UK Vehicle Checks
Some sellers are clueless about what they’re selling, others are out to deceive. So it’s really important to check out everything that they tell you. Once you know the registration number of the car, then there is lots you can find out online. First, look at the car’s current MOT and tax status. This is very easy to do online, and doesn’t cost anything either. All you need to do Is enter the registration number into www.checkmot.com, which will confirm the make and model of car you are looking at. It will also confirm whether the car is taxed and whether it has a current MOT. It’s not illegal to sell a car without a MOT or tax. But knowing, for example, that the car needs fairly major repairs gives you the decision of walking away, or renegotiating the price. One of the other key checks is to make sure that the numbers on the paperwork match up. Registration numbers are easily changed. Less easy to change is the VIN number, also known as the chassis number. This should be listed on the V5 document (logbook) and should match numbers stamped on the metal framework of the car. If it doesn’t, then something is wrong. The worst case scenario is that the car has been stolen and fitted with false plates. If you buy a stolen car, you could lose all the money, and your car.
The seller should be able to show you the current MOT certificate if the car is more than 3 years old, the V5 owner’s document and a service history if they are saying the car has been regularly serviced. The key document is the V5 logbook paper. The name and address of the owner of the car should match the name and address of the person you are buying the car from. You can check all of this information online here. If it doesn’t, walk away. It’s not unknown for scammers to advertise cars they don’t own, or even cars which don’t exist. Always see the car before handing over money. Don’t be pressurised into sending a deposit or “holding fee” to reserve a car before you’ve seen it. Always get a signed receipt for any money you hand over.
Common Motoring Scams for Buyers and Sellers
Selling or buying a car involves large sums of money changing hands. So it’s perhaps no surprise that there are plenty of scammers out there trying to get some of that money. Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, there are some common scams out there which you should be aware of.
If you’re selling a car to a dealer, through an auction or trading it in, then you have more security than with private sales. People choose to sell their car privately in the hope of getting a better price, and having more control over the process. But there are various scams which unscrupulous buyers might use to drive off with your car, and leave you without the cash either.
The “Paypal Scam”
One of the most commo scams works as follows. The seller places an ad on Gumtree, Ebay or a specialist site for car sales. They will then receive an email from a buyer who appears interested in their car and asks all the right questions about service history or tax. They will then say that they are travelling or working overseas, so are unable to see the car in person. They offer to pay through an online payment portal, usually Paypal, and say they’ll send a friend or tow truck to collect the car. You will then receive a receipt which looks as if it has come from Paypal, and wave goodbye to your car. But the payment receipt was fake, and by the time you find out, your car is long gone.
Another scam which involves online payment or cheques is the overpayment scam. After you’ve agreed a price for your car, you’ll receive an email from Paypal or your bank stating you’ve received funds. But it was more than you were expecting, and it’s natural to think the buyer has made a mistake, perhaps transferring £7995 instead of £7795. So you do the right thing and send a transfer back for the extra £200. You later discover that the initial transfer never went through, so you’ve lost £200 and are still looking for a buyer.
Theft doesn’t really fall into the category of scam, but it’s certainly something to bear in mind when you’re selling your car. Take simple precautions like always having someone with you when you know people are coming round to look at the car and never allowing people to test drive a car unaccompanied are sensible. As the seller you are in control; don’t be pressured into doing something you’re not comfortable with in the hope of a quick sale.
If you’re buying a car, then there are dozens of other scams you have to look out for. If you know what tricks some sellers will try, then you’re more likely to be able to spot when someone’s trying to scam you.
The concept of “buyer beware” applies with purchasing a car privately and you should do everything you can to make sure it is mechanically sound. If you haven’t the skills to give the engine the once over yourself, then pay someone to do it for you. Shelling out upwards of £200 for a pre-inspection check might seem like money down the drain but if it stops you buying a car riddled with issues, isn’t it worth it?
Know the Price
It’s not really a scam, but when you’re buying from a dealer, a common sales technique is to bombard you with figures and monthly payments to such an extent that you’re not sure what’s going on. Always get the figures laid out clearly both in terms of monthly payments, the interest rate and the total amount you will pay back over the course of the loan.