Cardeck.co.uk - Car Buying Guide

Ultimate Car Buying Guide

Cardeck Team | September 1, 2014

Buying a new can can be both exciting and daunting. There is so much choice out there, the decision to buy new or used? From a dealer or a private seller? Cash or finance? The list may seem endless, but doing your research and deciding everything beforehand will save you both time and money. If you know exactly what it is you're looking for, it will be much easier to narrow down all the options and find your perfect car.

This is our guide to buying a car, be it new or used. We cover everything from the start of the process right through until the end, helping you to avoid the scams and tricks used by people to con you out of your hard earned cash. When it comes to buying a car there are a number of pitfalls you could fall into, especially when buying in the used market. The majority of sellers out there are honest and trustworthy, but the select few ruin it for everyone with scams and unscrupulous sellers willing to sell dangerous faulty vehicles.

Deciding what suits your needs.

This is the important first step of the process. There may be many cars out there that you like the look of, but unfortunately not all of them will be practical for your needs. When thinking about your requirements it is always useful to plan for the future, if there are chances you will be starting or expanding your family, then the new car should accommodate any new arrivals to reduce any unnecessary inconvenience later down the line such as lack of space or having to change the car again in a short space of time.

For instance, buying a 2 seater sports car when you may want to start a family in the next couple of years isn't the best investment, the same can be said for buying a 2/3 door car, although many models look better with only 2/3 doors they aren't practical with young children.

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The main car body types are:

Small Hatchback this category covers cars such as the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus, Fiat Punto Evo, Audi A3 etc

Large Hatchback this category covers cars such as the Vauxhall Insignia, Skoda Octavia, Mazda 6 Ford Mondeo etc

Estate this category covers cars such as the Ford Focus estate, Vauxhall Vectra estate, Audi A4 estate, Saab 9-5 estate, Volkswagen Passat estate, Volvo V60 etc

Coupe this category covers cars such as the Vauxhall Astra GTC, Volkswagen Scirocco, Hyundai Coupe, Mercedes CLK, etc

Cabriolet this category covers cars such as the Renault Megane Convertible, Vauxhall Cascada, Volkswagen Eos, Volvo C70, Audi A4 Cabriolet etc

Sports Cars this category covers cars such as Porsche's, Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, Bugatti Veyron etc

MPV this category covers cars such as the Vauxhall Zafira, Renault Megane Scenic, Ford C-Max, Citroen Xsara Picasso etc

SUV this category covers cars such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Honda CR-V, Range Rover Evoque, Ford Kuga, Renault Koleos, Volkswagen Tiguan etc

4x4 this category covers cars such as, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover, Suzuki Grand Vitara, as well as most SUV's and Pick-ups.

Pick-Ups this category covers vehicles such as the Mitsubishi L200, VW Amarok, Nissan Navara, Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux etc

Once you have decided on the body styles that are suitable for you, you will need to think about the features and functions you would like your new car to have. Do you need air conditioning, electric windows, mp3 connectivity and so on? The more gadgets and features the car has, the more the price will generally be. It is always good to make a list of features you MUST have i.e. For families with young children ISOFIX anchor points may be a necessity, for those driving long miles cruise control may be a must. After compiling a list of must have features, make a list of desirable features that may help to sway you as the choices out there are vast.

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Once you have a list of features and the body style you need, you can start to take a look around online to get an idea of what's out there that fits the bill. Are you going to be buying new or used? For those buying used dedicated car selling websites are a good place to start as they usually list all of the available features each car has. Simply select a body style and you will be presented with what's out there. This also helps you to gauge an idea of prices. Remember that prices will vary for similar sized cars with similar specs based upon the manufacturer. Certain marques command a higher price tag.

For those buying new you may best be served taking some time out to visit manufacturer websites to get an idea of models and their features, this will also give you a rough price idea to work with.

CAP is the best place to go to get an idea of valuations, it can also shows you the depreciation costs of new cars, showing you how much the car is likely to cost you over the period you intend to own it with their Total Cost of Motoring page.

Once you have narrowed down the models you are interested in, you should do some research on them to see which is the most reliable and loved by the people that matter, the owners. Check out impartial customer reviews posted by the people that actually own the cars. The best places to look for these are Which and the JD Powerhouse customer satisfaction reviews which are posted by What Car. Once you have a knowledge of the cars that satisfy their owners, you can get a gauge of their reliability from Warranty Direct thus giving you an overall picture of your best options. Armed with this knowledge you should now have the perfect car or two in mind and be able to start shopping around for the best deal!

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Buying New

For some, buying new is a much safer option than buying used. The downside to buying a brand new car is of course the depreciation. You have the added security of a manufacturers warranty and a point of complaint should anything go wrong, but the minute you take delivery of the car it loses value. In fact, after the first year the car will lose a significant amount off of its purchase price. Some cars devalue faster than others, meaning they are not such a good bet to buy new. This is where the CAP total cost of motoring comes into its own, allowing you to see how much the car will depreciate by, as well as the cost of running it and insuring it over the period of time you expect to own it for.

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Shopping Around

When looking for a new car shopping around for the best deal may not be as simple as searching for a cheap holiday for example, but there are still ways to save yourself a considerable amount of money if you are just willing to put in a little bit of time and effort.

Once you have decided on the perfect car for you, the best way to get a good deal is to shop around. Contact car dealers in your local area and hit the internet to find the best deal. It may pay to cast your net a bit further as a dealer out of town may just have a better price. With the internet so prevalent in most peoples lives cars can also now be bought online. In a lot of cases dealers can offer to deliver the car to your door from anywhere in the country using a driver. Remember, if you do this the car will have delivery miles on it.

Call dealerships up or email them to get their current prices on the vehicles. Remember that there is always a little bit of room for negotiation. If the dealership isn’t open to this then walk away and find one that is.

There are some websites out there which show the best deals on new cars available such as www.car-discount.co.uk, Money Supermarket or Honest John which shows you the best deals that can find online and how much of a saving can be had.

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Getting The Best Deal

Knowing how dealerships operate can also help you to net the best deal. For example the sales people work on monthly targets in order to receive their bonuses. Approach them at the end of the month when they are desperate to hit their targets and they may be more open to negotiating a deal with you. Likewise dealerships generally have quarterly targets to hit. If you wait till the end of the quarter, then you are more likely to be able to negotiate with them to receive a better price on the car of your dreams.

If you are buying a car that has seasonal appeal such as a 4x4 or cabriolet then making the purchase out of seasons is another way to have room to manoeuvre. Buying a 4x4 in the summer when less people are in the market for them means prices are more likely to be reduced, in the same way that a convertible is likely to have been in the winter.

If you are part exchanging your old car then sell it in the best possible light. Make sure the car is clean and well presented when you take it down to the dealership. Take care of any minor cosmetic imperfections such as missing wheel trims and minor paint chips. If you have history for the car to demonstrate it has been well maintained and loved take it down with you. Service history is always a bonus and will get you a better price when you come to sell the car on, however it is sold.

In Britain we are renowned for being rubbish at haggling, but it pays to negotiate. Whatever time of the month of quarterly cycle, we are on take your time to barter with the sales person. Be realistic with your expectations. Making a silly offer will lead them to believe you aren't serious, but offering a realistic amount will give them something to work with and shows them that you are keen to make the purchase. Sales people generally work on commission, if they think you're a time waster they won't give you the time of day.

Check out if the dealership is likely to be running any events in the near future. Follow their social media pages and check local newspapers etc for upcoming events where prices are slashed. Just before the new registrations come out a number of dealers will offer deals on old stock. Some dealers may even pre register some of their stock to hit their targets. This means a better deal to you if you were willing to buy one of these cars, instead of the new reg numbers, the car is effectively new it has only sat in the salesroom.

If a car is about to be superseded by a newer model or version then it will be a great bet. Firstly, being a late model the manufacturer has had time to iron out any bugs that were present in earlier versions. Secondly, the case will probably be loaded up with all the optional extras to get the stock shifted and finally, the manufacturer will be cutting the prices to shift all the old stock. It doesn't pay to have old models sitting around on forecourts when the newer model needs prime space in the showroom.

As well as discounts you may be able to get some extras thrown into the deal for free. Always ask what the sales person is willing to give you to secure your sale. Get everything you can out of the purchase of your car. You have the power here as long as you speak up. More expensive cars have more value in them to unlock. If you are buying a car at the cheaper end of the spectrum, there may not be much leeway for negotiation.

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Finance

Are you going to be financing your new car? If so again, it pays to shop around and find the best deal. Some dealers may run finance events or offer nil deposit deals. Keep an eye on TV adverts if you are in the market for a financed car as many manufacturers advertise their finance deals nationally. Again, check local newspapers and classifieds for any such deals.

Finance can be a minefield with so many options available. Always make sure you obtain a copy of your credit report before proceeding to apply for credit. Each time you apply your credit score will go down, applying for credit that would never be accepted to start with is a waste of time. Lenders are looking for key things such as ability to keep up repayments and past payment history as well as whether or not you are traceable. Getting a copy of your report beforehand will highlight any errors to you that could be corrected, or ways in which you could improve your score such as registering yourself on the electoral roll.

Credit cards are a brilliant way to pay for a car if you have an introductory interest free period which would give you enough time to pay the car off. Credit card purchases also come with added protection which will benefit you if the seller was to go bust for example. Not all dealers will accept credit cards for such large purchases.

Personal Loans are great for those with good credit scores. The loan can be taken directly from the bank or loan provider generally at a much lower APR than a loan taken directly through a car dealership etc. These loans can either be secured against assets such as your home, secured loans offer the lowest APR rates as there is less risk to the lender, or be unsecured meaning you are not at risk of losing your home if you cannot keep up repayments for any reason.

HP This is a type of loan that is secured against the car. This means you do not own the car until the final payment has been made along with any option to purchase fees that may apply. HP is a common method of financing cars as its a more secure option for the lenders. A deposit may be required, which is commonly around 10% of the car's value, although HP may also be available without any initial deposit.

PCH stands for personal contract hire, it is more commonly referred to as personal leasing. The car is leased from the dealer over a set period, usually between 2 and 5 years. This works out as a good deal if you don't mind never owning the car as you are only effectively paying the depreciation of the car plus any interest. It’s a bit like renting a house some may be happy to do so, while others see it as dead money.

PCP stands for personal contract purchase. It is the same as PCP only you have the option to purchase the car at the end of the agreement for the set price that was decided at the time the agreement was taken out.

Flat Rate Loans are sometimes offered by car dealers as they have a very attractive looking rate of interest. They, however do not generally display the APR, which is the true representation of the interest and fees. A flat rate loan is not necessarily a bad deal, but can be very misleading as displayed rates will be lower than the APR that would be displayed. If you are offered a flat rate loan ask to see the APR to be able to compare it to other finance deals accurately.

Bad Credit Car Finance. For those with poor credit cores there are still methods available to either lease or finance a car purchase. They are however, offered at a much higher rate of interest to reflect the risk to the lender, and may be fitted with an immobilising device should payments not be met.

We have a comprehensive guide to car finance which can be found here http://www.cardeck.co.uk/car-finance for a more in depth guide explaining all the options available along with the pros and cons.

Cash

If you are able to pay for your new car purchase in cash / direct bank transfer then you may have the ability to gain a better price than using a card to make the purchase. You may not necessarily get a better price than you would if you were financing the car purchase though. This is because the dealer makes some money from the sale of any of their finance products available. Obviously you will save yourself the interest rates, though which will save you a considerable amount of money over the years you would be paying off a finance agreement.

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GAP Insurance.

When buying a new car a GAP insurance policy should be considered. It is a form of insurance which would pay out the depreciation should your car become a total write off after an accident or theft etc. All cars depreciate. In fact the minute they drive off the forecourt they have lost money. This would be a huge blow to anyone that had paid out for a brand new car only to have an accident two years later. There are a few levels of GAP cover available, all of which are covered in detail on our car finance page http://www.cardeck.co.uk/car-finance. It is important to remember that most insurance policies would cover for the cost of a brand new replacement in the first year of cover as long as the car was brand new when you insured it with them. Shop around for GAP insurance as dealers are earning commission on their policies which pushes the price up.

Paperwork

There will always be paperwork to complete when purchasing a new car. Make sure you have plenty of time available the day you go to purchase your new car. This gives you time to get the best deal, negotiate and complete all the relevant forms. If you are financing the car you will obviously need slightly more time as credit checks and lengthly forms will need to be completed as well as all the standard paperwork involved. ID will also be required in order to verify you are who you say you are. Make sure you take along plenty of proof of identity and ensure it contains the correct information, i.e. Your driving license has the correct address on it rather than a previous address.

If you are wanting to test drive a car you need to make sure you take your driving license along with you before the dealer will allow you to drive any of their vehicles.

When buying a new car the dealer will generally register the car for you with the DVLA. Ensure you get the V5C off of them before leaving the showroom.

Buying Used Cars

If you are looking for a used car it really is a buyers market. Having said that the number of complaints in this sector is very high. Knowing what to look out for can help to save you from making a bad purchase aka buying a lemon. In this section we take a look at how to get the best deal and make sure you don't buy a faulty car or fall prey to a scammer.

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Where to Look

When looking for a used car the world really is your oyster. If you have decided upon the features and size of the car you need, you can start to shop around. The internet has made it really easy to find the best deals on used cars. There are dedicated websites for used cars such as Cardeck.co.uk, classified websites such as Gumtree.co.uk which can be used to search locally as well as nationally. Auction websites such as eBay, dealers own websites and even social media selling pages. Cast your net wide when looking for a car, being able to do it all from the comfort of your own home makes things much easier and less time restricted. Back in the day people had to go out and trawl through the classified sections of newspapers where there was only one image if any, look in shop windows and boards or physically go out and look for cars at dealers or parked up with for sale signs on them. The ability to make all your enquiries online with decent lengthly descriptions and a number of photos really is a blessing. Peruse a number of websites to see what's on offer.

Classifieds - Both online, in newspapers and dedicated classified circulations are still great places to look for a car. You should be able to find cars listed by both private sellers and some dealers primarily independent dealers in this type of media.

Dedicate car selling sites - Sites such as Cardeck are dedicated to helping you find the perfect car. Dealers and private sellers can list their cars for sale on such sites. They are designed with the sole purpose of making a car search quick and simple. With a number of search filters allowing you to narrow down the results returned by engine size, doors, body style and even colour amongst other things these sites really do help you to find your perfect car. Photos and a description are all available on the cars details page as well as the sellers contact details to arrange a viewing. In the case of dealers they may even have a dealer review section allowing you to see how past buyers have rated the dealer based on their experiences.

Online auctions - eBay is the primary online auction site with thousands of cars listed for sale both through their classified option and through online auctions. Both dealers and private sellers list their stock on eBay due to the number of hits the site gets. With the online auction system buyers place bids on vehicles like they would at a physical auction. There is an option to contact the seller if you wish to arrange a viewing. The buyer should have written a description and uploaded images of the car for bidders to view. Winning bidders may be asked to pay a nominal non refundable deposit via PayPal at the end of the auction in order for the seller to know they are serious and will turn up to complete the purchase. The classified option is like a standard classified listing, but the cars will display on the standard site with a fixed price, images and a description.

Physical auctions - This is a quick, cheap way to purchase a car. Cars are allocated a lot number, you can walk round and look at the lots prior to the auction, but not in the same way you would normally view a car for sale. Cars are driven into the room and bidding will take place. The highest bidder will win the car as long as any reserves placed on the vehicle were met. Auctions like this are intense and adrenalin filled. If you decide to go to auction be sure to stick to your budget and not get carried away with the rush of it all.

Independent Dealerships / Traders - An independent dealership is a car dealer that is not tied to any particular manufacturer. A trader may be an individual that buys and sells on second hand cars. These types of setups may have a number of cars for you to view and test drive. They should come with some form of guarantee, check what’s covered before completing a purchase.

Franchised dealerships - This is a car dealer which is committed to a specific manufacturer. They sell approved used vehicles from the manufacturer they sell for i.e. Vauxhall, Ford, BMW etc. They may also stock other manufacturers used vehicles which they may have taken in as a part exchange or bought in to sell on. Cars from a franchised dealership will usually have been given a full multi point mechanical check and will be in very good order. They should come with some form of warranty or guarantee.

Facebook selling groups - In the last year or so, people have adopted the Facebook groups option to set up ‘For Sale’ groups. There are a number of different categories some may be general for sale pages where anything legal goes, while others will be specific i.e. Cars for sale. These groups are a fantastic way of looking for local bargains. The seller does not have to pay to list their vehicle, can upload lots of images of their vehicle and a nice long description to cover everything. Because its free to list people selling all sorts of vehicles are finding this a new convenient way to sell their vehicles. The seller can be contacted easily to arrange viewings of the vehicle and if you are looking for something specific you can write a wanted post and be tagged in relevant listings as they appear.

How Much Should I Pay

As with buying a new car you can get an idea for the price you should be paying. Check out CAP’s website, which will give a rough indication of the prices you should expect to pay. Remember that these are a guide price and some private sellers may be selling at a lower price to get a quick deal.

Cars bought from dealers will generally be more expensive but will come with some form of warranty and a point of contact should any complaints arise. Auctions may get the cheapest deal but they really are sold as seen. Physical auctions do not give you much time at all to look around the car. Online auctions may give you more time if a viewing can be arranged with the seller beforehand.

Arranging a Viewing

Once you have found a car or a few you are interested in you should contact the seller(s). Ask them any questions that you have about the car, try to get a little more information from them. Try to ascertain the history of the car and their credibility as an owner. Obviously the majority of sellers are genuine but ask plenty of questions, genuine sellers will happily answer all questions you have for them. Unscrupulous sellers will be the ones with a problem and something to hide. Car buying scams cost the consumers a colossal £3 million a year! We will cover all the common car scams shortly.

Once you are happy with the details arrange to meet the seller to take a look around the car. NEVER meet them in a car park or somewhere other than their home, they may pitch it to you in a bid to seem like they are helping you but this is how a number of scammers work so insist on going to their home or premises to view the car. If at all possible take someone along with you for security and to assess the car properly. If you have any friends with mechanical knowledge they are the perfect person to take with you. This is because they can give the car the once over for you letting you know about any work that may need doing on the car shortly.

Always view a car during daylight hours and if possible avoid rainy days. You need to be able to spend good time looking over the car, poor visibility or weather that makes you want to run for cover and will not give you the full picture, masking some dodgy repairs etc .

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The Viewing

Before you knock on the door take a walk around the car and have a quick look at its condition. This will help avoid any distractions from the seller talking to you as you make your assessment., take the time to have a look underneath the car to check for any problems or rust. Once you have had a look at it all go and get the seller to unlock the car and show you around.

At this point you will want to start the engine and listen to it tick over, rev the car and see how it sounds. Get the person you took with you to check things like the lights are working and also to take a look at the colour of the smoke coming out of the exhaust. Blue / grey or black smoke is never a good sign and will demonstrate that there is a problem with the car which could be costly to repair.

Pop the bonnet and take a look. See if the oil and water levels are topped up adequately. This is a sign of a well maintained and looked after vehicle. Another key thing to check is the oil filler cap. Check for a milky substance as this could be a sign the head gasket is going. It could however merely be condensation, but should always be investigated as a blown head gasket will not be a cheap repair. If your friend has mechanical knowledge get them to make assessments of the car as they have better knowledge in the area.

Tyres are another key area to check. Check the tread depths on them are legal and that there are no rips or bulges in them as this will be another added expense for you if you take possession of the vehicle. Check the paintwork for any rust scratches or dents that you were not aware about and look at any that were mentioned in the description for the car. Look for accident damage as this could have caused a number of other problems that may not be so visible.

Once all visual inspections have been made ask to take the car for a test drive. Before doing so you may be expected to show the owner your driving licence and proof that you are insured to drive their vehicle. Try too take the car for a good run, testing it on different types of roads which allow you to test all the gears and build up a good speed to see how the vehicle runs and copes. If possible make sure you also take it up a hill. Listen to the sound of the engine and ensure it isn't working harder than should be expected at any point,

Once the test drive is complete take the car back to the sellers premises. You should now have an idea whether you want to make a purchase or look around at other options. Remember if there was anything you weren't sure of don't purchase the car until you have had it checked out.

If you don't have anyone with mechanical knowledge to attend the viewing, and decide you are keen on the car after testing it then we strongly recommend you get an independent assessment of the car carried out. Recovery services such as the RAC and AA offer this option as well as a number of independent companies. Look around locally for a good deal and get the car through a certified check for your peace of mind and to ensure you are not buying a lemon.

If the car passes all assessments mechanically and you wish to purchase it the last check that should be made is a HPI check. This will tell you if the car has a hidden history. There are a number of text check services which are quick and relatively cheap but they are not always completely accurate. We would definitely recommend getting a proper HPI check done to see if the car has been previously written off, stolen or is still under outstanding finance. Assessments and HPI checks may cost some money but its a huge gamble if you walk away without carrying out some checks. Used cars are exactly that, used. They have history and may even have problems the owners themselves are not aware of. Other people would try and sell a car on the minute they have realise there is an expensive fault, before it gets too noticeable to potential buyers. Keep yourself covered by carrying out these checks before handing over your hard earned cash.

Agreeing a Price

If you have made a thorough assessment of the car you will be able to use any imperfections or faults to try and get the price down a bit. For example if the tread on the tyres is nearing the legal limit then use this to knock some money off. Never offer the full asking price for the car from the offset, we are renowned as a nation for being rubbish at haggling, but if you don’t ask you don't get. Many sellers have built in some room for negotiation into their asking price. The seller is not likely to take your first offer so go in lower than the price you really want to pay and haggle until an agreement can be made.

When dealing with a dealer offer 90% of the asking price. This shows the dealer you are genuinely interested rather than a dreamer. You can haggle from there to agree a price. No matter who you are buying a car from the seller wants the sale. As long as you are realistic and not offering a silly amount you are likely to be able to reach a happy medium and walk away with your new car.

Once the price has been agreed upon you will need to go and complete the paperwork with the seller and get all of the documentation and keys.

Paperwork

When a car is sold on the V5C must be completed by the owner of the car with the details of the new owner and returned to the DVLA. The little slip should be given to you as the buyer this section is called the V5C2 this is your proof of ownership until the new V5C with your details arrives in the post, which will usually takes a couple of weeks.

Make sure you take the manual if the seller has this along with any history such as a service book and old receipts that had been advertised with the car. This shows any past work and demonstrates the car has been well maintained. Not all cars will come with history, but if the seller has any ask them for it.

The next thing you should ask the seller for is a receipt. It should include details about the car such as the registration number, make and model. The date of sale, the price paid the sellers name and address as well as your details and should be signed by the seller. The seller may write ‘sold as seen’ on the receipt. Don’t panic this does not affect your statutory rights. Legally a car should not be sold if it is not roadworthy, if the seller knowingly sold the car with any faults you could pursue them for compensation. The law states that:

The vehicle must be of a satisfactory quality, fit for its intended purpose that you made the seller aware of and as described. This basically means the car must be safe, free from minor defects unless advised to you at the time of sale, usable for a reasonable length of time. Age, mileage and condition will affect this. The car must be roadworthy and drivable and exactly as the seller described. If the car was not as described or fit for purpose at the time of the sale then you may be entitled to a full refund, compensation / damages, repair or replacement or a reduction on the price paid.

Once all the paperwork has been complete, make sure you take all keys for the vehicle and you can drive off into the sunset.

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Car Scams

Now that you are aware of the full sales process we are going to cover the most common scams that unscrupulous sellers use to make their money at your expense. Sadly criminals find car scams a very quick and easy way to make money. This is because of the large value attached to them. From stolen cars to bodged up cars there is money to be made, and those with little morals or principals are happy to take advantage of trusting buyers.

Clocking - This is on of the classic scams, whereby the mileage on a car is turned back to make it appear less used and more desirable, the less miles a car has done the more money it should fetch the seller. This can be quite dangerous as some parts of a car need replacing every so many miles due to the fact they wear with use. Its probably the oldest trick in the book which even modern cars can easily become a victim of with the simple aid of a laptop.

When viewing a car check for wear and tear to the drivers seat, gear stick, pedals and steering wheel that are not consistent with its age and mileage. The most accurate way to check a cars history if unsure is to request details from the DVLA who can get previous mileages from prior MOT certificates.

Stolen Cars - Car theft is more difficult these days as modern cars generally require the key to gain access and drive off. This has seen a change in the way a number of car thief's operate. They are now stealing the keys to go with the vehicle. They commonly do this by stealing them from bags etc or in burglaries. A number of people still leave the keys within reach of the door meaning its easy for car thief's to use grabbers etc to reach through the letterbox and obtain the keys.

Having the keys is not the only way though. Some car thieves have sophisticated computer equipment which can start the car using a computer. A number of BMW’s fell victim to a hack which allowed thieves to generate the code from the on board computer needed to programme an new key. Devices like these were originally produced for locksmiths and recovery companies but inevitably fall into the wrong hands, making the criminals jobs much easier.

As we mentioned above when buying a car always get a full HPI check especially when buying more expensive marques such as BMW and Mercedes etc. It may cost a few quid but if the car turns out to be stolen you will have lost a lot more money. There is of course a chance the owner is away and has not noticed their vehicle is missing which in turn means that it will not have been reported stolen. Always ask to view history for the car to back up ownership and ensure the sellers details match the ownership details, Look for signs of a forged V5C document also. The V5C should have a serial number, this can be found on the top right hand corner of the certificate along with a DVLA watermark. Check for signs the V5C has been tampered with, and that there are not parts missing.

If you find a V5C with a serial number in the following ranges, don’t go ahead with the sale, contact the police immediately:

BG8229501 to BG9999030

BI2305501 to BI2800000

The details on the V5C should match those of the car. This includes the CIN and engine number, check they tally up to the information on the document along with the vehicles colour and registration number. The vehicles VIN number should be etched on the windows check this corresponds to the one on the V5C, check that all windows have the same VIN also to rule out a cut and shut.

Cut and Shut - This is the term used for two cars which have been welded together to form one. Usually after one has received front end damage and the other rear end damage creating an undamaged appearing vehicle. These cars could be considerably dangerous with no guarantees of structural integrity, safety. Drive-ability could be compromised along with high speed handling and braking, put simply they're usually deathtraps! HPI say that:

Cut and shuts are usually joined at the top of the rear windscreen and through the C-pillars. Pay close attention to these areas, and check the upholstery, too.

Keep an eye out for any uneven panel gaps and mismatched or varying paint shades.

Check for faint traces of paint spray on door handles and any spillage on the window seals.

Never view a car in the rain or poor light. It’s harder to spot those important obvious flaws.

Find the car’s VIN number – does it correspond with what appears on the paperwork?

Look at the service history and past MoT certificates if available, and question any unexplained gaps.

Be wary of extremely cheap cars – if a deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Cloning - This is commonly used by criminals or sellers who are looking to hide the true identity of a car, be it because it is stolen or has outstanding finance / parking tickets etc. False registration plates are attached to the car that match up with a car of the same model, colour etc that is genuine in order to make the car saleable. Sellers of cloned cars go to great lengths and will even try to change the VIN and obtain or forge a V5C to match up with the vehicles new identity.

Carry out a HPI check this will give you full details of the car, make sure everything matches up including the colour, VIN, engine size and date of first registration. Check for signs that the VIN, registration plates or V5C have been tampered with or altered in any way. If anything feels suspicious walk away you don't want to be lumbered with one of these vehicles as you stand to lose a lot of money.

Money Transfer - The internet is fantastic, it helps people to search out bargains or desirable cars from further than they would ever previously have dreamt. The problem with this is that it opens up more doors to the fraudsters. The first thing to watch out for is sellers asking you to send a deposit to guarantee you will turn up to view a car. You haven't committed to any sale by agreeing to view a car and this is just a quick easy way for con artists to make a quick buck. Quite often these cars are ‘abroad’ at the time advertised cheaply in order to blindside buyers into thinking they have the bargain of the century. Remember if something looks to good to be true 99% of the time it is! Some of these scammers will even tell you to send the money to a family member through a money transfer just sending them a copy of the receipt for proof. This receipt is all they need to go and withdraw the funds. Never part with money until you are physically buying a car. Look out for poor spelling and broken English on these ads as they are usually grammatically incorrect making them easy to spot.

Dealers / Traders posing as private sellers - Car dealers and traders are bound by the law more stringently than a private seller. Because of this unscrupulous dealers and traders may try to pretend to be private sellers in order to make you believe you have little or no rights or come back. Dishonest dealers will usually try to meet with you in a public place rather than their own residence such as a car park etc. They may pitch it to you that they are meeting halfway as if doing you a favour. ALWAYS insist on going to their address to view a car and complete a purchase. Check this address matches that on the V5C before handing over your cash.

When calling up about a car say 'i’m calling about the car you have for sale.’ A private seller wouldn't generally be selling more than one car and will know which car you mean. There is of course always a possibility that the seller has a different mobile phone for each car they are selling.

Ask about the history of the car such as how long they have owned it, when it was last serviced or MOT’d perhaps even a more mechanical question such as when the oil was last changed or how worn the tyres are. A genuine owner will know the answer to these off the top of their head roughly. Finally check the name on the V5C is their name. If they say they are selling for a friend or family member insist on meeting them before purchasing the car. The only reason a dealer would be misleading you is because the car is knowingly faulty.