Does the seller actually own the car, are they entitled to sell the car ? It may still be owned by a finance company, may be stolen, may be cloned - stolen then given a false identity -, may be ringed - with a false VIN and engine numbers affixed - chopped - more than 1 car  stuck together - again with a false identity, may have been crashed, written off then re-built, may even be a hire car, how would you know ?

For about £35 charged to your credit card either Equifax HPI or the AA Used Car Data Check can check all of the details during a phone call and will give you the car's history culled from Police, DVLC, finance and insurance company's records.

Both agencies have access to huge databases covering millions of cars and can tell you if the car is stolen, if there is outstanding finance, if it has been crashed and repaired or written off. The Trade have been using these sorts of services for years, they wouldn't buy, or accept as a trade-in, any car without ensuring that they weren't buying something dodgy. 

In  2004/5 over 7 million used car check were carried out in this way which revealed about a third had some dubious history, over 2 million cars with a question mark as an optional extra. 

At about £35 this check probably represents a tiny proportion of the asking price of the car and will take a just a few minutes of your time. Always get this check done before finally parting with any payment. The telephone numbers of both organisations are in the useful numbers section.


Abstracted from the book “Buying a Used Car” © G Benge 1997-2007

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