Buying a car online? There are plenty of places to find a
secondhand or used car, from a dealership website, to online sites
such as Autotrader, Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, Pistonheads
But there are some things worth noting when shopping online,
especially if you buy privately. This is because you have very
little comeback if things go wrong, or your next car turns out to
be stolen, or has been involved in an accident.
Here are five tips before you go shopping for that next
Mini, Fiesta, Corsa or Aygo:
- A HPI check does not guarantee the car has never
been in an accident, or is roadworthy. It is always
worth paying for a HPI check, but it doesn't always reveal the
entire history of the car. Unless the car has been a write-off, it
won't reveal details of smaller accidents for example.
It also does not show if the car has been stolen and recovered,
or has had its identity disguised behind a false number plate, fake
VIN plate etc. This is called `ringing' in the trade. There are no
details on previous owners or the service history included in a HPI
2. Get an
insurance quote before you buy the car. Always get
the registration number and enter all details on the car into a big
car insurance comparison site, such as More Than,
Enter the car's colour, engine size, transmission type,
year of manufacture etc. This is another good way to check if there
is something odd about the car - if there's something unusual about
the car or it's a `grey import,' then an insurer may ask you to
phone them for a quote instead.
3. Buying privately? Always meet in a
public place, in daylight. Take a friend along,
ideally someone who knows about cars or is a mechanic.
There are three crucial things that thieves need to
fake a vehicle identity; VIN plates, fake V5C paperwork and fake
registration plates. All are reasonably easy to forge. Someone who
works in the motor trade may well be better at spotting signs that
the VIN plate, or V5C logbook has been faked than you.
4. Some `private' sellers are actually traders,
selling cars from home, or online. Ask how long
they've owned it, which tyres grip best in wet weather, how
practical it is at carrying luggage on a family holiday? Traders
won't have much info to give you - as they haven't driven the car
If the `private' seller
says he can take your car in part-ex then there's a good chance
they are traders. But these types of traders won't give you a
refund, or fix your car if it goes wrong. So be wary.
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5. Check under every mat, piece of carpet and inside
every seat pocket. The history of a car is often
revealed in a detailed, almost forensic search.
Are there bits of chewing gum, ciggarette butts, or maybe bits
of food, or litter lurking under mats or in the passenger seat
pockets? That suggests a less than caring owner.
Lift the mat in the boot, or hatchback space and check the spare
wheel - if there is one. Remove the wheel and check the bare metal
at the back end of the car. If the car has been in a crash and then
repaired there could well be signs of welding, or newer sections of
metal sitting next to older, slightly rusty or grime covered
One final piece of advice: If a car seems too cheap
to be true, then there's often a good reason.
Prestige brands like Mercedes, Range Rover,
Audi and BMW are generally targeted by professional
thieves and `ringers' and sold in volume from rented houses, so
they appear to be `private' sales.
If you are offered a cheap Merc at 3K-5K below its market value,
be very, very careful before parting with your cash.
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