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Whether the car, van or truck you’re buying or selling is your pride and joy – or just a way to get from A to B – it normally represents a large sum of money.

The vast majority of sellers and buyers are honest and just want a good deal, but the used vehicle business has always been profitable for criminals and others with little regard for safety or quality.

We've put together some expert tips to help you protect yourself, whether you're buying or selling

Expert Tips for 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.

View the vehicle before paying the full amount

We recommend researching 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 vehicle. Often, they will insist on communicating only via email rather than on the phone.

Always check that the price of the vehicle is in line with the market value

If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is: If the vehicle seems ‘too good to be true’, it can be a sign of fraud. Research other similar vehicles or perform a free valuation on Auto Trader. If the vehicle is below market value, beware. Ask the seller questions about its valuation, there may be underlying reasons if the vehicle is under-priced.

Take the vehicle for a test drive

Be sure to 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.

Always carry out a vehicle history check and inspection

This will tell you if the vehicle is recorded as stolen, written off, scrapped, or is subject to outstanding finance. It is not worth the risk buying for 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. Also, consider an inspection by the AA, RAC or other reputable organisation offering the service.

Payment advice

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).

Expert Tips for 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.

Beware of scammers

Always meet the buyer. Request the potential buyer's contact details, such as their phone number and full home address, and proof of identity, 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 being liable for damages.

Stay on home ground

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

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 increasing 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.

Payment

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