How to avoid getting scammed when buying a used car

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Top-Tips To Avoiding Used Car Scams

Avoiding Used Car Scams

With so many used car scams out there, you have to really have your wits about you when searching for a second-hand car.

Used cars are always a cheaper alternative to leasing a car and certainly far cheaper than buying a car.

There are, though, some negative things we all need to watch out for when we are in the market for buying a used car.

Obviously, the car is going to be older it will be at a lot more at risk of a breakdown just simply due to wear and tear that it has had over the years.

The car could have a series of hidden problems that you may not be able to find during an inspection and short test drive.

Apart from the usual problems that you can have with a used vehicle, there is also the increased risk that you could fall victim to a car scam or a dodgy dealer.

Problems of buying a used car can range from a dodgy dealer or seller bending the truth about the true condition of the car and holding back relevant information so as not to hurt the sale to lying about the vehicle existing at all

Here is a list of scams that used car buyers can be aware of before they part with their hard earned cash and potentially lose thousands.


Clocking is rampant and used car buyers have to be vigilant as mileage readings can be artificially modified. Lowering the mileage can increase the value of a car when selling it and this alone is a good incentive to the crook. It can also give you a false perception of the state of wear and tear.


Car cloning is when criminals steal a stolen vehicle and then it is given the identity of a similar car, the practice of using a vehicle identification number (VIN) from a legally registered car to hide the identity of a stolen or salvaged vehicle.


This is an extremely dangerous practice where two or more cars damaged in an accident or written off by a car insurer are welded together to make it seem that it is an undamaged car. The car is then illegally given the identity of one of the cars. It is often difficult to spot one of these Frankenstein repair jobs asy are difficult to spot a ‘cut and shut’ car from the exterior.

Cars sold with outstanding finance

Sometimes cars are sold with outstanding finance payments that need to be made. If a car is labeled as under finance, it can be repossessed by the leasing company or financial institution that holds claim to the vehicle.

Gumtree and eBay scams

Online car buying scams are on the increase and they can sometimes be very elaborate and not easy to detect. Sometimes you may be directed to what seems like a legitimate eBay page and then asked to complete the payment outside of the website.

Usually, after the victim is scammed and pays out, they go to pick up the vehicle from the seller who will have no idea who you are and say that the car wasn’t even listed on eBay. The fraudster has taken the pictures of someone else's car and then posted it online, sold it and then disappeared before you could've realised.

Always request to look a the car before you buy it. This will validate if the advert is real or not and it also gives you the opportunity to inspect it a little bit to see if its description corresponds to the physical object. If it doesn’t feel right, walk away. If a deal looks too good to be true then it probably is.

Tips to avoid scams

Here are a few tips so you can reduce the risk of being scammed and losing hard earned cash.

Check the car’s history

Before deciding to purchase any used vehicle, always purchase a Full Car History Check from When purchasing a car from a private seller you need to be careful as you don’t have a guarantee.

A report will tell you if there is the car has any outstanding finance or if it has been damaged or written off. They cost of the report will save you money in the long run and it would be a false economy if you failed to run a history check first.

Once you have purchased a Car History Check and you are happy with the car’s history, you then need to ask some specific questions about that car which you have seen on the advertisement. The reasons for this is that the seller may be selling a number of cars. Take out a piece of paper and write down all the specifications the seller is saying about the car on the phone and then look at the advertisement to see if they match.

After you are happy with the car history check results and how the call went then you need to go and view the car. Check the inside of the car, the wheels, the windows, the seats, engine, etc and make sure to take the car for a test drive before purchasing the car.

Check the service history

Ask for the service history of the vehicle and check any mileage reading from that with the vehicle check report and the actual reading on the clock. The service booklet can give you details about any recent repairs that have been carried out.

Check the NCT Certificate

Always check the NCT certificate of the car before purchasing it and make sure to check the vehicle details on the history check report with the documentation of the vehicle and also the physical VIN number and engine number identification stamped on the vehicle.

NCT Certificates are useful for a number of reasons. It can tell you what the mileage was at the last test. If there is a discrepancy, it may indicate that the car has been clocked in the interim. It also allows you to see whether or not the car has had its most recent NCT test and when it’s due its next one.

Never send money or make a bank transfer to someone you don’t know

Alternatively, you could use protected payment services. Similarly, a credit card is likely to be safer than a debit.

Check the Logbook

The VLC (Vehicle Licencing Certificate) or logbook document contains the registered owner's name and address, so this should leave you in no doubt of whether or not the person selling the vehicle is, in fact,t the owner.


Justin Kavanagh
Justin Kavanagh is a recognised leader in automotive intelligence and vehicle data supply to the entire motor industry. He has almost 20 years experience in building systems from the ground up. As the Managing Director of Vehicle Management System, he understands the need and importance of trustworthy and reliable vehicle history and advice to both the trade and the public.
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