How to buy a used car safely

How can you be sure to buy a used car safely?

Avoid those who'll try and spoil your car buying experience with our essential guide.

YOUR SEARCH for the perfect used car should as easy and enjoyable as possible. Unfortunately, there are people who may be out to spoil your fun, and they can be especially hard to spot when you’re shopping online.

Follow our simple guidelines, below, and stay out of trouble:


Don’t pay anything without first seeing and checking the car  

When buying a car, it’s wise to research the seller as well as their vehicle. Most fraudulent sellers will try to persuade you to transfer money before you’ve even laid eyes on the car. Often they will insist on communicating via email rather than on the phone. While in some cases this may be legitimate, it should set your alarm bells ringing. Always arrange a test drive of the car, and trust nobody until you have met them.


If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is

Always check that the price of the car is in line with the market. One which seems “too good to be true” can be a sign of fraud. Research other similar cars on to establish the market price. If your car looks cheap, beware.

If a car appears under-priced, ask the seller questions about its valuation until you are completely satisfied that their offer is legitimate.


Always visit the seller and take the car for a test drive

Be sure to thoroughly inspect any car you are looking to purchase, and take it for a test drive. This should always be done from the seller’s premises or their home; never let the person meet you halfway.

Make sure you see the car in daylight, so you can easily spot any damage or repair work.

Ask to see the car’s MOT certificate (if it qualifies for one) and its V5C vehicle registration document that shows the registered keeper. To make sure it hasn’t been clocked, check the car’s mileage matches its service and MOT history. Carry out a full vehicle history check through an organisation such as HPI to make sure the car has never been recorded as stolen, written-off, scrapped, or is subject to outstanding finance.


Make sure you are completely satisfied before you hand over your money

If you are happy with the car and decide to buy it pay only by card, bank transfer or cheque so you can track your payment. Never wire the seller money to a foreign account or use a money transfer service; two payment methods favoured by fraudsters. Remember that cash transactions cannot be tracked and could leave you out of pocket, with no car.


Beware of mail attachments

A general safety precaution that should apply to any online transaction – be aware of opening any emails or related attachments from unknown or untrusted sources. If in doubt, delete the email before opening and ensure you keep your antivirus software up to date.


Remember, the responsibility to check the sale is legitimate lies with you, the buyer

It is vital you have done everything you can to be sure the deal is legitimate and the right one for you. As a classified advertising site, disclaims any responsibility for the information published on the car, as we receive the information direct from advertisers.

The vast majority of dealers are genuine and trustworthy. By staying alert, trusting your instincts and following our advice, you will be able to find the perfect used car with confidence.


If you would like further information on protecting yourself against fraud or need to report a fraud visit