How To Spot A Cloned Car

Published: 18th June 2008
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Whenever you buy a used car in the UK you should always be aware that the car you are buying could be an illegal clone.

A cloned car is a stolen car that has had its identity changed to match that of a car that is pretty much the same. A car is stolen, a same type car is then found, the registration plates are then either stolen or copied and then placed on the stolen car. It's that simple. The cloned car can then be sold on to an unsuspected member of the public or used for a variety of crimes from avoiding parking tickets and other driving offensives.

What is causing the authorities extra concern is that recently batches of V5 certificates have been stolen. These certificates have already been used to illegally clone cars. It is estimated that there are 10,000 cloned cars currently being driven on the UK's roads.

The really shocking aspect of this crime is that if you were to buy a cloned car you wouldn't actually own the car you had paid for. If it came to light that your car was cloned the car would be confiscated by the police. You would lose the car and the money you used to pay for it. You car insurance would not cover any loss.

So whenever you buy a used car whether privately or from a dealer it is vital you do all you can to establish that the car isn't a clone. The first thing to check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) plates for signs of tampering. These plates are usually located in several places - under bonnet, under the driver's seat and on the chassis. Make sure the rivets are intact, ask yourself does the plate look like it has been removed at any time. Make sure all the plates have the same number on. Some cars have the VIN etched into the glass a window or sunroof so check to see if there are signs that the VIN number has been scratched off or that stickers are not concealing a VIN number.

The VIN number will also appear on the cars V5 document. So check to see that the number listed on the V5 matches the number on the plates. You should also satisfy yourself that the V5 hasn't been altered in any way. The V5 registration document should have a watermark, number plate, VIN and engine numbers matching those of the car, name and address of the seller, no spelling mistakes or alterations.

For extra peace of mind you can use the services of a vehicle data-check company such as HPI. For a small charge they will check the V5 document is legitimate and relates to the car in question. The check will also reveal if the car your thinking about buying has been recorded stolen, whether it has any outstanding finance, been a write-off or whether it has had a plate change.

Other safeguards include - never pay using cash but use a bankers draft instead as criminals will not accept these as payment. Ask the seller for a contact phone number and make sure the number is land line and not mobile.

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