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How to avoid buying a stolen car

350,000 cars are stolen in the UK every year, not all stolen cars are stripped for parts. Many are resold to unknowing and unsuspecting buyers. If you knowingly buy a stolen car, you can be arrested. If you buy a stolen car unknowingly, you could lose the car and your money. Avoid becoming the car thief's second victim by following these tips:

  1. Be suspicious of any deal that seems "too good to be true", it usually is!
  2. When buying from a private individual always ask for a landline telephone number even though the original advertisement may have had a mobile contact number. (some mobile numbers are untraceable)
  3. Be cautious of a seller with no fixed address or landline phone number.
  4. Be suspicious of a seller who proposes to be selling a car for a friend or relation.
  5. Arrange to view the car in the daytime at the home of the seller. Never arrange to meet elsewhere, for example, in a pub or motorway service area car park.
  6. Make sure the V5 Log book and registration papers match the name and address of the person selling the car.
  7. Never buy a car without a V5 Log book and don't accept the excuse that it has been lost or is in the post, or it was sent to the DVLA for changes and they have not returned it.
  8. V5 Registration papers can be forged, hold the registration paper up to the light and check that it has the DVLA watermark.
  9. Question the seller if the V5 registration document has been recently issued on an older car.
  10. Check the Mot certificate is current and that it has the correct car details, including the (VIN) Vehicle identification number and the registration mark matches the car for sale.
  11. You can check whether an MOT certificate is genuine plus the cars MOT history including the cars mileage at the time of the last mot test at:-hppt://www.motinfo.gov.uk   The MOT Scheme is managed by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport.
  12. Check the tax disc has the correct car details and be cautious if the tax disc has been issued miles away from the seller's home address.
  13. Ask the seller for past Mot's and any service history including any bills or receipts for repairs. Be cautious if the bills or receipts show the car has been serviced or repaired many miles from the seller's home address.
  14. Ask about past financing and insurance on the car. Ask to see the seller's current insurance certificate. Ensure it has the correct car details and the sellers' home address is the same as that where he is selling the car.
  15. Ensure the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate on the car is present, secure and has no loose rivets. (The VIN plate is usually situated within the engine compartment or on a door strut). Also some cars have the VIN etched in several places on to the main body of the car, usually inside the engine compartment. (for example on the suspension strut)
  16. Check to ensure the VIN plate has not been repainted re-etched and the numbers stamped on the plate appear to be original factory numbers.
  17. If the VIN plate is scratched, and there are bent or missing rivets, tampering may have occurred.
  18. Thieves may remove the VIN plate and replace it with one from a similar wrecked vehicle. If in doubt about plate authenticity do not buy the car even if the documents look genuine.
  19. An excessively loose key ignition lock on the steering column may signal tampering. Check the ignition key lock for chisel or pull marks.
  20. Be wary of a fresh paint job on a newer vehicle. This may suggest an attempt to change the car's identity. If in doubt, check under the boots carpet to see the original paint shade and colour.
  21. Be suspicious of new locks, either on the ignition steering column or on the drivers' door.
  22. A separate key for the ignition and for the drivers' door or boot is suspicious!
  23. If the seller provides you with only shop remade car keys, not original manufacturer's keys particularly for a newer model car, this too is suspicious.
  24. Be cautious of new Number plates on an old car, or new plate bolts on an older Number plate.

If after all these checks you are happy the car is in order, you have one final safeguard before parting with your hard-earned cash. We recommend you do an HPI check with a specialist agent, there are many on the internet.  

An HPI check will help verify the cars authenticity and whether there is any finance on the car. It will also tell you if the car has ever been in a major accident, stolen or has been a written off.

Do not buy a car from a seller who tries to persuade you not to carry out an HPI check. Walk away!

How to avoid buying a stolen car - Tips and advice - Article No 46 RoadDriver 2010


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