Dec '1609

8 Tips to Help You Avoid Buying a Stolen Vehicle

Did you know, over 40 vehicles are found and reported to have been stolen in the UK every single day on car checker services? That’s 1 vehicle stolen on every 36th minute of each day (on average!), which equates to around just under 15,000 vehicles annually.

Now the problem is, history check websites such as the will not provide details of cars, trucks, lorries, and other types of vehicles that have been recorded as stolen, but never recovered and placed on a national vehicles’ history database.

These hidden, and off-the-records vehicles’ can either unknowingly be found in scrap yards and breakers across the country, and you might find yourself picking up the scraps for a stolen vehicle, one day. 

In this article, we delve into 10 simple, quick checks you could be doing at the point of sale; picking up a car part or the whole car. 

Make sure to conduct proper research


Know what you are buying. Is there a model, or brand you are interested in? If so, note down the exact model name with all its nomenclature so you can refer to this ID, and conduct extensive research on forums and dealer sites.

It’s best to know where the location of the VIN is, to prevent any wasted time finding it on the day, as it could make you look amateurish.

Remember, vehicle identification numbers (VIN) are usually hard-stamped into the vehicle's body, so any etchings or meddling or copy and pasted artefacts visible to the naked eye should ring alarm bells. 

Private seller? Be more cautious on arrival

Is the vehicle's owner a serial seller in the area with a few reviews up the cambelt? Is the car being shown and displayed at a registered home address? These are some of the questions you should be asking yourself.

Sometimes scammers may use hours unsuitable for proper inspections on vehicles’, i.e. after sunset. 

View vehicles’ in daylight. If the seller him/herself is covered up to the point of being unidentifiable, alarm bells should be ringing. It’s courteous for a seller to identify themselves in a manner for you to comfortably make a purchase without any hesitation. 

Is the seller knowledgeable of vehicles?

Don’t be afraid of asking questions that may force the seller into a state of nervousness.

It’s expected for a seller to know and understand the vehicle inside and out, and if there’s odd few scratches or scrapes that shouldn’t be there, ask how it’d happened. 

Often scammers are ill-informed and just want quick cash without the need for any reading up, or requiring knowledge on stolen parts and vehicles. If you’re still unsure of a seller’s legitimacy, ask him/her to prove their identity with basic forms of I.D such as a valid driving licence, if possible. 

Is the seller able to produce documents?

The first thing to do is ask if the seller is the registered owner of the vehicle, and if he/she is not, ask why.

Scammers are likely to mention they’re selling on behalf of a friend, or family, so do make sure you try matching up spoken names with that on documents.

Does the seller have the car's service history documents? Very old cars may not have this, but do ask for a service book with stamps of completed work.

If the seller can show you this book, make a note of the garages who have done work on the vehicle – so that later you can have it verified with the respective garage/dealer.

If a service book is not produced at the point of sale, then ask for receipts. At this moment of time, you could also ask the seller to produce a MOT certificate especially if the car you are purchasing is over 3 years old, as it’s a legal requirement for vehicles’ over 3 years old to have this.

Finally, ask the seller for a vehicle’s V5C to inspect the mileage and analyse for any meddling with the figures. Make sure this document is not a copy, or you may be inspecting a forged or photoshopped documents masking the real one. 

Inspect the VIN in greater detail

The vehicle identification number is an important set of characters and digits that’d help you determine if the history of the vehicle included an accident and repair job – the seller may not have declared. A stolen vehicle is likely to have vehicle parts consisting of mismatched vehicle identification numbers.

Compare the VIN stamped in the chassis to that in the registration document. Mismatches would tell you the vehicle is not legit and is very likely to have been stolen, recovered, and repaired. Do ask why there is a mismatch, should there be one. 

Go the extra mile, inspect the engine number

Another quick check worth doing is to compare the engine numbers with that on the registration document. This is a rather unusual check and something that may give you an edge in helping uncover the actual identity of the vehicle being inspected. Scammers won’t expect you to do this, so do make the effort. 

Door locks and signs of damage

The more obvious checks include the inspection of door locks and their surrounding areas.

It’s important you can identify any inconsistencies amongst the areas around door locks, as this may reveal a history of lock picketing and break-in; clear signs of a stolen vehicle.

Further, ask if the vehicle has an alarm fitted, and whether the alarm system still works, and if doesn’t, why not? 

Are replacement number plates required?

Many stolen vehicles’ in the UK have notorious histories with multiple number plates for confusing and manipulating the authorities and their tech.

The vehicle you are looking to inspect may have also become a victim of criminality.

The obvious thing to do is to check the number plates on both fronts and rear for signs of additional screw holes.


However, having conducted all the inspections above with the added advice to stay clear of buying a stolen vehicle, it could often be that the vehicle is legit, and a set of new replacement number plates is all your next car needs. 

For this, a reputable supplier of high-quality replacement number plates such as can help you with just that. 

From £10.10 per number plate, you can have your plates dispatched on the same day too! (must order before 2pm) 

Design you number plates now with our easy-to-use number plate builder… 


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