Website warning sees car clocking investigated

A CAR for sale in Banbridge which is suspected to have had its mileage clocked is now being investigated by Trading Standards.

A warning was posted on the advertising site Gumtree, calling on potential buyers to beware that the mileage may have been clocked by more than 70,000 miles.

The notice, posted last week, has since been removed but included a detailed description of the car and warned that people should “not be taken” by the seemingly value-for-money offer.

The person who posted the ad said they had checked the most recent recorded mileage with the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) but it had come up significantly higher than that being quoted by the seller.

While Trading Standards - who handle prosecutions in cases such as this - could not comment on an individual incident, the usual protocol would see this issue investigated by the authority. DVA confirmed they had been contacted about the car.

A spokesman for Trading Standards said the issue of clocked cars is rife throughout Northern Ireland and they are keen to warn buyers of the dangers of handing over money for a car without checking all the details first.

Clocking a car can increase its value, making sales more profitable for the trader. And because private sellers can’t be prosecuted by Trading Standards, some traders are posing as such to bypass the law.

The Trading Standards spokesman said online sales have made it easier for sellers to remain anonymous and mislead buyers.

“We rely largely on complaints from members of the public,” he said. “We also do random checks. But websites have really changed the way cars are bought and sold. It used to be the car would be advertised in the paper and sometimes you could recognise a dodgy number straight away.

“But now people buy mobiles and change numbers all the time,” she said. “It certainly is a realy problem. It’s prevalent in Northern Ireland. We’ve had quite a number of prosecutions in the last few years but we always welcome people contacting us if they have suspicions about a car that’s for sale.”

Here are some tips from Trading Standards when buying a car -

Step 1: Before seeing the vehicle

Here are some things to consider before you see the vehicle:

be careful of mobile phone numbers – owners are hard to trace

watch out for adverts giving a landline number and times to call – criminals often use phone boxes

check the market value of the vehicle – if it’s offered much cheaper, ask yourself why

check the Vehicle Identification number (VIN) and engine number against the registration certificate (V5C) - your main dealer can help you locate them

arrange to see the vehicle in daylight at the seller’s home and not in a public car park; always consider your personal safety

ask if the seller is the registered keeper, so you can view at the registered keeper’s address (shown on the V5C). Any genuine seller will not be reluctant to provide proof of identity

Clocking

Vehicles can be clocked to reduce their mileage and get a better price

be careful, some dishonest dealers pose as private sellers to offload unsafe and ‘clocked’ cars

consider taking a qualified vehicle examiner with you - a number of companies provide this service if you don’t know anybody with sufficient knowledge of vehicles

ask the seller for the registration number, make and model of the vehicle

ask the seller for the expiry date of the tax disc, and the MOT test number

check whether the vehicle has outstanding finance or has been stolen or written off

You can check this information before you see the vehicle. The link below gives details of companies who will do this for you. You’ll need to check with the companies what services they provide.

Step 2: Checking the vehicle’s registration certificate (V5C)

Thieves can change a stolen vehicle and its paperwork to make it look like a real one (this is known as ‘cloning’).

Hold the V5C up to the light – there should be a ‘DVL’ watermark.

Remember, the V5C is not proof of ownership.

Make sure the V5C matches the vehicle’s details and all other documentation provided.

Don’t buy the vehicle if you think the serial number has been altered, or if part of the V5C is missing.

There have been a number of changes to the V5C. These include a new colour and improved customer information.

Step 3: Checking the vehicle

Remember

Don’t buy the vehicle if the VIN has been tampered with or is missing

Before buying a vehicle you should check:

if the engine has been changed in any way

that all locks open with the same key – thieves change locks that have been damaged

if there are two keys available – clones are rarely sold with both

that the VIN and engine number match those on the V5C and that the surrounding areas have not been altered or covered

the condition of the vehicle

if the mileage seems reasonable for the vehicle age and condition

make sure you see the actual MOT certificate - not just the windscreen display. The certificate shows the mileage reading at the last MOT

If you decide to buy the vehicle, avoid paying in cash. Be aware of fraudulent websites requesting payment via an Escrow account. An Escrow account is an arrangement where money is held by a third-party on behalf of the transacting parties. Pay by a banking system and get a receipt.

If in doubt, trust your instincts. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be pressured to buy - there’s always another vehicle.

If you’re buying a used vehicle from a private seller, dealer or auction house, make sure you know your consumer rights.