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    How To Ensure Consumers Buy Their Used Car Safely

    Buying a used car needn’t be a risky business these days with the wealth of information available online and the range of options available.

    If you do your research and watch out for some common red flags then you can be confident in your ability to spot a dodgy deal and shop around for a trustworthy seller.

    Where to buy a used car?

    We’ve ranked some of the most common ways to buy a used car based on how safe they are for the buyer:

    Registered dealerships

    A registered dealership is generally the safest way to buy a used car as they are obliged to have a greater knowledge of the vehicles they are selling and their history than a private seller would.

    Registered dealerships are required to disclose any significant problems with the vehicle and you can apply to the relevant ombudsman or any trade associations they are a member of if anything goes wrong.

    Look for information at the dealership about which trade associations they are a member of before buying. And check what assurances they provide (such as independent mechanic checks), so that if you have any problems and the dealership won’t sort them out you know where to go.

    In return for this protection, you will probably pay a little more for your vehicle than you would from a private seller. But sometimes it’s a price worth paying for peace of mind.

    Private individuals

    A private seller isn’t obliged to know as much about the vehicle they are selling as a dealership would be, and some unscrupulous sellers will use this to hide information about the vehicle’s past they can pretend to be unaware of.

    You can protect yourself by making sure you run a full vehicle history check on the car you are thinking of buying. By entering the reg number you will receive information about the mileage, any accidents the vehicle has been in, the MOT history of the car, and whether it has ever been stolen.

    While seeing something unusual on the vehicle history check doesn’t necessarily mean you should walk away from the sale, it usually highlights something that you need to check against documentation to ensure it has been properly dealt with.

    If the seller denies something has happened to the vehicle during the time they’ve owned it, but you can see it on the vehicle history report, this is a big red flag that something isn’t right with either the car or its documents.

    You should physically see and check the car over when buying a used car from a private seller before any money changes hands. Be wary of anyone asking for a downpayment before you’ve seen any documents or the vehicle itself.

    When viewing a used car, look for any obvious defects and check that the VIN matches in different positions on the vehicle as well as what’s recorded in the logbook.

    Other sources

    There are other ways of buying a used car but most are considered to carry a greater risk to the consumer if they’re not extremely careful.

    It’s sometimes possible to grab a bargain vehicle at auctions but these cars are usually sold ‘as-is’. This means there may be hidden problems if the previous owner didn’t keep up with maintenance, drove the car carelessly, or didn’t keep the documentation up to date.

    If you buy a used car at auction then you need to be ready to deal with any issues that come with it!

    There are a lot of finance companies these days that can handle the entire purchase and delivery process for you. They’ll even bring your new car to your doorstep as soon as you’ve picked it out!

    While you obviously can’t perform a physical inspection of the vehicle yourself in these cases, the finance company provides an extra layer of consumer protection if anything goes wrong with the car or the sale.

    Just as buying from a dealership is more expensive than buying from a private individual, you will pay even more for the convenience of an online finance company purchase. Each additional person or company involved in the sale needs to get something out of it, and you will pay more for an easier process.

    How can I protect myself when buying a used car?

    No matter where you are buying a used car from, it’s always a good idea to run a vehicle history check and make sure that the information matches what you’ve been told about the car.

    This is especially important when there has been a string of owners. A seller may not know everything about the vehicle, and, by running a vehicle history check, you can be one step ahead of common cons like mileage alteration and plate switching.

    The payment method you choose is also a big factor in how safe the transaction is when buying a used car. If you pay in cash, you need to be very sure that you’re making the right choice at the point of sale – there’s no protection if there turns out to be an issue later on. Plus, if someone else denies the transaction it’s your word against theirs, which can make things difficult.

    Making the transaction with a credit card, even if you have the balance to cover the payment, is an easy way to get additional protection from your credit card company when making a large purchase such as a used car.

    Although the onus is still on you to ensure you’ve checked the vehicle over and done your due diligence in researching the seller, your credit card company adds fraud protection as well as allowing you to spread the payments.

    When making transactions online, some companies will allow you to use PayPal. This offers a similar level of buyer protection as a credit card company, and also offers a payment spreading option that may not be available from all sellers. If you don’t have a credit card, this can be an easy way of adding buyer protection to online transactions.

    If you’re not sure about a vehicle, you can get an independent report on it from a range of motoring organizations and specialist companies. Your trusted local garage or mechanic may be able to provide this service, or you can contact the Motoring Ombudsman for information about trusted sources of independent reports.

    The Motoring Ombudsman is also your first port of call if you think someone has been deceptive when trying to sell you a car. This is an independent, government-backed body with oversight over the entire motoring industry and they are responsible for investigating fraudulent selling. If you think you’ve been scammed (or that a seller is trying to scam you) then you can contact the Ombudsman for free advice on how to proceed.

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