Buying or selling a vehicle online can be risky. Let’s work together to make it safer.

There have always been risks associated with buying or selling a vehicle online. But recent increases in used car prices, limited availability of some models and restrictions to travel and accompanied test drives have created additional risks, giving fraudsters new excuses to deceive both buyers and sellers.

Now that things are returning to normal, it’s easier for you to exercise more care when buying or selling your vehicle. Please take time to read these expert tips before you go online to buy or sell.

How can you tell what ads, vehicles, buyers and sellers are genuine?

Safe buying

Paying a deposit

If a deposit is requested or agreed, don’t pay more than you are willing to lose and confirm with the seller that they will refund the deposit if you don’t purchase the vehicle. Be wary of requests for up-front transportation fees, it could be a scam.

Always view the vehicle before paying the full amount

Research the seller as well as their vehicle. Try to ascertain that the vehicle actually exists. Most fraudulent sellers will try to persuade you to transfer money before you’ve even had sight of the vehicle, citing any one of a number of excuses. Often, they will insist on communicating only via email rather than on the phone.

Check that the price of the vehicle is in line with the market value

If the price, condition, specification or mileage of the vehicle seems too good
to be true, that could indeed be the case. Research other similar vehicles or perform a free valuation on AutoTrader. If the vehicle is below market value, think twice. Ask the seller questions about its valuation, there may be genuine underlying reasons if the vehicle is under-priced.

Take the vehicle for a test drive

Thoroughly inspect any vehicle 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 by the roadside or any other random location. Also, consider an inspection by the AA,RAC or other reputable organisation offering the service.

Carry out a vehicle history check and inspection

This will tell you if the vehicle is recorded as stolen, written off, scrapped, or has outstanding finance. It’s not worth the risk buying a vehicle that could be unroadworthy or worth a fraction of what you’re paying for it. Check the service history and ask to see historic MOT certificates to check that the milometer hasn’t been adjusted. Make sure you know your statutory rights regarding quality and refunds, before parting with any money.

Making payment

Never send money for a vehicle you haven’t seen. Don’t carry large amounts of cash. Consider paying by bank transfer or credit card (if the seller offers the facility).

Safe Selling

Be prepared

Have all the relevant paperwork together, such as the V5C, service history and MOT certificate, for a potential buyer to review. Buyers may wish to check details such as the address on the V5C and the mileage in the most recent MOT certificate. Never let the buyer photograph your documents, in case the request is fraudulent.

Beware of scammers

Always meet the buyer. Request their contact details, such as their phone number and full home address, and proof of identity – a driving licence is ideal. This should give you further reassurances, and a legitimate buyer should be happy to provide this information.

Test drive advice

Make sure you ask the buyer to bring their driving licence and proof of insurance if they want to test drive the vehicle. Check their level of insurance to test drive, this should prevent you having to pay out for damages.

Never allow a buyer to test drive the vehicle alone

Never leave a potential buyer alone with the vehicle, nor give them the keys.If you have a keyless ignition fob, keep hold of it at all times, even on a test drive. Be aware that this type of vehicle is becoming increasingly stolen by thieves who only need to be near the fob and not actually in possession, you can buy a special pouch to protect this occurring. Never jeopardise your personal safety and if you feel uncomfortable at any time, walk away.

Stay on home ground

Always arrange to meet a buyer at your home; never meet at the roadside or at their premises.

Taking payment

Never release the vehicle until you have confirmation of cleared funds. If you accept a cheque or banker’s draft for payment, be aware it can take days for funds to clear.


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