problems?Mechanical condition and safety | Stolen cars | Does the car belong to a finance company? | Clocking
Mechanical condition and safety
Assess the car in daylight. Take it for a test drive. Our checklist gives an idea of what to look for, but take someone with you if you're not confident about cars.
If a car has been in an accident, it may be unsafe. Sometimes, two damaged cars are welded together to create a new one. These are known as "cut and shut" and are almost certainly dangerous. Our checklist tells you some signs which point to accident damage.
If you buy a stolen car, the police can take it from you to return it to the original owner or the insurance company if a claim has been paid. You will not get any compensation even though you bought the car in good faith.
You can sue the seller for your losses but this might be difficult if you bought privately and the seller has disappeared. if you bought the car on credit you may still have to pay off the loan. It depends on the type of agreement you have.
It can be hard to tell whether a car is stolen. Its identity may have been changed. For example, the identity number and number plate of a legitimate car may be transferred to a stolen one. Vehicle registration documents can be forged or obtained by fraud. But there are tell-tale signs to look out for.
Ask to see the vehicle registration document (logbook). If the seller can't produce this document, be suspicious. Are there any spelling mistakes or alterations to the logbook? If so, it may be a forgery. Ask for proof of identity and address such as a driving licence, passport, recent gas or electricity bill. Check that the same name and address is given on the logbook.
All cars have three main identifying features:
- the vehicle registration mark (the number plate);
- the vehicle identification number (VIN) - this can be found on a metal VIN plate, usually in the engine compartment, and stamped into the bodywork under the bonnet or near to the driver's seat. As a security measure some cars have the VIN etched on their windows or lamps;
- the engine number.
These are shown on the logbook. The numbers on the car should be the same as those on the logbook.
Have the identification numbers been tampered with? The engine and VIN numbers may have been interfered with. Areas of glass may have been scratched off the windows, or stickers may cover up etching which has been altered.
Another clue is whether the seller can show you the insurance policy for the car. If it is stolen, probably not.
Use our checklist to help you spot the signs of a stolen car.
Does the car belong to a finance company?
A car bought on hire purchase or conditional sale belongs to the finance company until the payments have been completed.
If you buy such a car and there is outstanding finance on it, the lender can take it back. You can sue whoever sold you the car - if you can find them. There are some limited exceptions to this. If you were not aware that the car was subject to an outstanding credit agreement and bought it in good faith, you may be allowed to keep it. This does not apply to stolen cars or cars which are subject to a hire agreement. Contact us on 686520 or mail us for advice if you find yourself in this situation.
Low mileage can be a selling point. But the clock may have been turned back to reduce the number of miles shown. If the mileage is low but wear and tear on the car looks heavy, the car could have been clocked.
Clockers sometimes change pedal rubbers, steering wheels and gear knobs to hide this. Another sign is that the mileometer numbers don't line up correctly.
If you suspect that a vehicle may have been clocked you should contact us on 686520 and ask to speak to a Trading Standards Officer or mail us.
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