

Jane Cavanah

Sales Assistant

Not what I expected!

“There a lot os sites out there promising great things. It was so refreshing to find that you guys actually delivered on all that marketing hype. Cool!”

Looking forward to it

“The GAUK Motors Newsletter is the only one I look forward to seeing drop into my inbox”

What they’re saying

The Best Experience

GAUK has consistently delivered quality information. Thousands of vehicles from hundreds of websites making your perfect ride … easier to find.


Car Car Sales Search Trusted by 2.5 Million Customers Since 1999

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This