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Buying a stolen vehicle is a serious risk. DVLA want to make consumers aware of their rights and provide advice to help you spot a con.

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

The steps the DVLA publish to take are as follows:

Step 1 - Pre-visit Checks

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

  • Remember that mobile phone numbers are hard to trace - try to get a landline number if possible
  • If an advert gives a specific time to call, bear in mind that criminals can use phone boxes to appear as if they have a landline number
  • Research the rough value of the car. If it is much cheaper than most cars of its model, age and condition, there is probably a reason
  • Always make sure the number on the vehicle's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate and engine number match those on the registration certificate (V5C)
  • For your own personal safety, see the vehicle in daylight at the seller's home
  • For extra security, if the seller is the registered keeper, you can view at the registered keeper's address (shown on the V5C)
  • Beware of clocking, where a vehicle's odometer is tampered with to make it look like the vehicle has done less miles - dishonest dealers can pose as private sellers to get rid of unsafe/clocked vehicles
  • You could always take a qualified vehicle examiner with you - either a mechanic you know, or search on the web for "vehicle examination"
  • Always get the seller to give you the registration number, make and model of the vehicle
  • Check the DVLA records for information about the vehicles' tax, MOT SORN and other details including SORN staus, year of manufacture
  • You should ensure the vehicle has no outstanding finance, and make sure it has never been stolen or written off

All these things can be checked before you see the vehicle, provided you have the details shown above. See vehicle check services for more information.

Step 2: Checking the V5C

Cloning is the name for a criminal forgery involving altering paperwork and identity on a vehicle to make it appear legitimate, when in fact it is stolen.

DVLA registration documents always have a watermark, so hold the V5C up to the light to check for this sign of authenticity.

A seller will always have documents relating to the vehicle, for instance a bill of sale (receipt), service records from garages and an MOT certificate.

You should bear in mind that the V5C is not proof of ownership.

The V5C should be consistent across all documentation, so pay careful attention to it. If it looks like it's been tampered with then don't buy the vehicle.

If you see any of the following serial numbers on the V5C or the vehicle you should not go ahead with the sale and report it to the police as soon as possible.

BG8229501 to BG9999030
BI2305501 to BI2800000

Step 3: Checking the Vehicle

If it looks like the VIN has been altered, or if the VIN is missing, don't buy the vehicle. You should also check:

  • That the engine has not been changed in any way
  • That all locks open with the same key as thieves change damaged locks on stolen vehicles
  • That there are two keys available, as thieves rarely sell stolen vehicles with both keys that normally come with vehicles
  • That the VIN and engine number match the number on the V5C - evidence of alteration might be on the areas surrounding the VIN
  • The condition of the vehicle
  • That the mileage is what you would expect for the age of the vehicle and its condition

Avoid Paying Cash

Paying by cash is possibly the worst route to take as the payment cannot be cancelled should the vehicle turn out to be not what you expected.

Use a banking service and ensure the seller gives you a receipt.

Use DVLA's buyer checklist to print and take with you when looking at vehicles.

Last updated: Thursday 30th May 2019

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