Tips on how to avoid car dealer scams when buying a new car.
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Motor Trade Scams and How to Avoid Being Conned When Buying a Car

Car dealers often are given a bad reputation, in many cases it isn't justified. With many garages going to great lengths to lay to rest the ‘Arthur Daley’ stereotype.

Unfortunately there are still traders out there that will do absolutely anything to get you to part with as much of your hard earned cash as possible.

Badly Repaired Accident Damage

There is nothing wrong with buying a car that has been in an accident, as long as it's been repaired properly. If it's been done on the cheap they will have had to cut corners, and these are easy to spot if you know what to look for.

Look out for different sized gaps around the panels on the outside of the car, and for different shades and texture of paint. Tha colour and texture of the paint and the panel gaps should be uniform all the way around the car, if not find out why.

Also look out for over-spray on the bumpers, windows seals and the light clusters. If the car was being repaired on the cheap, they probably won't have been careful enough to mask all the areas before they re-sprayed the car.

Remember to look at the less obvious areas, as they won't have bothered to repair them as well as the rest of the car. Look under the mat in the boot, check the engine bay carefully and check the roof for filler and dents or ripples as this will indicate a serious crash.

Don't ignore any suspicions you may have about the car, if you're not completely happy you can always go somewhere else.


The practice of making a car appear to have done less miles than it actually has is common place. So much so that I would assume the car has been clocked unless there is evidence to the contrary.

I have known car traders that routinely dismantle the dashboard to clock every car which passes through their hands.

Even if you buy a car from a reputable trader you should be on your guard. Traders are supposed to make sure the mileage is correct, but I’ve seen cars that are obviously clocked at large reputable garages.

Look out for scratches on the numbers and damage to screws holding the mileometer and the dashboard. Misalined numbers on the mileometer and a steering wheel that doesn't seem to point straight when the wheels do.

Check that the interior wear matches the mileage. The steering wheel begins to become shiny at about 70,000 and look at the condition of the drivers seat for sagging trim. Check under foot-well mats, are they hiding holes in the carpet? Examine the pedals and gear stick, do they look too new or are they almost worn away.

An Over Prepared Car

Dealers know that you will make a decision about the car within the first few minutes, and that this decision will be mainly based on the appearance and condition of the car. If the car looks too good to be true then maybe it is. Of course, most dealers will make the car look it's best, but make sure you look beyond the polish to what the car is really like.

Common tricks include polishing the glass so much, that it distracts you from the rest of the car. Glass takes up a lot of the space, so sparkling glass will make the car look a lot better.

Using lacquer on the steering wheel and dashboard will, for a while, make it look as good as new. If you notice a paint like smell in the car, this could be the reason.

Hiding Engine Faults

When you take a look under the bonnet, see if you can find any loose wires. Have they been cut recently? If so, are they hiding an overheating engine or low oil pressure? You can check these when you run the car. When you turn the key does the oil pressure light come on and go off after a short time. And if you leave the car running for a few minutes does the temperature gauge move.

Warm Starting

Before you start the engine, check that it isn't already warm. The car could have been started and warmed up to hide a starting problem.


If you're thinking of buying an older car you should be wary of badly repaired rust damage. Put a magnet in a thin cloth, and see if it sticks to the problem areas around the wheel arches and the wings. If the magnet doesn't stick it could be held together with filler. Also check for differences in paint colour and texture for signs or re-spraying.

Oil Additives

When an engine is on it's last legs it will start to make peculiar noises. An unscrupulous seller may use excessive amounts of oil additives to temporarily reduce the unpleasant noises. It won't remove the noises completely so you will have to listen carefully for odd engine sounds.


Dealers make a nice profit from setting up finance for you, so they probably won't be offering you the best deal available. Always make sure you double check the figures when arranging finance, and be wary of large fee for setting up the finance.

The V5

Dodgy sellers have been known to sell cars without the registration document, the V5 and blame the DVLA. If the seller doesn't have the registration document it could be because the car is stolen. Never buy a car without it's V5.

Always make sure you see the V5 before you decide to buy. It may be held back to avoid you seeing a large number of previous owners or that the engine and chassis numbers don't match.

It's also a good idea to get the name and address of the previous owner to hear an unbiased history of the car, and whether the mileage is genuine.

Also be wary when going to a private seller, as many traders pose as private sellers to avoid their legal responsibilities. Make sure their correct name and address is on the V5 document and never meet someone in a lay-by or accept an offer to bring the car to you. If a person sells more than four cars a year it gets flagged at the DVLA, so they avoid registering the car in their own name.

When you go to view the car always be suspicious of what the seller tells you, no matter how honest, friendly or likeable they seem to be. If the seller is trying to rip you off you're less likely to suspect someone you like.

Be wary of people that seem to give you reasons to make a decision quickly. Think, why are they really trying to rush you into a decision?

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