Don’t buy a death trap in disguise
As used car prices reach record highs, HPI, the vehicle history expert, is urging second-hand car buyers not to be taken in by a bargain, warning that criminals are likely to be taking advantage of growing demand for good quality, reasonably priced cars. Checking out the history of the car could reveal a shocking past and save buyers thousands of pounds.
Every year insurers declare nearly half a million cars that have been involved in accidents to be too badly damaged or too costly to ever be repaired safely and go back on the road. These cars are commonly known as insurance write-offs, or total losses. Unfortunately, some of these cars are illegally returned to the UK’s roads in the form of a cut ‘n’ shut. A cut ‘n’ shut is two crashed or written-off vehicles of the same make and model which have been welded or stitched together by a skilled mechanic to form what appears to be a complete car. These are then being sold on to unsuspecting car buyers as dream cars at a dream price.
“Car manufacturers invest heavily in vehicle safety, making sure every model of car reacts in a certain way in a collision, and that its structure provides maximum protection for the driver, passengers and pedestrians. Cut ‘n’ shut vehicles are fundamentally dangerous because the integrity of the car’s structure has been altered, significantly weakening its ability to withstand any impact in an accident,” explains Kristian Welch, Consumer Director for HPI. “In some instances, cut ‘n’ shuts have been known to actually break into two when involved in a collision, so consumers really need to take steps to protect themselves, their passengers and other road users.”
The HPI Check report plays a crucial role in warning customers of a potential cut ‘n’ shut. First, it can detect if the identity of a vehicle has been tampered with by cross-referencing the vehicle’s registration number (VRM) and its unique 17 digit vehicle identification number (VIN). If these do not match, it could signify criminal activity. Buyers should always try and check the VIN in three places on the vehicle – at the very least the VIN on the front and back of the vehicle. Furthermore, an HPI Check report will confirm whether a vehicle has been written-off in the past and to what degree. All this information offers buyers invaluable tools to help detect a potential cut ‘n’ shut.
“Any cut ‘n’ shut vehicle is bad news for motorists,” concludes Kristian Welch. “These vehicles are often put together by skilled welders and mechanics, making them incredibly difficult for most car buyers to detect. It’s easy to be taken in by shiny paint work and a bargain price, but being cautious could save buyers from driving away in a death-trap on wheels.
“If a bargain seems too good to be true, it probably is, so just walk away. As well as being potentially lethal, cut ‘n’ shut vehicles could leave buyers out of pocket in the long run when they come to sell it and the potential buyer uncovers its murky past. We stress the importance of conducting a history check and independent vehicle inspection to help reduce the risk of used car fraud.”
HPI’S tips on spotting a cut ‘n’ shut
Always view the car in daylight. Viewing in poor light, rain or at night can make it harder to spot any flaws.
Look for mismatched panels, doors, bonnet and any other joins.
Look for any traces of spray paint on the door handles and glass.
Look at the supporting pillars and doorframes for any signs of welding. Pulling back the car upholstery in these areas may reveal welding joints or differences in paint colour.
Make sure you check for mismatched or badly fitted upholstery.
Check the MOT and past service history. Make sure it is consecutive and there are no gaps.
Take the car for a test drive for at least 10-15 minutes along a variety of roads.
Check the VIN number on the paperwork against the VIN numbers on the car – these will be stamped in the engine bay, in the driver foot well/door, and in the boot. The more VINs you can locate and check, the more confident you can be of the car’s legitimacy.
Always try to find the VIN in 3 places, particularly at either end of the vehicle. If you aren’t sure where to find them, your local franchised dealer can help you.
Don’t pay less than 70% of the market value for a car, cars offered for less than they should be for ‘a quick sale’ could have something sinister to hide.
Finally, to be 100 per cent confident, get an HPI Check and an independent vehicle inspection from a reputable company such as RAC, the AA or Dekra.
To conduct an HPI Check log on to hpicheck.com.