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Used car buying myths exposed

5th July 2011 Print

When it comes to buying a used car it can be confusing for consumers to determine between fact and fiction. HPI sheds some light on a few of the most common car buying myths, offering practical advice on how to deal with them.
“Many car buyers are encountering surprises, both good and bad, as market conditions have turned tried-and-tested used car-buying advice on its head,” says Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services Manager at HPI. “We’ve talked to a lot of used car buyers over the years and still hear many stories of scenarios that the buyers believe to be true, but actually aren’t. That’s why we’re offering the latest tips to help consumers avoid the pitfalls of used car buying and make sure they get a bargain not a banger.”
Myth #1 – When you’ve paid the money and have the car and keys in your possession, you are the registered keeper, which makes you the legal owner of the car.
Myth-buster – Not necessarily. Registered keeper is NOT the same as legal owner. If the car is stolen or still on finance, it technically belongs to someone else (the original keeper, or the finance house). You might be the registered keeper, but you are not the legal owner and you stand to lose the car and the money you paid for it.
Myth #2 – A car is advertised at £12,000, but you know it should be worth around £15,000 – that’s a real bargain and you need to move fast to snap it up.
Myth-buster – Be suspicious. If you were the seller, would you knock the car down to a bargain price and make less than you could? There’s probably something fishy going on. It is very likely that the car is either mechanically very suspect or could even be stolen/cloned. Ask lots of questions, and if you’re still unsure, walk away.
Myth #3 – A written-off car must be scrapped, and should never be on the road again.
Myth-buster – Wrong. Any vehicle that has been declared a total loss ( often referred to as "a write-off") by an insurance company has been done so because the insurer believes it is not economical to repair the vehicle. This may be either because the repair itself outweighs the current value of the vehicle, or the cost of any replacement vehicle for the period would end up outweighing the value of the vehicle. When the vehicle is written off, it is placed into an industry recognised damage classification, depending on its condition. A or B category write-offs are vehicles which it is recommended should  have been crushed and never returned to the road, Category C and D vehicles can be returned to the road, but buyers must be sure that they are roadworthy before they drive them.
Myth #4 – A seller wants to meet me halfway so I can view the car. We’ve arranged to meet at a motorway service station. Isn’t that kind of them?
Myth-buster – Buyer beware. This is a common ruse used by criminals selling stolen or cloned vehicles. If you’re buying privately, you should always view the car at the registered keeper’s address, as detailed on the V5. Never buy a car in a service station, a car park, a lay by or a pub car park (unless the seller is the Landlord!)!
Myth #5 – A spouse can sell a car on behalf of their wife / husband.
Myth-buster – when buying privately only buy a vehicle from the registered keeper  otherwise it is technically classed as stolen as the partner has no legal right to sell the vehicle. Ask for ID and compare it to the V5 documentation. If there are discrepancies you’re not happy with, find another vehicle to buy.
Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services Manager at HPI comments, “With 1 in 3 vehicles checked with HPI having a hidden history, we are never surprised at the tricks fraudulent sellers get up to. Consumers need to take every step to protect themselves from the threat of used car criminals out to make a quick profit. Don’t settle for a transaction that doesn’t feel right. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
“One thing you can rely is the protection from HPI. AnHPI Check will reveal if a vehicle has been registered with the police as stolen, has a mileage discrepancy or has outstanding finance against it. In addition, the HPI Guarantee comes with clone cover and provides up to £30,000 financial reimbursement in the event of the car not being everything it seems or the data held by HPI being inaccurate. HPI is the only vehicle history check that comes with a guarantee that includes clone cover, offering used car buyers the ultimate in peace of mind.”