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Police Advice on How to Avoid Buying a Stolen Car

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 16 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Used Car Police Stolen Car Ringing

Thousands of used cars are sold the length and breadth of the United Kingdom every week and the huge majority of these transactions go ahead without a hitch. Even so, there are risks involved when buying a second-hand car. Used Car Advisor got a police spokesman to highlight some of the dangers.

Question: How real are the dangers when buying a used car?

Answer: “Buying a second-hand car is not usually a problem, but there are some points a buyer needs to be aware of. For instance, before selling a stolen car on to an unsuspecting buyer, criminals will attempt to disguise its identity – commonly known as ‘ringing’.”

Question: Are those buying from dealers immune, or are there still steps a buyer should take?

Answer: “Ask the dealer if he uses a commercial database – such as CCN Motorfile or HPI Group – to confirm whether or not a vehicle has been reported as stolen, written off by an insurance company or is still being paid for under a finance agreement. If not, the buyer should consider contacting a commercial database himself. For a small fee, the company will check the status of a car he may be thinking of buying.”

Question: Is it simply a case of ‘buyers beware’ at auctions?

Answer: “Take advantage of 'indemnity clauses' if buying at auction. It will cost a small fee, but the buyer is then protected if he purchases a stolen car. Also, consider having the vehicle checked by a professional organisation such as the RAC or AA before buying.”

Question: What tips do you have for buyers making a private purchase?

Answer: “Be cautious if buying from a private vendor. Meet the seller at their house to confirm their address and look for signs of car dealing such as a large number of vehicles in one area. Check the car’s chassis and vehicle identification number (VIN), including any etched onto windows, and match the documents. If there is a mark or sticker showing the car is linked to a security register, check it out, and if there are signs of etching and engraving having been removed, be wary.”

Question: Are there times a buyer should just walk away?

Answer: “Do not buy if the vendor cannot produce the vehicle’s V5 document. Also check the vehicle registration document has not been tampered with.”

Question: Is there any action that buyers can take to assist the police?

Answer: “Consider taking a photograph of the seller standing in front of the vehicle, ensuring the registration is clearly on show. If people are genuine sellers, they should have no reason to object. If the car is then identified as stolen, it will assist the police in tracing the person. Also, don’t pay with cash, as if there is a dispute later, there is no way of tracing the seller. Pay by banker’s draft, which will at least leave an audit trail.”

Question: Do you have any advice for those selling a used car?

Answer: “When selling a vehicle, don’t give the vehicle’s chassis and engine number to anyone enquiring about it over the phone.”

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