Advice on buying a vehicle

Buying a used vehicle is serious business.

Buyer beware

If you’re buying a used vehicle from a private seller, dealer or auction house, make sure you know your consumer rights.

Step 1:  Before seeing the vehicle

Here are some things to consider before you see the vehicle:

•be careful of mobile phone numbers – owners are hard to trace

•watch out for adverts giving a landline number and times to call – criminals often use phone boxes

•check the market value of the vehicle – if it’s offered much cheaper, ask yourself why

•check the Vehicle Identification number (VIN) and engine number against the registration certificate (V5C) – your main dealer can help you locate them

•arrange to see the vehicle in daylight at the seller’s home and not in a public car park; always consider your personal safety

•ask if the seller is the registered keeper, so you can view at the registered keeper’s address (shown on the V5C)

•be careful, some dishonest dealers pose as private sellers to offload unsafe and ‘clocked’ cars

•consider taking a qualified vehicle examiner with you – a number of companies provide this service if you don’t know anybody with sufficient knowledge of vehicles

•ask the seller for the registration number, make and model of the vehicle

•ask the seller for the expiry date of the tax disc, and the MOT test number

•check whether the vehicle has outstanding finance or has been stolen or written off

You can check this information before you see the vehicle.

Step 2: Checking the vehicle’s registration certificate (V5C)

Thieves can change a stolen vehicle and its paperwork to make it look like a real one (this is known as ‘cloning’).

Hold the V5C up to the light – there should be a ‘DVL’ watermark.

Make sure the seller has the right to sell the vehicle. If the seller has had the vehicle for some time, they should have any of the following:

•a bill of sale (receipt)

•service records

•MOT certificate

Remember, the V5C is not proof of ownership.

Make sure the V5C matches the vehicle’s details and all other documentation provided.

Look out for stolen V5Cs. If the seller has a blue V5C with a serial number in the following ranges don’t go ahead with the sale and contact the police when it’s safe to do so:

•BG8229501 to BG9999030

•BI2305501 to BI2800000

The serial number is in a white circle in the top right hand corner of the V5C.

Be careful, even if the serial number doesn’t fall within the above ranges. Don’t buy the vehicle if you think the serial number has been altered, or if part of the V5C is missing.

From 15 August 2010 the V5C  Changed include a new colour and improved customer information.

Step 3: Checking the vehicle


Don’t buy the vehicle if the VIN has been tampered with or is missing

Before buying a vehicle you should check:

•if the engine has been changed in any way

•that all locks open with the same key – thieves change locks that have been damaged

•if there are two keys available – clones are rarely sold with both

•that the VIN and engine number match those on the V5C and that the surrounding areas have not been altered or covered

You should also check the condition of the vehicle.

If you decide to buy the vehicle, avoid paying in cash. Pay by a banking system and get a receipt.