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UK car buyers guide top 5 money saving tips

Buying a car online? There are plenty of places to find a secondhand or used car, from a dealership website, to online sites such as Autotrader, Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, Pistonheads etc.
But there are some things worth noting when shopping online, especially if you buy privately. This is because you have very little comeback if things go wrong, or your next car turns out to be stolen, or has been involved in an accident.
Here are five tips before you go shopping for that next Mini, Fiesta, Corsa or Aygo:

1. A HPI check does not guarantee the car has never been in an accident, or is roadworthy. It is always worth paying for a HPI check, but it doesn't always reveal the entire history of the car. Unless the car has been a write-off, it won’t reveal details of smaller accidents for example.
It also does not show if the car has been stolen and recovered, or has had its identity disguised behind a false number plate, fake VIN plate etc. This is called ‘ringing’ in the trade. There are no details on previous owners or the service history included in a HPI check.

2. Get an insurance quote before you buy the car. Always get the registration number and enter all details on the car into a big car insurance comparison site, such as More Th>n, Confused.com or theMeerkats.
Enter the car’s colour, engine size, transmission type, year of manufacture etc. This is another good way to check if there is something odd about the car - if there’s something unusual about the car or it's a ‘grey import’, then an insurer may ask you to phone them for a quote instead.

3. Buying privately? Always meet in a public place, in daylight. Take a friend along, ideally someone who knows about cars or is a mechanic.
There are three crucial things that thieves need to fake a vehicle identity; VIN plates, fake V5C paperwork and fake registration plates. All are reasonably easy to forge. Someone who works in the motor trade may well be better at spotting signs that the VIN plate, or V5C logbook has been faked than you.

4. Some ‘private’ sellers are actually traders, selling cars from home, or online. Ask how long they’ve owned it, which tyres grip best in wet weather, how practical it is at carrying luggage on a family holiday? Traders won’t have much info to give you - as they haven’t driven the car very far.
If the ‘private’ seller says he can take your car in part-ex then there’s a good chance they are traders. But these types of traders won’t give you a refund, or fix your car if it goes wrong. So be wary.

5. Check under every mat, piece of carpet and inside every seat pocket. The history of a car is often revealed in a detailed, almost forensic search.
Are there bits of chewing gum, ciggarette butts, or maybe bits of food, or litter lurking under mats or in the passenger seat pockets? That suggests a less than caring owner.
Lift the mat in the boot, or hatchback space and check the spare wheel - if there is one. Remove the wheel and check the bare metal at the back end of the car. If the car has been in a crash and then repaired there could well be signs of welding, or newer sections of metal sitting next to older, slightly rusty or grime covered sections.
One final piece of advice: If a car seems too cheap to be true, then there’s often a good reason.
Prestige brands like Mercedes, Range Rover, Audi and BMW are generally targeted by professional thieves and ‘ringers’ and sold in volume from rented houses, so they appear to be ‘private’ sales.
If you are offered a cheap Merc at 3K-5K below its market value, be very, very careful before parting with your cash.

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