Could your car’s previous owner cost you?

If you’re considering buying a used car through a private seller, how do you know that what you’re getting is value for money, and that you aren’t being mis-sold a dud?

If you choose to purchase your used car through an official dealership, this normally guarantees that you won’t have to worry about previous owners, as the car you buy is sold as described, for them, it’s just not worth trying to mislead consumers.

But many cars are bought and sold outside of officially sanctioned used dealers, through private sellers, and there are some nefarious characters out there.

According to a survey by This Is Money, 45% of consumers buying cars privately have felt ‘deceived’ after purchasing their used car.

To help mitigate against this, we have looked into ways consumers can avoid being out of pocket, through carrying out HPI checks, and protecting themselves from the careless actions of previous owner.


One previous owner

One owner cars are the holy grail of the used car world. The reason for this is because they are likely to have a consistent service history, and they’ll likely have driven the car in roughly the same fashion for the length of time they owned it.

However whilst single owners are the ideal sellers, and consumers are protected by laws that state used car dealers cannot create ‘a misleading impression about previous vehicle usage’, some used car sellers fail to disclose that your ‘one previous owner’ wasn’t an individual, but was in fact a car hire firm, or for fleet purposes.

But why would this be problematic?

Well, the car may have had one owner, but if it was a fleet car, it could have been driven, or ragged, by potentially hundreds of drivers, all with different driving styles and attitudes to car maintenance.

And if it was used as a rental, well, some people have been known to treat rentals with even less care than that. Meaning that an unaware new buyer will pay for one thing, but actually receive something different. They could have to face costly, unexpected repair bills, sooner than expected.

Which is why purchasing a car warranty could be a wise move when you purchase your used car. Unless you know for certain who the owner was before you, you could potentially find yourself liable for multiple unexpected issues and failing parts due to over wear and tear, all of which can be covered

You can contact Warranty Direct for more information on this and to receive a quote.

Make the necessary checks

But before you purchase your used car, there are a few necessary checks you should carry out, before parting with any cash, such as:

You might also want to carry out a HPI check.

According to Experian, 88% of all used cars bought in the UK had hidden defects that severely lowered their true value, as well as making them a danger on the road.

What is a HPI check?

A HPI check is the best way to find out information on a previous owner of your used car, prior to purchase. Basically, a HPI check draws upon information gathered by external agencies such as the police, DVLA and leading industry bodies, who might have garnered pertinent information about the driver and the used car.

A HPI check could reveal information the seller doesn’t want you to know, or information they might not even know themselves.

What a HPI check will show

A HPI check will show you:

Never rely on the used car vendor’s HPI report though, because HPI reports can be falsified, or even faked.

Ensuring reliable repairs documentation

Some private sellers want to hide the number of repairs their vehicle has had, and this is one of the reasons it’s estimated there are currently more than 200,000 stolen V5C registration documents, or logbooks, in circulation.

If there are discrepancies in your used car’s repair documents, this could potentially leave you, the new owner, significantly out of pocket, because you don’t know what you’re dealing with, resulting in an increased insurance premium to boot.

And to make matters worse, if you subsequently discover that your used car has been previously written off, many insurers won’t touch it with a barge pole. Leaving you without a car.

A HPI check would reveal that the log book and V5C documents that come with the car are in fact the real documents, not forgeries, or stolen ones. If you do discover the V5C is stolen you should call the police as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Mileage discrepancies

It is estimated that 1 in 16 cars have altered mileage. If you’re in the market for a used car and you have your eye on something that seems too good to be true, you can run a HPI mileage check to see if your potential new purchase has been tampered with.

Not only could mileage discrepancies potentially put your life at risk - how do you know that your used car is safe to drive? But by not revealing the true mileage could also invalidate your car warranty, as many companies won’t cover a car if it has done over the agreed number of miles covered by your warranty. So if it turns out that the ‘real’ mileage has gone over your agreed provider limit, you will not be covered.

Of course most private buyers can be trusted, but you don’t want to run the risk of doing business with an untrustworthy person, especially when HPI checks are so simple and quick to carry out, and from £19.99, it really is worth the money.

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