The Ultimate used car buying advice, help and guide

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Well we think we have heard of every possible scam, con or way to relieve you of your hard earned money, here is the so called "Ultimate used car buying guide" Please do get in touch if you have heard of any new way, new scam, new con or other bad practice. This has been written by car dealers and garages so you have the inside track and knowledge. Don't get ripped off buying a car, use this guide! This is not intended to form any legal argument and all information here has been collated or sent to us by people like you. Therefore you must ensure you check any details here to ensure accuracy. We will not be held liable for any mistakes. First the most important part


People who are selling their own vehicle, sometimes a way to get a vehicle slightly cheaper BE AWARE YOU HAVE MUCH LESS PROTECTION REAGRDING PRIVATE SELLERS (OR TRADERS THAT ARE NOT DECLARING THE TRUTH) IF YOU HAVE ANY DOUBT EVEN 1% WALK AWAY


The law and you, first off what you should be able to legally expect!

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 - sellers are responsible for ensuring that any goods they sell on are:

· in accordance with the description they have given in the item listing;

· of satisfactory quality; and

· fit for their purpose.

The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 - makes it an offence for sellers to:

· apply a false description to any items; or

· supply or offer to supply any items to which a false description is applied.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended) - makes it an offence to:

· sell (or offer for sale) a vehicle in an unroadworthy condition; or

· alter a vehicle so as to make it unroadworthy.

The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 apply to sales where no face-to-face contact is made between the seller and buyer. Business sellers should:

· provide clear information about themselves and their items (this information could be contained on their website); and

· provide consumers with a period of seven working days in which the consumer can cancel the contract (often referred to as the "cooling off" period).

Under the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2000 the seller must also provide:

· the name, geographic address and email address of the seller's business;

· details of any relevant trade organisations to which the seller belongs;

· details of any authorisation scheme relevant to the seller's online business; and

· the seller's VAT number, if the online activities are subject to VAT.

So already you think you are covered under law, but always remember it can be costly to pursue any claim. The first three have been pretty standard and are well understood. Distance selling can be a little more fraught. The major part is "apply to sales where no face-to-face contact is made between the seller and buyer." So if you buy it online, on eBay, or any online site you think you have extra protection, but if you make face to face contact i.e. you go and pick the vehicle up from the dealer, they may have a defence and say the law does not apply. Simple you picked it up, you made the face to face contact.

OK Tigerboy, but I am not going to spend X thousand pounds without seeing the vehicle. Indeed, so do some homework.

Probably the most important thing ANY car dealer should do is HPi or Experian check the vehicle. All dealers should do this because if they buy a car and for example it has finance outstanding on it THE DEALER IS LIABLE. The dealer may often say they will "PRINT OFF A COPY OF THEIR REPORT" great, so all the protection HPI and Experian offer will be for the dealer and dealer only. They paid for the report and added security of the information provided and such companies as HPi and Experian will cover an amount of money if they are wrong. NOT GOOD FOR YOU, you want the same level of protection.

Great, so why go direct to HPi and Experian? There are quite a few other car checking facilities at a much cheaper price, I can send a text and for £3 find out all I can.

FALSE ECONOMY – unless you deal directly with HPi or Experian you may not get the same levels of cover. Another way to think about it, a report will probably cost £30 - £40, a very small percentage of the purchase price!

So great, you have found a dealer, you have checked the vehicle, now check the documentation

Ask the dealer for a few details from the log book and MOT, it is wise to show confirmed interest at this stage, possibly by paying a deposit. Always pay a deposit on a credit or debit card OVER THE PHONE. A credit card is best simply because they afford you greater protection. The reason to pay over the phone is you do not give out your PIN number, and any entity taking card numbers over the phone perform what’s known as a CARD HOLDER NOT PRESENT transaction. They are much easier to dispute with your credit card company than other transactions. Because you have not used your pin the responsibility lies solely with the retailer, in other words the bank will simply take the money back from them if there is any untoward happenings.

A good one to look up here is the New banking code

Now onto the details you wanted, the details from the log book or V5 AND MOT, check these at and for the V5 or log book

Is the dealer registered with the FSA? (Financial Services Authority) most main dealers and independent retailers are, and if they offer financial services and warranties they almost MUST be. Check on the FSA website

So now you should be armed with the following

1. The car advert printed out with details of where it appeared.

2. A full Experian or HPi report IN YOUR NAME

3. A £30 bill for the HPi report paid for on your credit card over the phone, staple or clip this to the HPi report.

4. A print off of the MOT check and the V5 check.

5. FSA registration print off.

That’s the easy part over. Now the harder part comes.

There are a number of things that YOU now must ensure YOU are happy with

1. Do you have the full address of the dealer, this is a must

2. Is the dealer VAT registered and able to provide a full VAT receipt, be wary of any dealer that is not VAT registered. The VAT registration threshold is quite low (Possibly £30,000 upwards per year). Each car (on average is £5000) they sell must be declared. Simple maths if they only sell 6 cars a year they do not sound as if they are a MAJOR dealer.

3. Are you dealing with a limited company, if so then you have further protection, they are declaring they are a company, they are here to sell you a car. Also check on companies house website any details you can find on them

4. Does the car come with a warranty? It’s literally a must for any respectable business especially car sales to include at no cost a warranty. This sounds as it is for your benefit, but that is NOT ENTIRELY CORRECT. The dealer has a responsibility for a reasonable amount of time. (They are the experts, you went to the experts to buy a car, you do not have as much knowledge as them) This would generally mean that any problems encountered during the first 6 months of you owning the car should be rectified. Therefore a warranty is not only protecting you BUT ALSO THE DEALER. They do not want to be paying out any money 5 months down the line. BUT remember if you run it out of oil, it needs servicing or you crash or otherwise damage it NO WARRANTY will cover you OR DEALER.

5. BE AWARE – ensure you can use any local garage, main dealer or other for warranty purposes, if you travel a long way to buy a car, the dealer can ask for it to be returned for repair or diagnostic. Think about this carefully – a good example, is you are on holiday, you go into a little shop buy something return home and it breaks. If the shop has only one premises you must return it to them at YOUR OWN EXPENSE. This is true with cars.

6. Where was the vehicle advertised? Try clicking on the link to sell your own car as a test (Don’t worry simply cancel before you are required to pay anything) ANY WEBSITE THAT OFFERS FREE ADVERTS WILL BE A MAGNET TO A SCAMMER, let’s face it free adverts are much easier to place than paid for, paid for require a credit / debit card or some form of payment, this can ultimately be traced.

7. Have they got trade car insurance so you can take a fully insured test drive prior to finalising the deal? If they have not WALK AWAY.

VSTAG offer the following checklist we have reproduced for you convenience

Simple score the marks given at the end of each item to come to your overall score, plus it helps as a reminder to the stuff above.

1 DVLA V5 Registration

a. Inspected and checked 10

b. Available but not checked 5

c. Not available 0

2 Current MOT

a. 6-12 month valid 10

b. MOT not required (car too new) 10

c. Less than 6 months valid 5

d. No MOT 0

3 Previous MOT

a. Available and checked 10

b. Not applicable (car too new) 10

c. Not available 0

4 Vehicle Service

a. Available and checked 10


b. Not complete or not checked 5

c. Not available 0

5 Pre-Sales Vehicle Check

a. Vehicle serviced and checked 10

b. Vehicle visually checked 5

c. No pre-sales check list 0

6 Experian or HPI Check

a. Availalble or checked BY YOU 10

b. Not checked 0

7 Mechanical Warranty

a. Include in price 10

b. Extra Charge 5

c. No warranty given 0

8 Sellers Identity

a. Seller identifiable 10

b. Not clearly identifiable 0

9 Your Contract

a. Seller willing to sign, or 10 provide equivalent commitment on on own paperwork

b. Seller not prepared to sign or provide a suitable equivalent 0

10 Now is this the car I want?

a. All tests satisfactory 10 you want?

b. Most tests satisfactory 5

c. Some areas of concern 0

EBAY Specific

What a great place to find the vehicle you are looking for, so far most of what you have completed has been done in the comfort of your own home. Buying a car online has never been easier. BUT it has never been easier for fraudsters to advertise dubious vehicles.

The top tips for eBay are

1. Do they have a phone number (NOT MOBILE) for their office?

2. Have they got a professional website? (No guarantee but another plus)

3. Is their feedback for vehicles? Avoid sellers with a high feedback rating but only by 1p sales or listings, it is a common way to defraud the eBay system by buying many little lots of nothing and getting massive feedback results.

4. eBay accounts can be hacked or cracked, always phone as well as email

5. Avoid users giving external email address as the only contact point, at least use the eBay automated messaging system

6. How long have they been a seller? Recent or low feedback sellers require even more checking, most are probably fine, but some ARE NOT!

7. If it is overseas be VERY WARY, if it is outside the European Union FORGET IT RIGHT NOW, no matter how cheap it looks. Many scams seem to originate from France, Ireland, Italy etc.

8. Anyone wanting a quick sale and the vehicle looks cheap WALK AWAY.

9. Do they accept credit cards, debit cards etc? Again no guarantee but the more TICKS you get here on this list the better

10. PayPal? Again another tick (You have to give details to set PayPal up – ok they may be dodgey details but another point to start tracing from if you need to get the police involved)

11. Do they offer a return or exchange policy? Another tick if yes.

12. Grammar – OK we all do not speak the queen’s English every day, even the author of the wonderful document as good looking, sophisticated as he is (People are laughing in the office) is no way perfect, but if the item offered has a description in broken English redouble all checks

13. Have they taken the time to portray the vehicle as well as they can. All businesses want you to buy from them; they spend a small fortune on designs, where things are placed, etc. Scammers normally do not.

14. Do they only have one vehicle on sale? If yes again it needs further checking, garages normally have more than a single car to sell

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