Car buyers wary about doing the deal onlineMany fear becoming victims of fraud

08 April 2008

A new survey has revealed that many motorists are wary of buying a second-hand car on the internet.

The poll found that nearly 70% of used car buyers believe they are more vulnerable to potential problems when buying online.

The survey, from a company which checks the background of used cars, found 60% of those polled feared becoming victims of fraud.

Market value

But Nick Lindsay, Director of HPI, which carried out the survey, said that potential buyers could help themselves avoid such problems buy carrying out basic checks.

He said: ‘Checking the market value of a vehicle can be a quick way to identify if the car is a true bargain or not.  

‘If a seller is looking for a quick sale it could well be because they have something to hide. If the price seems too good to be true, it usually is and we advise buyers to walk away.’

History check

Which? Car Editor Richard Headland said: ‘Some of these fears may be unfounded. If you buy a used car online, such as via eBay, the likelihood is that you'll turn up to hand over the money anyway, and you'll see the car first. Whichever way you buy a used car, it is wise to get your own history check from HPI or Experian, even if the seller offers to do this for you.

‘These cost around £10 to £40 and should uncover outstanding finance, insurance write-offs and stolen cars. If they don't spot these you could make a claim against the checking company.’

Despite the potential risks of buying a used car over the internet, Which? has found motorists can make substantial savings when buying a new car online.

Which? saved an average of 11% on the list prices of 15 popular brand new cars through a simple search of internet car brokers.

Buying online

This included £2,994 off the list price of an upmarket Mercedes C-class and £2,550 off a Renault Clio 1.5 supermini.

The biggest saving was a massive £3,746 on a Ford Mondeo 1.8.

Here is our checklist for buying a new car online:

  • ensure that the prices offered are up to date
  • make sure the car is to UK specification, is the latest model and carries a decent warranty
  • paying the deposit by credit card offers a further financial guarantee
  • if the broker will take your old car, make sure the trade-in price is fair. Use the Which? Car Buying Guide to check
  • upon delivery, thoroughly inspect the car for damage and make sure it’s as you ordered.