Used Cars: Common Scams To Watch Out For

Used cars are booming in the UK, due to people avoiding public transport and a lack of supply of new vehicles. Here’s what to watch out for when buying a used vehicle…

Used Cars and Cloning

This is an increasingly common form of car fraud, with more and more examples being reported to authorities. Associated with organised crime, it involves stolen vehicles being given the identities of an identical model that hasn’t been stolen; usually in the form of the registration number and documentation. Perpetrators often overlook the V5 registration document, so that’s a red flag.


Similar to car cloning, ‘ringing’ involves providing a vehicle with a new identity. In this case, it comes from a car or vehicle that’s already been written off. To avoid this, make sure the chassis number matches the V5 document and that the VIN plate hasn’t been tampered with. Remember the address of the dealers, too. This is important should the worst come to worst.

Deposit Fraud

This is exactly what it says on the tin. The dealer will usually ask for a deposit in advance of the sale, sometimes even before you’re able to view the vehicle. Long-distance sellers are more likely to try this trick. As far as we’re concerned, you should never put down a deposit on a used vehicle unless you receive a receipt and the seller is local to you. Ideally, you should avoid them altogether.


This is probably the most dangerous form of car fraud and, despite it all, it still happens. It involves criminals welding together two, written-off vehicles to make a ‘new’ one. It’s about as safe as it sounds i.e. not at all. The most vulnerable are usually people desperate for cheap wheels. Look at panel gaps and door shuts for anything amiss, ensure they’re even and tight. You should also consider looking under the chassis. The absolute last thing you want is to be driving a car that literally falls a part whilst you’re cruising down a motorway…


Clocking has been around for as long as cars themselves. It’s the practice of winding back a car’s mileage, in order to make it look newer and less likely to be worn. Why do fraudsters do this? Because less miles equals a bigger selling price, it’s as simple as that. Modern cars have become harder to tamper with, so be extra vigilant with older, pre-digital models. In addition, you can check the service history for irregularities. If this isn’t available, walk away. If it is, check for discrepancies; this might involves a drop in mileage, or a year in which the figure is off from all the others.

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The Autoserve Club can save you time, money and stress. Club Members can receive discounts on servicing and new tyres and will gain access to our professional 24/7 helpline. To learn more, contact our friendly Service Advisers on 0121 521 3500 today.

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