Although the used car market is awash with genuine, legitimate vehicles, there are always going to be a few ‘bad apples’ thrown in the mix that some motorists are unwittingly fooled by.

The government and the motor industry have put in place measures to help combat motor fraud, such as logging vehicle mileage details at each MOT test, and various databases operated by the DVLA, the police, insurance companies and car manufacturers are shared with one another in order to make it quick and easy to verify details about a car.

But despite these measures, determined rogue sellers often find ways to bypass the system and go to great lengths to disguise the true identities of the cars that they sell. Hopefully, you won’t ever encounter such a car when you next buy a used car, but in case you haven’t had much experience of buying used cars in the past, follow these top tips to help you avoid being scammed.

Thoroughly research the car you want to buy

You will probably have an idea of the used car that you want to purchase; for example, it might be a used BMW from a specialist dealer such as Country Car.

I always recommend doing some thorough research and learning about all of the problems that could possibly occur with the model you want to buy. This is because some sneaky sellers will try to disguise any common problems with temporary fixes, such as putting additives in with the engine oil or coolant to hide the fact that there are some leaks in the systems, or to disguise other running problems.

In my younger and naive days I remember buying a Vauxhall Astra off a private seller and the car had a strangely clean engine bay even though it was around 10 years old; the engine literally looked like new! But I soon learned to my cost that it had a leaking head gasket – something which cost me over £350 to put right!

Consider buying only from a dealer

With my example above, I had no legal comeback because my car purchase was from a private seller. But if you buy from a car dealer, they have a legal obligation to make sure that any cars they sell are as described, and that they have performed all necessary checks to ensure the car has not got a hidden history.

For those reasons, I would recommend only buying from a car dealer, but I wouldn’t want to say that all private sellers are liars and have no morals because the good private sellers really do outnumber the bad ones.

Take a mechanically-minded friend with you when viewing cars

If you know someone that spends their spare time taking cars to bits and putting them back together again, or even a mechanic that works in the motor trade, you should take them with you when you go out to look at cars.

Even if you know your way around a car, they can be useful at spotting things that you might have overlooked.


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