A shocking new report has claimed that over half (52 per cent) of used cars have a hidden past which could see the owner running into a number of problems.
Over 32,000 used cars were flagged to have a multitude of possible issues that should make prospective buyers very wary before handing over their cash, reveal the RAC Vehicle History Checks.
The most common issue associated with these used cars was related to the number plate, with one in four (27.4 per cent) having recorded such a change.
This could simply mean that the previous owner has switched to or from a personalised number plate, but it could also indicate that they are trying to mask the identity of the vehicle.
This could be for a number of problems which could end up costing the new owner money down the line.
More shockingly, the research found that nearly one-in-five (17.6%) vehicles were still in the process of being ‘paid off’ by previous owners despite being advertised for sale.
This could cause the new owner a lot of problems as unless the car was previously bought using a personal loan, it is still legally owned by a finance company under a hire purchase (HP) or personal contract purchase (PCP) arrangement, and cannot be sold on.
A further 14.2 per cent were deemed to be insurance write-offs, which is something no driver wants to shell out cash on. Most concerning of all was that a small majority were either listed as stolen (0.2 per cent) or technically scrapped (0.1 per cent).
RAC Motoring Services spokesperson Francesca Mann said: “Drivers might be alarmed to see just how many vehicles for sale have hidden histories that could end up costing them dear should they decide to go ahead, but this is precisely why we make these checks in the first place – to give them the information they need to make the right choice.
“Forewarned is forearmed, and drivers that do their homework on vehicles put themselves in a much stronger position to negotiate on price, or simply walk away from the sale if they feel they are taking too great a risk. This is particularly relevant this time of year, as the arrival of 19-plate vehicles sees a rise in drivers seeking a good deal on used cars.
“We recommend every buyer insists on a comprehensive history check for any car they are looking to buy – they should ask to see one if buying through a dealer, or get their own if trawling used car advertisements. Any concerns should be raised directly with the seller before parting with any money.
“Of course, it is important to remember that red flags around things like a number plate change don’t necessarily signal bad news. Having this information to hand allows buyers to have an honest conversation with seller so that they can satisfy themselves nothing is awry.
“However, when it comes to things like discovering if a vehicle could still belong to a finance company despite being advertised for sale by a private seller – it is clear a history check could make the difference between a really good buy or a really bad one.
“And drivers looking for extra peace of mind before purchasing should consider the benefits of having the car professionally inspected by the RAC.”
Advice to a buyer whose vehicle history check flags issues:
- Number plate change – talk to the owner and check the documentation to ensure a plate change is legitimate, for instance with a previous owner swapping the plate for a cherished, personalised one. The car’s number plate must always match the one on the V5C
- Outstanding finance – be fully confident the seller has paid off finance on their vehicle in full, and ask them to re-run an RAC Vehicle History Check to prove it. Cars still being paid offer under Hire Purchase (HP) or Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) agreements cannot be sold on
- Insurance write-off – while most drivers might want to walk away from a car that has been written-off, unless they are specialists seeking parts, the write-off category will determine whether or not the car can be sold on legally. In some cases, a Category N write-off might be roadworthy but just have some cosmetic damage. In any case, it’s best to get a professional inspection if you are considering buying a write-off
- Imports – imported cars must be approved and be accompanied by specific government-required documentation
- Colour change – this might suggest a re-spray after an accident, although owners can change the colour of their vehicle if they tell the DVLA. Get a professional inspection before you buy to be sure
Number plate change
Number of cars affected: 9,024 – 27.5 per cent
Number of cars affected:5,782 – 17.6 per cent
Number of cars affected: 4,670 – 14.2 per cent
Number of cars affected: 627 – 1.9 per cent
Change of colour
Number of cars affected: 465 – 1.4 per cent
Number of cars affected: 60 – 0.2 per cent
Number of cars affected: 41 – 0.1 per cent
No issue/clean car
Number of cars affected: 15,769 – 48.0 per cent
Total number of RAC Vehicle Checks analysed: 32,856