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Used car buying advice

Used car buying advice. Buying a used vehicle
If you are buying a vehicle privately and it is later identified as having been stolen you may have no legal right to its ownership. You could lose both the vehicle and the money you paid for it. If you purchase a new pre-registered vehicle the dealer must return the Registration Certificate (V5c) immediately so that the vehicle can be registered in your name. The following points may help you avoid becoming a victim of vehicle crime.

Advertisements and viewing * beware of mobile phone numbers, they are virtually untraceable
* advertisements specifying a time to call, could indicate a phone box - be suspicious
* arrange to view the vehicle in daylight, preferably at the seller's home
* do not agree to the seller bringing the vehicle to your home or to a public place such as a motorway service station
* ensure that the owner is familiar with the vehicle and its controls

Documentation * never buy a vehicle without a registration document or certificate (referred to as 'registration certificate') even if the seller says it has been sent to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for changes
* hold the registration certificate up to the light - the DVLA watermark should be contained within the layers of paper; reassure yourself that a fraudulent watermark has not been merely printed on to the surface of the paper
* the registration certificate is not a document of title, the person recorded may not be the legal owner
* assure yourself that the person selling the vehicle has the right to do so

Check the vehicle identity
* decide what make and model you are interested in and find out where the vehicle's identification number (VIN) should be
* check that the 17 character VIN, matches the VIN on the registration certificate
* be suspicious if the VIN shows signs of having been tampered with
* if the VIN has been removed, ask why
* the VIN should be stamped in an even way somewhere on the vehicle, often under the bonnet or in the floor panel on the driver's side, check the surrounding area for signs of any alteration
* a 'Q' registration number indicates that the age or identity of a vehicle is unknown. The vehicle may be rebuilt from parts, some or all of which may not be new. This also applies to vehicles imported without supporting evidence to identify the vehicles age
* if a registration mark or part VIN is etched on the windows ensure it matches the registration certificate

What to look for on the vehicle
* check carefully underneath stickers, where fitted - they can be used to conceal etching
* does the engine number match the registration certificate?
* has the engine been interfered with, altered or changed?
* do the locks differ? (Thieves often change locks they have damaged)
* are there any signs of forced entry?
* has the locking petrol cap been forced and replaced?

Check it out
* check the vehicles history with a vehicle history data check

Get the vehicle inspected by a professional
* consider taking an independent qualified examiner with you to see the vehicle

Finally
* never pay cash
* be sure before you buy - if in doubt, walk away

Further information
See our used car buying tips page
Further information and advice can be obtained from free leaflets, 'The Car - Buyer's Guide' and 'Steer Clear of Car Crime', available from a DVLA local office or your local Crime Prevention Officer (ask at your local police station for further information). Additional advice can be gained from the Trading Standards Institute
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