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Don’t let your heart rule your head this plate change

4th February 2011 Print

With the March plate change just around the corner, many people will be taking steps to upgrade their existing car for something fresh off the production line.  In turn, the used car market will enjoy a boost from part exchange or privately sold cars hitting the classified ads, making this a good time for used car buyers to find the car of their dreams.  However, after a lengthy shortage of good quality used cars coming on to the market, vehicle information expert HPI urges buyers to follow some simple but vital steps to pick up the best offers and not a nightmare on wheels.

“The March plate change traditionally offers used car buyers a greater chance to snag a bargain, as people trade in their old vehicles for something new.  But this year could see fierce competition for the best deals from both private buyers and traders alike,” says Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services Manager for HPI. “With quality, low mileage vehicles thin on the ground, most buyers are going to be chasing the same cars but only those who make informed decisions will drive off victorious.

“People really do need to make sure they don’t make a rash choice and throw their money away on a vehicle with a dodgy hidden history.  The good news is a vehicle history check can offer vital protection from unscrupulous sellers, and it is quick and easy to do, giving instant results so you don’t have to delay any decision.   Don’t be taken in by shiny paintwork and mod cons.  Remember that buying a stolen, clocked or previously written-off vehicle is a very real risk – 1 in 3 cars we check has some form of hidden history.”

Avoid the top four risks:

Outstanding Finance
Nearly 1 in 4 vehicles checked by HPI are still subject to an outstanding finance agreement. Those who buy a car which is still on finance could have unwittingly bought a vehicle that is still owned by the finance company, who could claim it back at any time until the outstanding amount is settled.

HPI Checks identify nearly 19 stolen vehicles a day. Buying a stolen vehicle means you will lose the car and the money you paid for it, when it’s returned to the rightful owner.

A car may look shiny and new, but the paintwork might be hiding a vehicle that has been declared an insurance write-off. Whilst some of these can be repaired safely and returned to the road, others are only fit for scrap. The HPI Check not only identifies if a car has been written-off, but also which category of write-off, helping buyers make an informed decision about the purchase.

6 in every 100 vehicles checked by HPI have a mileage discrepancy. The HPI Check uses the National Mileage Register of more than 130 million mileage records, alerting car buyers and dealers to potential mileage discrepancies and helping them avoid paying too much for a used car that has more miles on the clock than it appears.

Johnson concludes, “Following these simple precautions can help used car buyers reduce the risk of splashing out on a nightmare on wheels. Make an HPI Check a crucial part of your car buying this March to avoid being left seriously out of pocket.”

HPI's Car Buying Checklist:

1. Set a budget and stick to it! Don’t forget to factor in the costs for insurance, servicing, and car tax as well.

2. Make a list of questions to ask before going to buy the car – then record the answers and ask the seller to sign and date the document.

3. Always check the car's registration document (V5) to validate ownership and the accuracy of the vehicle’s age and mileage.

4. Check that the engine/chassis numbers match the V5 and HPI documentation.

5. Test drive the car - but ensure that appropriate insurance is obtained.

6. Don’t rely on the MOT as evidence of a car's condition.

7. Check beneath the bonnet and boot for oil leaks, welds, untidy seams or other evidence of accident repairs. Does the colour and texture of the paintwork match all over and are the lights and electrics in working order?

8. Check for rust and paint bubbles particularly on the sills, wheel arches, seams, door bottoms and suspension mountings.

9. Does the condition of the car reflect its stated age and mileage?The interior of a car can tell you a lot.  A badly worn interior can indicate a high mileage.

10. Don’t pay with a substantial amount of cash – use the banking system -  particularly if the car is costing more than £3,000.

11. Know the car’s market value – if the seller is asking for less than 70% of the market price for a vehicle you should be on your guard.

12. Conduct an HPI Check, this will reveal the things the eye alone cannot tell you.