Car buyers warned of unsafe vehicles for sale online

Motors | Published:

Research by London Trading Standards highlights problems of buying used cars via the internet

Car buyers are being warned about potentially unsafe vehicles advertised online.

London Trading Standards (LTS) said it investigated 155 advertised cars in the capital and found a number that had ‘unresolved or outstanding safety issues’.

Of the cars for sale, 18 had safety recalls that hadn’t been addressed, while the odometers of six didn’t match the mileage on the advert – suggesting they had been tampered with.

Most of the adverts were claimed to be from private sellers but LTS, which represents the 33 local authority trading standards services across London, said approximately one in six of the “private” sellers were likely to be traders, meaning they could take advantage of less protection for buyers.

A total of 10 of the cars were found to be insurance write-offs without the fact being mentioned in any of the adverts, which is a legal requirement for traders. Private sellers don’t need to advertise this, though, if the vehicle is legal for road use.

Among the 155 cars, 18 also had no tax or MOT – meaning it would be illegal for any potential buyers to take them on a test drive.


Urging people to be wary if buying a used car from a private seller, Nicola Tudor, chairwoman of London Trading Standards’ Fair Trading Group, said: “Don’t get taken for a ride when buying a car. It’s not a bargain if it’s unsafe or clocked.”

If possible, said LTS, find out the registration number beforehand to check the car’s details for free via the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – for example, if it has a valid MOT and if there’s a safety recall on the make and model. Potential buyers can also use the website to help them check on the car.

Owen Kennedy, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s motor trade lead officer, said: “It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying a new car and forget the basics, but people should remember that they don’t have the same rights when buying from a private individual. They should check all the paperwork diligently and use the DVLA or other online services before viewing the vehicle.”

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