Clocking rip-off hits used car buyers in the pocket

Has this car been clocked?
Has this car been clocked? You may not be able to tell by inspection alone.

One of my golden rules when buying a used car is to insist on a full service history, as this is the simplest way to give yourself a better-than-average chance of getting a car that’s in decent condition, as I explained recently.

My second golden rule, once I’ve found a suitable car, is to run a HPI Check before completing the purchase.

This does cost a few quid — £19.99 at the time of writing — but is well worthwhile for the peace of mind it provides by protecting you from buying a car that’s stolen, subject to outstanding finance, has been written off or may have been clocked.

Remember — a car that’s stolen or subject to finance can be repossessed without compensation. Ouch.

Similarly, if you inadvertently buy a car that’s been ‘clocked’ — had its mileage falsified — you may have problems. Although there are sometimes visible clues, such as excessive wear to the steering wheel, gear knob, driver’s seat and pedal rubbers, an unscruplous dealer may do their best to conceal these — and an inexperienced buyer may not know what to look for.

Not only will a car that’s been clocked have much more wear and tear than you may realise, but you are likely to pay over the odds for it, as higher-mileage cars are worth less than their low-mileage equivalents.

According to HPI, figures from Glass’s guide, the trade price ‘bible’, show that a 3 year old saloon such as BMW 5 series with 120,000 miles on the clock would be worth £13,380, but by shaving off 50,000 miles, clockers could get £15,960. That’s 19% more for the seller, but the buyer hands over £2,580 above the car’s true value.

It’s the same story for a nearly new Mercedes C-Class £16,360 vehicle with 90,000 miles. Taking the mileage, on that car, down to 45,000 increases the price to £18,600, so buyers stand to lose £2,240 if they fall for the con.

“Too many used car buyers ignore the threat or just aren’t aware of the risks from fraudsters who use ‘clocking’ to alter a vehicle’s mileage,” says Senior Consumer Services Manager, Shane Teskey.

“We’re hoping that by exposing how much money buyers stand to lose, consumers will take greater steps to protect themselves. It’s almost impossible to spot a clocked vehicle just by looking at it, which makes an HPI Check a vital tool for buyers keen to avoid falling foul of fraudsters.”

The HPI Check includes a mileage check against the National Mileage Register as standard, now with over 170 million mileage readings. HPI also confirms whether a vehicle is currently recorded by the police as stolen, has outstanding finance against it or has been written-off, making it the best way for consumers to protect themselves from fraudsters looking to make a fast profit.

HPI also offers a guarantee of up to £30,000 in the event that any of the information it provides is incomplete or inaccurate.

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