Vehicle buying and selling advice

Although the buying or selling of a vehicle is usually straightforward, both buyers and sellers can leave themselves open to becoming the victim of crime.

Do not let the excitement of buying or selling a vehicle compromise your safety or that of your money. This is one of the most expensive transactions most people ever undertake.

The Internet is now the primary way to find a vehicle that is for sale - an estimated one million adverts are online every day. A small, but significant, number of these adverts will have been placed by criminals.

  • Don’t be the innocent purchaser of a stolen car
  • Don’t be the victim of a virtual vehicle fraud

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Sellers often exaggerate or make knowingly false claims as to the condition of their car in order to sell it, and buyers may pay with counterfeit cheques or money.

How to protect yourself

  • An advert on a web site is just that - a means of putting a buyer and seller in touch.
  • The V5c Vehicle Registration Document shows the ‘registered keeper’ of the vehicle who may not be the lawful owner of the vehicle. This may be another person or a finance company.
  • Vehicle history checks very frequently reveal adverse information about the given vehicle.
  • Vehicle identities are often changed in order to sell a stolen vehicle. Such vehicles are known as 'cloned' or 'ringed' vehicles.
  • Vehicle history checks may not reveal that a stolen vehicle has been cloned.
  • Innocent purchasers of stolen vehicles may have the car taken from them, lose the money they paid and also be arrested as part of police enquiries.
  • Paying for a vehicle has many risks associated with it - follow our advice.
  • Many people are defrauded every year into sending money to people that they have never met for vehicles that they have never seen - known as ‘virtual vehicle’ fraud.

Car history checks

It is recommended that before you agree to purchase any four or two wheeled vehicle, and certainly before you part with any money, you conduct a vehicle history check.  There are a number of providers of such checks and include varying levels of detail from ‘free’ to more detail for a small payment.  To find out more you should search the internet – use the keywords ‘vehicle history checks’.

Some buying advice

Whenever you buy a used car it is important to consider the security and history of the vehicle as well as its mechanical condition. 

Cars are allocated a unique number on registration; this is known as a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). It is NOT transferable. The 17 Digit code, which is sometimes known as the chassis number, will appear in several places on the vehicle make sure all the numbers match.

Go to the sellers address.

Make sure all the documentation matches, regisrtation number, colour, make, and model for example is the same on all paper work.

Research the type of vehicle you are looking for and the going price to gauge what you should resonably expect to pay.

If it looks too good to be true, walk away.


Crime Reduction Officer
Devon & Cornwall Police, Crime Reduction Dept
Police Headquarters
Middlemoor, Exeter

Non Emergency Directory (NED)

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