How to buy a used car, safe and legal

Essential steps for motorists


Used car buying is fraught with difficulty whether you are buying privately, from a car dealership, online or via a car auction. Regardless of your chosen route, a CarVeto check is the most important part of the buying process.

Always buy your own CarVeto and don’t rely on an old certificate from a private owner or who that the dealer presents.


Private car buying

Step 1 – Time and location

Ensure you are viewing the car in full natural daylight, preferably in the dry and at the seller’s home address.  Should the seller be attempting to deceive you they are more unlikely to do so at their own home. You also have a domestic address to refer to if there were serious problems down the road.

Avoid mutual locations such as pub or supermarket carparks.


Step 2 – Documentation

Ask to see the V5C car registration document. If the seller is unable to present the document, you should not buy the car under any circumstances.

V5C logbooks allow you to examine important vehicle information such as the date of registration, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), ownership details and number of previous owners.


thorough documentation checks


Step 3 – V5C Car Match

The VIN number, engine number and vehicle colour should exactly match that imprinted on the car. Even one number or letter of difference can mean the car is cloned.


Step 4 – Confirmed Registered Keeper

Ask the seller if they are the registered keeper. If they are not, ask to follow up questions to find out why they are selling the car and where the registered keeper is. Is the seller permitted to sell the car? Could you potentially be buying a stolen vehicle?

Reasons why the seller is not the registered keeper:

  • Selling on behalf of someone else
  • They have not notified the DVLA (suspicious)
  • The vehicle is stolen


Step 5 – Identification

Although asking to inspect some photo and address identification can feel difficult it is also an important step to safeguarding yourself and your money.

Genuine sellers will readily display their ID if it helps to sell their car.

Ensure the ID matches the details contained on the V5C logbook and they both match the address where you are viewing the car.


Step 6 – MOT (for cars that are 3 years old or more)

CarVeto checks currently and previous MOT history including advisory and fails items. This check can be carried out before you view the car in person.

When viewing the car inspect a hard copy of the MOT certificate and ensure it matches the information gathered via CarVeto.

Ensure the car has an existing MOT and that you are legally entitled to test drive the car.


Step 7 – It’s a Bargain?

In most cases, a cheap price is due to hidden aspects of the car.

There are serious items to consider here including insurance write-off status, outstanding finance, theft and mileage discrepancies.

The CarVeto check investigates these data points online without viewing the car. All you need is the vehicle registration number to get started.

There may be other hidden problems that are not recorded on the car such as mechanical issues, accident damage (when a car was repaired outside of insurance company involvement) and electrical issues.

A physical inspection is the only way to uncover these types of issues. A car mechanic or professional inspectorate is a worthwhile investment if you feel uncertain.


Step 7 – Payment & Receipt

To safeguard your investment the car should be paid for via bank transfer. This creates a paper trail and offers you a light layer of insurance should you encounter serious problems down the road.

Obtain a receipt that states both the buyer and sellers name, address, postcode, vehicle make & model, registration number, date, sale amount and method of payment.

This type of information is valuable should you have problems with the car down the road.


Additional Points

Car Cloning

Modern car crime includes cloning whereby a stolen car has its number plates replaced with an identical car i.e. same make, model and colour.


two identical cars that are cloned


Be vigilant as a CarVeto check with fake number plates means you not car checking the car that you think you are.


Spotting a cloned car

Match the VIN number on the V5C logbook with the number on the vehicle itself. To confirm the information is correct also compare your CarVeto check VIN record with the one etched on the car and the V5C logbook.

VIN’s are unique and remain with the entire life of the car. They are 17 characters in length and include letters and numbers.

VIN numbers are in different places depending on the car make. Many manufacturers etch the VIN on the bottom right of the windscreen (when looking from the outside of the vehicle). Other manufacturers display the car VIN inside the drivers or passenger’s front door. You can find the stamp on the inner pillar of the door and by the footwell.

VIN numbers must not be tampered with in any way. Any such discrepancies may mean something is hidden on the car.


How do I find the engine number?

Like the VIN, the engine number should be a perfect match to that on the logbook and CarVeto certificate.

Engine numbers are generally inscribed on the engine block itself. They are situated in different places depending on the vehicle make and model.

Engine replacements are the only time where the engine number may be different to the documentation. In such cases (although rare) more questions should be asked including further information on the new engine, why it was replaced and how it impacts on the odometer reading displayed.

Incorrect engine numbers may indicate criminal activity. If you are uncertain it is recommended to not buy the car.


Stolen V5C log books

Since the turn of the 21st century, millions of V5C logbooks have been stolen and used illegally. Each V5C has its own unique reference number.

If the vehicle you are viewing displays V5C logbook reference number ranges shown below you should not buy the car.

Stolen V5C reference numbers:

BG8229501 to BG9999030
BI2305501 to BI2800000

The team, CarVeto.