There's so much profit to be made from dodgy cars that there's a villainous section of the used car trade that gives the rest a bad name.

How do you spot these criminals and their ruses to part you from your money ? There are a number of well known crimes and, to aid your general know-how, there follows a brief description of each but in the appropriate sections there are more detailed measures to detect such villainy and prevent yourself being caught.


Is it genuine? If you're buying a specialist or high performance car do you know exactly what equipment a genuine model carried. There are probably about 3 times as many Ford Sierra Cosworths as were ever made, don't be fooled by copies, check that the car you are being offered is genuine.


Is it nicked ? Over 150, 000 - nearly 40% - of the nearly half million cars stolen in Britain each year are never recovered being cloned or ringed or the parts built into another car. Remember, if you buy a stolen car, even unwittingly, you will have to forfeit the car to it's rightful owner and you have no chance of recovering your money.

Is the vendor entitled to sell the car ? It may still be owned by a finance company or even a car hire company. No documents don't buy.


Has it been clocked ? Clocking - winding back the mileometer - is reckoned to cost car buyers £100 million every year in exaggerated prices. Reducing the average car's mileage by 10, 000 - a few minutes work - can add £300 - 400 to it's forecourt price.

Be aware that private vendors have also cottoned onto clocking and some are as unscrupulous as the worst dealers.


Has it been cloned ? Cloning is stealing a car then giving it a false identity usually with false papers with details copied from a similar car and false VIN and engine numbers affixed.


Has it been chopped or cut and shut ? This is where 2 or more cars, usually stolen or crashed ones have been stuck together, again with a false identity. The "re-construction" is usually of very poor quality, usually easily spotted by a detailed inspection and often unroadworthy and dangerous.  


Has it been crashed, scrapped, poorly welded together and sold without any checks being carried out of their roadworthiness and put back on the road with false papers ?


Are all of the papers genuine ? There is a huge black market in forged and stolen registration documents, MOT certificates and even Road Tax discs.

All of these things can be checked for a small fee by specialist agencies as described later but, for now, the simplest advice is, if the deal don't feel right or you don't trust the seller walk away.

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

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