How To Check If Car Is Stolen?
As if buying a car weren’t stressful enough, with visual checks, paperwork, insurance, road tax and just the sheer cost of it all, you also need to be aware of the chance of its being stolen. Yes, stolen! And we’re not just talking about old cars that have changed hands many times. These days, professional car thieves work in sophisticated, organised gangs and know exactly what to do in order to conceal their tracks to a remarkable degree. You need to have your wits about you and be as alert and savvy as possible before handing over your hard-earned cash for something which could be stolen – in effect, someone else’s property.
How Do I Check?
Good question. Firstly, you must run the details of the car you wish to buy through a stolen car check database. There are quite a few you can turn to these days, and it is either free or costs very little to do. It is vital that you do this, because if it turns out that you have inadvertently bought stolen goods you are likely to lose the car, possibly miss out on compensation and risk a world of troubles coming your way.
How Do Thieves Do It?
There are three main ways in which such a sale is activated. The first is for thieves to do a quick sale in the knowledge that the owner is on holiday or elsewhere. A sale can be rushed through, sometimes at a lower than usual price and without all the necessary paperwork. If you take a risk and agree to be rushed, you could regret it in the future. The second way is for the thieves to sell the car much later on; months or even years after it was reported stolen. That way, it is relatively lower on anyone’s agenda and can hopefully (from the thieves’ point of view) slip under the radar. The third way is to actively alter the identity of the vehicle in question – changing its number plate, its VIN, even its registration card.
What Should I Look Out For?
Of course, a police check will confirm whether a car is stolen; it is easy to do after calling 101. You just need the colour, make, model and registration number of your vehicle and they will be easily able to tell whether that car is in fact stolen. You can also submit the same details as mentioned via an online stolen car check service, matching the details with the logbook in question.
However, you might be being passed a forged or fake logbook, and so will need some extra nous in order to sniff out potential criminality:
- Be suspicious about any visible damage to locks, window rubber, ignition or anything thing else that seems a little irregular.
- Be wary about a seller who will only accept cash; a bank transfer will enable there to be a record sale, together with a reference to the seller’s identity. Without this there is no evidence of from whom, to whom and when a sale was made.
- Be reticent about a selling price which is significantly lower than the market value. By checking a used-car website, you should be able to get a feel for what a car of that model, age and mileage should be sold for.
- Be insistent about seeing the V5C registration document, commonly called the logbook, and scrutinise it for the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) watermark. Then, cross reference with the chassis number found on the vehicle with the logbook. If possible, cross-reference the stolen car report with the DVLA details – above all, never purchase a car from someone who can’t produce the logbook.
Tell Me About This Stolen Car Check
A stolen car check will reveal the date of theft, if there has been one, together with supporting information such as the particular police force in question. Quite often it is offered as part of a package along with other useful information, such as:
- Number of previous owners
- License plate changes, if any
- Colour change, if any
- If it has been scrapped
- VIC inspection; to check that the V5C is genuine and not cloned
- Chassis check; sometimes known as the VIN or Vehicle Identification Number. It will be checked against the centralised details held by the DVLA
- Engine number; check to match with DVLA records
- Valuation; to see what a ‘ballpark’ figure should be in the current climate
There is also the possibility of having a full car history report, which checks extra things such as financial and insurance history and claims, certificate of destruction and mileage anomaly. While it might seem a bit over the top, it is surely better to do the groundwork beforehand, so that you’re not left with a much bigger problem at some point down the line.
Yes, But How Do I Actually Do It?
The majority of car checking websites will simply require the car’s license plate and a few other basic details to get the process started. If wanting to purchase a car, such details are very easy to procure and, if a larger sum of money is involved from a private seller, it is surely a bit odd for them not to allow you to take a picture of their V5C logbook so as to help you clear your mind by doing a bit of homework. For a reputable and trustworthy check you might have to spend a little bit, but it will allow you to purchase the vehicle in a calm and reassured mindset.
What If I Don’t Bother?
If you take the risk of not doing a proper car check that sifts through criminal history, from a private seller… and it turns out to be stolen, then the police are within their rights to reclaim it from you. You can also experience the possibility of being interrogated by the police, who will treat you as a potential suspect in their ongoing enquiries. The assumption would be that you have handled stolen goods and possibly knew you were doing so!
Your insurance company will be the next to get involved. They will not rush their decision-making process which can take months and will thoroughly want to rule out fraud before offering you a disbursement of sorts, or not. It is possible that you won’t receive anything, due in part to your lack of proper checking done before purchase. It is probable that, if you receive some sort of reimbursement, it won’t be for the same amount you originally paid to the person who sold it to you.
Should I Always Do This?
The advice would not be relevant if you were going to buy a new car or a car that has only been used by one owner and is from a well-established dealership. However, if these things are not the case, ie. if you are buying from a smaller dealership which might or might not end up not doing their own comprehensive checks, or indeed a private seller, then you are at an increased risk of being conned. If in doubt, opt for a proper vehicle check. You might also receive some additionally useful information such as the history of the vehicle’s MOT checks, whether it has been imported and whether there is any finance owing on it. These will all help to empower you so that you can get on with driving the thing.
Overall, don’t panic. Just take your time, don’t be rushed into anything and never transfer any money to anyone until you feel 100% satisfied with the way things match up. It is a big purchase and, for most people, second only to the purchase of their house in terms of magnitude. If it turns out that the car has at one point been stolen, you’re far better off knowing now so that you avoid the unwelcome prospect of investing in a vehicle which ultimately is going to be taken away from you and is not actually yours.