How to avoid buying a stolen car

“Used car history checks identify nearly 30 stolen vehicles a day.”

This is according to the AA, one of the UK’s largest and most influential motoring groups. This highlights the problems people may face when it is time to buy a new car.

The best used car deals are often those a buyer could be suspicious of, but that does not mean there is not a good few used car deals out there which are genuine.

The trick to buying a used car is simply following certain rules to ensure you are not the subject of a used car scam.

In the past, the tell-tale signs of a stolen used car were often easy to spot for eagle-eyed car buyers, as the AA explains.

“Historically, the tell-tale signs of a stolen car (window and paint scratches, or marks left by tampering with an ignition shaft, for example) made spotting a stolen car easier.”

However, with modern cars criminals are getting cleverer at hiding any signs of the car being stolen. Luckily, the AA has some advice for motorists who are looking for a used car deal on the private market.

Tips include going to a seller’s address to ensure they are the registered keeper of the vehicle and check the vehicle’s V5 document matches the actual address.

Other tips include checking the documents carefully and conducting a used car check. The AA, of course, recommends an AA Car Data Check, but other services are also out there such as the HPI check, which will notify you of the owner of the car and if there is any outstanding finance on it.

Then there is the usual advice such as not going alone to check out the car, considering taking an expert to give it the once-over and, most importantly, not meeting in places such as a motorway service station.

However, perhaps far easier is to buy a used car from a respected dealership such as a Perrys car dealership.

Of course, it is always important to get an HPI check on the car anyway, if only for your own peace of mind.

What happens if I’ve bought a stolen car?

The consequences of buying a stolen used car can be very painful for the buyer. The car can be taken away, leaving the buyer out of pocket and with no way to get the money back.

Unfortunately, a stolen car will be returned to the original owner by the police, leaving the buyer out of pocket.

In response to the worrying statistics, we’ve identified a few ways to avoid buying a stolen car.

1) Check the seller

The seller must appear legitimate. If you are even slightly suspicious of the seller, it is wise to trust your instincts.

The simplest and easiest way to avoid this is to visit a trusted used car dealer such as Perrys. Buying privately will always pose a risk when buying a car and should only be done so if you are sure the car will not be stolen.

You can see some tips on buying a used car privately here.

2) Check the V5C certificate

For a full rundown of what the V5C certificate is, read our guide to the V5C here.

However, as a brief introduction, the V5C certificate is not proof of ownership. Instead it can be used to prove the vehicle is actually the one the seller says it is.

Check the certificate has a DVL watermark by holding it up to the light and the numbers on it should match the car and any other documents you are shown.

Finally, if the certificate number is altered or if it falls into the following categories, do not buy the car and contact the police immediately:

– BG8229501 to BG9999030

– BI2305501 to BI2800000

3) Check the other documents

If the V5C seems to be in order, you still need to see proof the seller actually owns the vehicle. Ask for MOT documents, service history, logbook and a receipt of sale to prove the vehicle is theirs to sell.

Do not accept any excuses about the documents – the legitimate owner of the vehicle should have the above.

Finally, check the details correspond to that of the V5C and if you’re at a private seller’s house, ensure you are satisfied that they actually live there.

4) Check the car

After checking the documents, the next stage is to check the car itself. There are huge amount of things to check when buying a used car and we’ve talked through them in our guide to buying a used car.

If you’re specifically looking to avoid buying a stolen car, here are some of the things which should flag up a potentially stolen car.

If the engine has been changed in any way, this could indicate any number of problems with the car, from it being a cut and shut to it being stolen.

Locks are an important thing to check because, if a car has been stolen by forcing a lock, chances are the thieves will have had to change the damaged lock. You can check this by using the key to check all of the locks.

On the subject of keys, always ensure there are two keys available – cloned or stolen cars are rarely sold with both.

Other things to check include the VIN and engine number. These should match those on the V5C and should show no signs of having been altered or covered.

Finally, check more general things such as whether the mileage matches the vehicle age and condition and the general condition of the car both inside and out.

Always remember if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

5) Check with the experts

The AA Car Data Check or the HPI check will mean paying out a small fee but this is the only real way to see if your car is stolen and should always be done when buying a used car.

Not only can these checks identify a stolen car, they can also highlight any other problems with the car such as if it has any finance outstanding or if it has previously been written off.

If you’ve had an HPI check and are still suspicious, you can always check with the police – but if you’re that suspicious, why buy the car at all?