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Never let a potential buyer handle the keys even if they are insistent. If you have keyless entry, you can demonstrate that both fobs work without the buyer touching them. Do not leave the buyer alone with the vehicle or allow unsupervised access to the engine or exhaust

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How to buy and sell vehicles safely

Buying or selling a car should be a pleasant, hassle-free experience‚ and at Auto Trader we do everything we can to make sure that's the case. Our handy hints and tips will ensure you stay safe online, whether you're buying or selling a car.

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Staying safe on Auto Trader

We’ve partnered with VSTAG (the Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group) to provide the following checklists so you have a hassle-free experience when buying or selling a vehicle.

Buying a vehicle checklist

  • 1. Check the documents

    Always check the vehicle registration number (VRN), vehicle identification number (VIN), engine number, and colour, match what’s in the vehicle’s V5C registration document (logbook).A genuine V5C document will have a DVLA watermark running through it. You should also check its MOT history if it’s more than three years old.

  • 2. Know your rights

    If you buy a vehicle from a dealership, you’ll be covered by the Consumer Rights Act.If you buy from a private seller, you won’t have the same level of protection, but the vehicle must still match the advert description otherwise you could have a claim under the Misrepresentation Act.

  • 3. Get a vehicle history check

    A vehicle history check will tell you if the vehicle has been recorded as stolen, scrapped, written-off, or has outstanding finance. If it has an outstanding finance balance, contact the seller as this is often settled on sale of the vehicle. Be aware that if you buy the vehicle with outstanding finance, the finance company will remain the legal owner until the loan is repaid in full.

  • 4. Check the price

    If the price is too good to be true, it probably is, and it could be a sign of fraud. If it’s significantly below market, be cautious. Check the advert carefully or ask the seller if you’re unsure about its pricing. There may be underlying reasons why it’s a low price.

  • 5. Be cautious sending money before you’ve seen it

    Most fraudulent sellers will try to persuade you to transfer money before you’ve seen the vehicle. Often, they will insist on communicating via email rather than phone. Always check the vehicle and its documents in person before handing over any money. If they request a deposit, don’t pay more than you can risk losing. Always confirm with the seller in writing that they will refund the deposit if you decide not to buy the vehicle. Auto Trader works with a select number of dealers who provide home delivery. If any issues arise, you may be protected under the distance selling regulations. Visit Citizens Advice to learn more.

  • 6. Take it for a test drive

    This should always be done from the seller’s premises or their home never let them meet you halfway. You should also make sure you’re insured before getting behind the wheel.

  • 7. Don’t carry large sums of cash

    Where possible, go to the bank with the seller. If you’re buying from a dealer, you have the option to buy on finance. If something goes wrong and the dealer won’t fix it, you can go directly to the finance company.

  • 8. Check your insurance

    You need to inform your insurer if you’ll be driving a new vehicle. Let them know when you’ll need the new cover to start, or it may be invalid. If your existing policy is coming to an end, you can get a new insurance quote.

Safety & Security When Buying A Car

How to test drive a used car

Test driving a used car? Here’s what to check, from the vehicle’s exterior to the paperwork.

How do I transfer ownership and tax for a used car I've bought?

Just bought a car? Learn more about the V5C form and how you can fulfil your legal obligation of transferring car ownership.

Getting an instant vehicle history and ownership check

Before buying a car, getting details like the car’s history, tax, MOT, SORN status, mileage and so on is important to make sure that the used car matches the details provided to you.