Buying a new or used car is one of the biggest purchases anyone can make. So it stands to reason there is a huge industry around buying and selling cars, particularly used cars.
However, it also means there is a bigger risk involved. Unscrupulous criminals have plenty of tricks to dupe a used car buyer who does not perform the necessary checks when buying a used car.
Sadly, used car buyers are losing nearly £17 million a year because of scams involving used cars. Probably the most dangerous and shocking method criminals employ is simply creating a car for sale advert and then meeting the potential buyer and physically stealing the cash from them.
However, there are other, more subtle ways used car buyers can lose out. We’ve collected some of the more well-known schemes, along with some advice for painless used car buying.
One of the most widespread – but avoidable – scams is to sell a car with outstanding finance. Although this is illegal, it can be troublesome for the buyer, who could be held responsible for the outstanding finance and end up paying more than they bargained for.
An estimated 24 out of every 100 vehicles checked has some form of outstanding finance, costing buyers several million pounds a year.
Many of the scams occur when buying from an unofficial retailer and are more likely to happen with private buyers. This can be avoided by simply buying from a reputable dealer who can promise all cars sold have no outstanding finance or other hidden problems.
It can however, be avoided. A HPI check – a report of the car’s full history – can identify if the car has any outstanding finance.
Cut ‘n’ shut or written off cars
There’s more about the dangers of damaged or rebuilt cars in our cut and shut guide, along with tips on how to avoid it.
Stolen cars: There are several scams involving stolen cars to keep an eye out for. The first is simple; has the car you are buying been stolen and sold on?
HPI says 30 cars a day are found to have been stolen and it’s bad news for the buyers if they don’t check if it is stolen – the car will go back to the original owner once it is discovered and the money paid for it not be returned.
Many stolen cars are disguised to look like a different car (called cloning) but a HPI check should highlight if the car has been stolen.
Stolen scam: Private sellers could sell a car but withhold a copy of the keys. They will then use the keys to steal the car back again.
There’s not much you can do about this scam once the car is bought. Additional safety measures such as a secure parking space and a steering lock can help, but it’s much safer to simply buy from somebody you trust, or even better, a reputable dealer.