When buying a used car, most drivers purchase their vehicles from either a dealership or a private seller. In theory a private car sale should be cheaper compared to buying a car from a dealership. As private sellers do not offer the same level of protection that car dealers should offer, the price of the car should reflect that. If you do find a bargain car through a private seller, it is important to remember that buying a vehicle without having carried out the right checks could end up costing you more in the long run.
RAC Car Passport car data check have compiled a list of things you should be aware of to ensure your private car sale doesn’t cost you more.
Is the car stolen?
As with other stolen goods, stolen cars put up for sale often appear genuine. If the original owner finds their stolen car, legally they are within in their rights to reclaim their vehicle, regardless whether the new owner knew the car had been stolen or not. This will leave the new owner out of pocket and without a car, where their only option would be to take legal action against the seller to get their money back.
Is the car an insurance write-off?
A number of unscrupulous sellers often present Category C or Category D cars as non-damaged vehicles motors by misrepresenting their history. Buyers who unknowingly purchase a car that has previously been damaged could very easily end up paying more than market value. To avoid wasting money on an insurance write-off, buyers should carry out a vehicle history check to get a complete background report on the car.
Is there outstanding finance on the car?
Approximately 25% of vehicles that have undergone a car history check were found to having outstanding finance on them. Owners with outstanding finance on their car are not the legal owner of that vehicle and are still liable for the debt. Owners caught out with their new vehicle may need to prove to the finance company that they have a legal right to own the car. If the finance company does not accept that you’re an ‘innocent buyer’ they are entitled to repossess the vehicle – again leaving you out of pocket and without a car.
Has the car had previous plates?
‘Ringing’ is when the registration number from a ‘donor’ vehicle (typically a write-off) is taken and used to hide the identity of another vehicle to disguise the fact that it's been stolen. Similar to ringing, ‘Cloning’ is when the vehicle identification number (VIN) and vehicle registration mark (VRM) of a genuine car is forged for a stolen one – resulting with two or more cars on the road with the same identity.
Both ringers and clones can be difficult to spot, so always remember to check ALL the identification numbers stamped into the bodywork, on the chassis and behind the windscreen, are the same.
If you are considering buying a car from a private person and are concerned about the vehicle’s past, an RAC Car Passport can check the car's history, confirm its value, if it's been stolen, has any mileage discrepancies – plus much more. It could save you thousands.